COLUMNISTS

Looking back, pushing forward as FFA ends 2021 on high note

Ben Styer
Stacks upon stacks of FFA fruit is no strange scene in FFA classrooms and school shops this time of year. Thank you to the many FFA supporters who purchase fruit and other products from chapter fundraisers.

Fruit has been arriving to Wisconsin FFA chapters by the semi load, officer teams are having gift exchanges, and community service is taking place to support those in need this season; clearly, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

As 2021 comes to an end, we have the opportunity to look back on another unique year and recognize the progress that has been made. Over the last three months, FFA members have kept pushing forward, and our organization is ending the year on a high note because of it.

We certainly can be proud of students’ hard work throughout 2021, some of which was recognized at the 94th National FFA Convention and Expo. Spencer FFA member and former State Vice President, Cortney Zimmerman, was elected to be the National FFA Central Region Vice President! Cortney is the eighth National FFA Officer from Wisconsin and first since Alicia Hodnik who served in 2011-2012.

Additionally, Wisconsin saw great success in proficiency award areas. Lashawna Vogel of Denmark, Kendra Goplin of Whitehall, and Tristan Wirkus of Stratford were all named national proficiency winners in the areas of Agricultural Communication, Agricultural Education, and Environmental Science and Natural Resources, respectively.

Another highlight of the 94th National FFA Convention was seeing Lake Mills member Olivia Olson be named the national runner-up in the Creed Speaking Leadership Development Event. Besides the dozens of other impressive accomplishments, the Wisconsin FFA Alumni & Supporters were named the Outstanding FFA Alumni & Supporters State Association.

Chapters all across the state have fun activities planned to celebrate this time of the year. Making tie blankets was the activity of choice for this group of Menomonie FFA members.

This year, we can look back and be proud and grateful for all that Wisconsin FFA members have accomplished, and our state’s achievements from the National FFA Convention are a clear indication of that.

As the end of 2021 has approached, FFA members have continued to do their part in closing out this year in the best way possible – by making a difference in the lives of others. Over November 12 and 13, approximately 800 FFA members attended the Mission and Impact Conferences in Stevens Point.

These conferences culminated with students creating either a personal mission statement or an impact plan to be implemented in their community. 51 Wisconsin FFA members each recently received $1,000 grants through the National FFA Organization which will help them grow their Supervised Agricultural Experiences.

The mission statements, impact plans, and SAE grants all have the potential to have a ripple effect and can create a positive difference in the lives of FFA members, consumers, and other community members.

Similarly, FFA chapters and members of the agricultural community are helping to make a difference in the lives of others through one of the most well-known aspects of FFA, the delicious FFA fruit, of course!

All throughout the state, FFA fruit is making its way into family’s homes and spreading some joy this season. I was able to experience this firsthand when helping with fruit distribution at my local FFA chapter less than a week ago.

Between parents of FFA members, business owners, and community leaders, several good Samaritans purchased dozens of FFA fruit boxes to gift them to neighbors, customers, and friends in the spirit of giving this season. Many FFA chapters donate their extra FFA fruit to local food pantries too.

Beyond giving food, chapters also spread joy to FFA members. Hundreds of FFA members have participated in chapter gift exchanges and enjoyed celebrations at their schools.

I had the opportunity to join Menomonie FFA recently for a night of tie blanket making, and every student who made a blanket was able to take it home free of charge. It is awfully inspiring to see so much good happening in our organization. All throughout the year, but especially during this season, it is safe to say the agricultural community is an incredibly supportive group that I and so many others feel blessed to be a part of.

Roughly 800 Wisconsin FFA members had the opportunity to create their mission statement or develop an impact plan at the Mission & Impact Conferences held in Stevens Point in November.

As the new year approaches, we look back on how far we have come in order to have a more impactful 2022 focused on developing FFA members’ potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.

My teammates and I look forward to carrying forward this momentum with the statewide Half-Time Conference taking place January 14 and 15 and District level Leadership Development Events to follow soon after. As always, if you wish to learn more about what Wisconsin FFA members are doing to achieve success and make a difference in their community, visit www.wisconsinaged.org.

May you and your loved ones have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! On behalf of all of Wisconsin FFA, have a blessed holiday season. Thank you for making 2021 a remarkable year and helping to end it the best way possible - by making a difference.

Ben Styer

Styer is the president of the Wisconsin FFA Officer team