FFA shows guts, growth, and glory during challenging year

Joe Schlies
Thousands of FFA members from across the state participated in virtual leadership conferences since September as they pursue the FFA mission and personally grow.

As the 2020 year comes to end, we are all reflecting on what has been an unmatched year. The month of November found the state officers kicking off their Fall Leadership Workshops. In a ten-day time span, the team hosted over 205 workshops reaching over 800 middle and high school FFA members from each of the ten sections in the state. With large groups sessions, connection rooms, and workshops ranging from leadership training to agricultural careers and advocacy, both veteran and new FFA members experienced the well-rounded event to further develop their personal skills and network with other members from across the state.

Each year, the state officer team picks an underlying theme to embody the message of their workshops and opening skit. This year’s theme is “Ride Your Rodeo.” While we may not be live in Texas, the theme sure is catchy, and for a time that may seem crazy at points not knowing when the next buck from the bull is coming to kick us off, it allowed for an easy reference to embracing the ride we call life. And a little deeper analysis of the theme clearly connects the primary qualities of a bull rider to the primary qualities of an FFA member. Guts. Growth. Glory.

These three words that help bull riders become the best they can be to take home the prized rodeo belt buckle at the end of the night are easily representative of the defining characteristics FFA members embody.

Jump into a bull rider’s life. It’s rodeo night and you’re on deck. The bull is in the shoot and it’s breathing heavy. You hop on and feel his back muscles tense up to then feel your fingers begin to shake. The only thing left on your mind is doubt: “What if I get bucked off?” But bulls can feel a person’s emotions, so letting doubt get inside a person will only make them less successful. And that is exactly what guts feel like for bull riders.

Guts are those instances of determination where we choose to get on the next bull and continue pursuing our goals. FFA members have shown those same guts every day by creating new service projects this year even though they may have no idea if it will be successful. There simply is no room for doubt and only room for guts. FFA members demonstrate the guts it takes to grow their leadership by attending leadership conference and serving their community, which means the next step on rodeo night is where the action happens.

Since the beginning of December, FFA chapters have been unloading semi-trucks full of fruit to ensure they can continue giving back to their community and attend agricultural and leadership development events throughout the next year. Thank you to all of those who have supported these fundraisers.

While in the chute, you make some quick adjustments and tighten the ropes one last time. Before you know it, the chute opens, and the fighting bull’s adrenaline is through the roof as you are trying to hold on and last the longest eight seconds in your life. One person’s definition of winning may differ from others, but it is fair to say that the riders who ride the most, grow – and probably win – the most.

Every eight seconds on the bull, bull riders are constantly learning new ways to stay squared up regardless of the direction they’re being bucked. And this all takes time. Time for growth. FFA members are constantly growing, and that mindset began since the beginning of their time in FFA. It started after they had the guts to join this organization and will continue on for the rest of their lives by taking time to connect with other members, engage in leadership development, and compete in leadership and career development events.

So, what does this lead us to? After getting bucked around, eight seconds pass, the whistle blows, and your ride counts for points. If one has the guts and growth, that will only lead them to one thing, and that is glory. Bull riders live for the glory of becoming the champion bull rider. And for FFA members, they live for the glory of serving others. It’s in the FFA motto: we are “Living to Serve.”

Guts. Growth. Glory. Those are all qualities of a bull rider champion. Those are all qualities of FFA members. And those are all qualities of our agricultural community. We are willing to work just a little bit harder regardless, to get exactly what it is they are seeking- glory. And that glory is serving others. We should be proud of the guts and strength of the agricultural community and the growth we have experienced in 2020. As we are getting ready to turn the calendar year to hop on the next bull, let’s all take a moment to look in the rearview mirror and prepare for the glory of 2021.

As always, if you wish to learn more about what Wisconsin FFA members are doing to build their communities while growing themselves as leaders and strengthening agriculture or how you can be a part of their ride in FFA, visit

On behalf of all of Wisconsin FFA, have a blessed holiday season! Thank you for all that you do to keep Wisconsin agriculture thriving during this rodeo-like year.

Wisconsin State FFA President Joe Schlies

Schlies is President of the Wisconsin State FFA Officer Team