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“The rising sun is a token of a new era in agriculture.” If you’ve heard that phrase before, chances are, you’ve been to an FFA event or two. This line is said as part of opening ceremonies at every convention, conference, and meeting. It symbolizes FFA members’ belief in the future of agriculture – and belief that they will be a part of it.

Wisconsin FFA just completed its 90th year, which means for the last nine decades, students across the state have been developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success, so they can be the next generation of Wisconsin agriculturalists.

We’ve had 90 years of rich tradition, and we’re looking forward to continuing to cultivate that tradition in the future. Coming up with a concise phrase to summarize your purpose and provide an inspirational message for 21,000 members is no easy task – especially when you want to recognize 90 years of heritage and celebrate the future. But the State FFA Officer Team has chosen four words to be the driver of their upcoming year. The 2019-2020 Wisconsin FFA State Theme is “Rise Up. Stand Out.”

As we look forward to the next 90 years of Wisconsin FFA, we wanted a message that reminds of us of what generations of FFA members have done before us but also propels us onward: a message that, just like the rising sun, inspires action, honors tradition, and looks forward to the future. So what does “Rise Up. Stand Out.” mean to us and why does it matter?

Rise Up. Two words that call to action. Two words that epitomize what FFA members and agriculturists do. As a state FFA officer for the past year, I can honestly say that just like the rising sun, FFA members are rising up every day. Members come from all different backgrounds, experience levels, and have different visions for their futures. But one thing’s for certain, they all are learning to do. Whether it’s through attending a leadership workshop, competing in a Career or Leadership Development Event or speaking contest, gaining real-world, hands-on experience through their Supervised Agricultural Experience programs, or organizing a community service event, FFA members are taking action. They’re taking action to become the future leaders of the agriculture industry.

As we are constantly reminded of the ultimate challenge of feeding an exponentially growing population, FFA members remain confident that just as agriculturists have found ways to innovate for hundreds of years, so too will we find ways to rise to the occasion. Just as agriculturists have found ways to unify and organize to accomplish more, so too will we find ways to rise together. And just as agriculturists have found ways to spearhead the economic and environmental challenges thrown their way, so too will we find ways to rise and overcome. The drive for better, for more, and for answers to the unknown are what keep FFA members coming back year after year. Simply stated, FFA members Rise Up. 

Stand Out. While sporting a blue corduroy jacket as part of official dress assists in making FFA members stand out in the literal sense, our members Stand Out in many ways both in and out of the blue corduroy. But more importantly, FFA members have been known to stand out as leaders in their classrooms and communities. Often times, that leadership extends to sports teams, student government, music, and countless other extracurricular involvements.

The skills and experiences offered through FFA allows students to develop their character, work ethic, and professionalism in a scope that will benefit them no matter what their future holds. The organization provides an opportunity for students to find a place in for who they are. There’s no need to pretend to be somebody they’re not. FFA members have a reputation of being a notch above the rest. We’re willing to work like others won’t, challenge ourselves like others can’t, and think boldly like others don’t. We Stand Out. And we’re proud of it.

Rise Up. No matter the challenge or background, we believe in the future of agriculture and we believe we have a part in that inspiring task.

Stand Out. In our homes and communities, FFA members are finding ways to grow themselves as leaders, give back, and strengthen agriculture in ways that are unparalleled. Together, this drive for the future and commitment to excellence are found in every Wisconsin FFA member. Together, we will help ensure that the future of agriculture in Wisconsin is bright.

So there you have it. The State FFA Theme and what it means to us. But chances are it means something to you too. Whatever your role in agriculture is, whether you’re a producer, consumer, or supporter, it’s safe to say we all face challenges in our lives and in our industry. But by staying true to ourselves and remembering these four powerful words, together we can choose to “Rise Up. Stand Out.”

Weltzien is the new president of the Wisconsin FFA Officer team

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