For the second year in a row, a representative from Oregon will serve on the National FFA Officer Team.
Kourtney Lehman, of Baker City, was elected national secretary for 2019-20 at the 92nd annual National FFA Convention & Expo, held Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 in Indianapolis.
Lehman, 21, is one of six new officers chosen from a pool of 44 finalists. Each team member will travel more than 100,000 miles over the next year, meeting with thousands of FFA students and teachers from across the country while leading conferences and promoting agricultural literacy.
The team will also travel overseas to Japan in January.
“It’s been incredible,” Lehman told the Capital Press. “I’m still trying to figure out if this is real, or if it’s all just a dream.”
Lehman grew up on her family’s farm in Baker City, raising wheat, corn, potatoes and alfalfa hay. She graduated from Baker High School in 2017, and was the Oregon FFA state president from 2017-18 before heading to Oregon State University, where she studies agricultural business management.
Lehman said she is looking forward to helping other FFA members build their confidence and leadership skills.
“I am really excited to be able to tour different states and go to their state conventions,” she said.
Last year, FFA delegates elected Shea Booster, of Bend, as the western region vice president. It is the first time Oregon FFA has notched back-to-back national officers, said Lee Letsch, executive secretary of the state FFA Association.
Letsch said Oregon FFA had an overall strong showing at the national convention.
In career development and leadership development events, seven teams and individuals earned gold ratings, 12 earned silver ratings, and seven earned bronze ratings. Another 57 students earned their American FFA degrees, one of the organization’s highest honors.
“Our students always go into the national convention prepared by their agriculture teachers and schools,” Letsch said. “They do a phenomenal job representing us.”
Brian Field, president of Harvest Capital Company of Canby, Ore., was awarded an Honorary American Degree for his work with the organization. Daniel Bolen, an ag teacher at Elgin High School, also received an Honorary American Degree.
Other FFA students from around the Northwest also brought home a bevy of awards and accolades at the national convention.
Abbie Dorhauer, of Yelm, Wash., won the national championship in the employment skills leadership development event, which simulates real-world requirements for job applications — such as cover letter and resumé writing, telephone and face-to-face interviews.
Dorhauer, a first-generation FFA member, was elected Washington FFA state treasurer earlier this year and grew up on a hobby farm with 20 head of cattle.
In other results, Washington FFA chapters won gold ratings in 16 more career development and leadership development events, including 14 top-10 finishes. Another four districts won silver ratings.
Abbie DeMeerleer, executive director of the Washington FFA Association, said the national convention is about more than just competitions for students.
“My hope is that students who attend see the larger picture of the industry and profession of agriculture, and the opportunities in front of them,” DeMeerleer said.
Idaho FFA chapters earned seven gold ratings in career development and leadership development events, 10 silver ratings and seven more bronze ratings.
Clara-Leigh Evans, executive director of the Idaho FFA Association, said local FFA members also represented Idaho in 16 agricultural proficiency events. Out of those, eight earned gold ratings and three went on to become national finalists.
National finalists included Hanna Steele, of North Fremont FFA, for agricultural communications; Carson Urrutia, of Vallivue FFA, for agricultural mechanics; and Luke Smith, of Rigby FFA, for beef production placement.
Evans said she is excited every year by the high level of performance from Idaho FFA.
“That to me all points back to the quality of our FFA advisors, agriculture education instructors, students and community support,” Evans said.
Marc Beitia, an adviser with the American Falls FFA chapter in southeast Idaho, was also one of 13 people to be awarded with a National FFA VIP recipient, honoring individuals who have dedicated at least 20 years of service to FFA and agricultural education on a national level.
Beitia, an FFA adviser for 36 years, has served on the National Chapter Committee for 10 years, and was on the Board of Directors for two years. The American Falls FFA chapter was also selected as a National FFA Model of Excellence finalist last year, along with the Rigby chapter.
“We have a very progressive chapter that is actively involved in community service, and community development,” Beitia said. “Our members are looked upon not only as leaders in the school, but leaders in the community.”