With two parents who work as agriculture teachers, Jason Wetzler’s experience with the FFA began at a young age.
“I’ve been around the blue jacket basically since I was born,” he said.
Wetzler, who grew up in Clackamas, Ore., was elected as the Western Region vice president of the national FFA organization during its convention in Louisville, Ky. His parents, Wynn and Kathy Mayfield, work for the North Clackamas School District.
“I feel very honored and blessed. It’s been a lifelong dream,” he said. “Not many people get this experience.”
The 21-year-old student at Oklahoma State University had to compete against more than 40 other candidates for one of six national FFA officer positions.
The weeklong process involved giving speeches and participating in interviews with the organization’s nominating committee.
Each officer will spend a year traveling about 100,000 miles around the country and overseas — judging contests, giving speeches and otherwise representing the FFA.
“We’re basically the face of the national FFA organization,” said Wetlzer. “Whatever is requested of us, we get to do.”
After an initial training period, Wetzler expects to spend a lot of time in airplanes and rental cars, as the volunteer position usually entails spending more than 300 days on the road.
Previously, Wetzler served as the state treasurer of the Oregon FFA Association in 2011 and 2012.
Last year, he participated in a leadership program for state FFA officers that took him on a 10-day tour of farms and processing facilities in China.
Wetzler said the experience made him appreciate the strong food safety systems in the U.S.
“What we expect is much different than what they expect,” he said.
As a major in agricultural leadership, Wetzler plans on traveling internationally as part of his future career.
His current plans involve working for a non-profit — or starting his own — that would assist subsistence farmers in the tiny African nation of Benin.
A fellow student at Oklahoma State University inspired Wetzler’s interest in the country’s struggles.
The country has an “underdeveloped” economy with more than a third of its population living in poverty, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
With the food demands of the global population expected to increase dramatically in coming decades, Africa has a big production potential that’s currently underutilized, Wetzler said.
He envisions helping people in Benin upgrade their systems for irrigation and other agricultural practices.