FFA leaders learn, 'It Starts with You'

Terrell Williams/For the Capital Press Kathleen Stish from Notus, Idaho, is club historian for her FFA chapter. The high school junior was comparing her clubÕs scrapbook with others that were being judged at the annual FFA State Leadership Conference.

Idaho FFA members elect new officers, participate in leadership training

By TERRELL WILLIAMS

For the Capital Press

TWIN FALLS, Idaho -- Idaho's FFA members already have a leg up.

While still in high school, the students run their own businesses, farm equipment and livestock.

"They've got some amazing things going on, these kids," said Ben Meyer, an agricultural program manager. "They're the cream of the crop."

Meyer was helping with the 80th annual Idaho FFA State Leadership Conference at the College of Southern Idaho. An estimated 1,600 FFA members statewide attended the four-day conference April 6-9.

This year, award-winning projects included raising and selling show pigs, a lawn-mowing business, raising and selling gladiolus flowers and bulbs, a grill for stuffed jalapeño peppers that was sold with original recipes and a custom farming operation.

Wyatt DeJong, FFA national central region vice president and a college junior from South Dakota, said he requested to be the national representative and motivational speaker at the Idaho conference because of the high standards.

"I had met past state officers from Idaho and was impressed with how much passion they had for agriculture," he said.

DeJong, who has raised national champion beef cattle and crops of sorghum, said the quality of people he has met in the ag industry is "phenomenal."

"They have the responsibility for feeding and clothing people of the world," he said. "They truly have a passion. It takes a hard work ethic."

The leadership conference challenges young FFA leaders, DeJong said, and gives them confidence, especially with this year's theme, "It Starts With You."

"They can make a difference," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of success is just showing up and trying."

In the auditorium and foyer were banners of sponsors, including Simplot, which this year donated $15,000 to help pay expenses of traveling state FFA officers.

Also attending the conference were a variety of vendors, such as Carol and Dan Vandell of Quail Valley Farms in Medford, Ore., with a table of fruit samples, ready to sign up FFA chapters to sell boxes of top-quality fresh fruit as a fund-raiser.

Laura Wilder, FFA foundation executive director, said the raffle of an antique tractor, restored and donated by former FFA member Sid Freeman of Caldwell, brought in more than $25,000. She also announced that the Capital Press Outstanding Reporter Awards were won by Michelle Ball of Kuna and Tyler Ogden of Malad.

Dressed in traditional white shirts, black ties, blue corduroy jackets, black slacks or skirts and black shoes, the hundreds of young FFA men and women attended conference workshops, gave speeches and competed in tests of ag knowledge. In a parliamentary procedure competition, each team debated for and against a proposal to have a petting zoo and barbecue at their local county fairs. They made motions, amended motions, voted, then answered questions from judges on rules of order.

After four days of intensive interviews and testing, the six new 2011-12 officers were selected by a diverse committee of about 20 judges that included FFA members.

The new president is Jacob Lake of Burley, who also won an agribusiness award for raising broiler chickens and supplying them to local markets. Asked for a comment after the inaugural ceremonies, Lake said his three years in FFA have centered mainly on farming experience and working with his parents to raise 2,000 acres of potatoes and about 400 acres of wheat, and doing, "a plethora of other things."

Lake said his goals as Idaho FFA president will be to try to make the coming year the best ever.

Other newly elected officers on the team are Vice President Anna Pratt of Blackfoot, Secretary Erin Curry of Meridian, Treasurer Nathan Rindlisbaker of Preston, Reporter Cara Pantone of Shoshone and Sentinel Tiera Perman of American Falls.

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