It was April 1988. We were about to attempt something that had never been done. The music blared. The lights flashed. Our Missouri FFA state officer team walked down steep flights of stairs, right next to our FFA members, at the University of Missouri Hearnes Center. As we reached the floor and ran to the stage, we laughed. Every one of us made it without falling.
The experience was only one of the highlights of my time as a 1987-88 Missouri state FFA officer. As I reflect, I cannot help but feel sadness for the 2019-20 FFA officer team as COVID-19 thwarted the in-person April Missouri State FFA Convention, replacing it with a virtual one.
These officers will not have that one last time to mingle with FFA members they met at Camp Rising Sun or during chapter visits. They will not shake hands with members congratulating them on their accomplishments. They will not get to say goodbye in-person.
Still, there is something about this group of 16 officers that gives me a glimpse into the future of our agriculture industry, and it makes me proud.
Next generation finds solutions
When the world shut down because of COVID-19, this team not only adapted but also forged new paths.
They couldn’t conduct chapter visits, so they interacted with members on social media with Facebook Q&A and YouTube videos. They couldn’t have an in-person FFA convention, so they created the state’s first virtual convention. They did not let the circumstances surrounding them stop them. Instead, they figured out solutions.
“We've been able to utilize the platforms like we never had before and see how we can connect with members when we're not physically able to,” Missouri FFA President Brenden Kleiboeker shared with me. “So that's been the adjustment for us. While it was sad, I think there's been a bright side of things, especially for all the teams in the future to learn from our experiences.”
FFA shines under duress
Agriculture, no, the world needs problem-solvers. We need the next generation who can find ways to adapt technology to create alternatives to unexpected events that hit our farms, schools and homes. Fortunately, there is an agriculture education program full of teachers to instill those problem-solving skills.
We need FFA members who roll up their sleeves, work hard and don’t quit. We need those kids who don’t sulk when things aren’t going their way, but find a glimmer of hope and then make it shine bright. Those lessons are learned in the classroom and FFA contest teams, but ultimately, in the home and on the farm.
This state officer team truly represents what is best in Missouri FFA. They actually reflect their members.
FFA members this year set a precedent of how the world should respond when things all go awry. Over the past three months, I have watched FFA chapters serving in their local communities. They delivered food to food banks, get-well signs to nursing homes and flowers to first responders. They put others' needs before their own. They care.
Your kids rose to the occasion, offering the world a glimpse at what FFA is all about. They have grown in servitude, compassion and leadership. They’ve given us a look at where the generation can take us, and it gives me hope for the future.
So now it is time to celebrate with them. Honor them for their dedication, their fight, their resolve.
It is time to stop binging that latest Netflix show and tune into the 92nd annual Missouri State FFA Virtual Convention. Cheer their awards. Listen to the state officer reflection. Congratulate the next FFA servants.
Looking back, I’m not sure what the Mindy at 19 would’ve done with the problems facing the 2019-20 Missouri state FFA officers. One thing I know is FFA members tend to rise to the occasion. Why? Because we have a support system that encourages us. Let’s continue that tradition over the next three days.
Stop by the Missouri FFA Facebook page or YouTube Channel for the event. You can find more about what to expect by visiting our webpage.