FFA Alumni, ag teachers make impact on youth

Troy Talford
Now Media Group

If you are anything like me, this time of year makes you wish it were much warmer outside. With summer time comes several enjoyable moments, such as fishing at the lake, having campfires with smores, vacation trips with family and friends, and for some the county fair.

Now, when you talk to agriculture teachers, you will find that we can be a little torn in regards to our love of the County Fair. Some teachers love fair time, and then there are those like me who really love the County Fair. For me, the county fair is a time to work with students in those final moments to see their work on their supervised agricultural experience pay off, consoling those students who earned a pink or white ribbon for the third year in a row, or share the moment of a student who had the top selling hog in the market sale.

The experience of the County Fair was something I have been able to have as a part of most of my life. That being said, my experience was not always pleasant.

Who didn't want to win that purple Grand Champion ribbon? For years I tried so hard to earn this infamous ribbon: I painstakingly refinished antique furniture, made dozens of posters, collected bugs, and yes, baked a homemade angel food cake (my grandma insisted).

In total I showed projects at the fair for NINE YEARS…and still no Grand Champion Ribbon.

During one of my last years of taking projects to the Fair, I was done. I just wanted to do simple projects because it didn't matter. That July back in 1999, I was working with my grandmother to make some cookies for the fair. She knew I didn't want to be doing this so she found a simple recipe to try. That recipe was Chinese Almond Cookies, which took all of like 15 minutes to make.

You already know where this story is going, so let's cut to the chase. Yup, you got it, those cookies earned me the only Grand Champion Ribbon I would ever earn at the Dunn County Fair. All of the years prior to the infamous cookies I thought my fair projects had to be big and bold. I tried to take everything and and make it so much more than it needed to be.

The day I earned my purple ribbon, my life changed drastically and I didn't realize how much more the simple things in life can make a greater impact.

As partners in agricultural education, we are like the Chinese Almond cookies. Together, the FFA Alumni and the agriculture teachers are just simple ingredients that come together to make a big impact on our local youth.

This being said, don't feel as though your cookie has to be the same as the cookies down the road. Consider yourselves to be those unique and special ingredients that come together to make your agriculture program great.

I challenge you to think about those other individuals who are back home in your community who can also contribute to your local ingredient list. Invite those ingredients in, combine everyone together in the mixing bowl, and go out and earn your local agriculture program that purple Grand Champion Ribbon.

As we celebrate National FFA Week, I challenge everyone to ask themselves how they can help volunteer to make their local agriculture education program great. If you have a local agriculture education program in your school district, talk with your local instructor to see how you can help. If you don't have an FFA Alumni, then feel free to reach out to the Wisconsin FFA Alumni to see how they can help.

Talford is the president of Wisconsin Association of Agriculture Educators