Kansas FFA Blog

Southern Hospitality

In early January, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to South Africa as a part of the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. We spent about 10 days in country, touring different farming operations and national landmarks. Since I’ve returned from our journey, many have asked me what my favorite part of the trip was. I want to answer by saying “All of it!” However, if I were to narrow it down to one thing, it would be the people.

A lot of the people I met in SA enjoyed laughter. It seemed like almost everyone had a light sense of humor. For instance, while we were in Cape Town, our group visited Table Mountain. To reach the top, we rode in a cable car which was driven by a young gentleman with quite the sense of humor (a scary combination, I know).

As the car was about to depart we were all a bit anxious about the 3,500-foot climb in the tiny little car. Our driver must have sensed this and said “Ladies and gentlemen, don’t worry. This is my first time too.” It was the jokes and laughter that I really enjoyed about South Africans.

Generally, most South Africans were very kind and hospitable towards our group. When we would arrive at a hotel or restaurant, we were greeted at the door and handed a cool drink. It amazed me how everyone was so willing to serve.

Thinking about our own lives here in the United States, how can we be kind and welcoming to others? Perhaps there’s a new student at our school and they haven’t made any friendships yet. Maybe there’s someone sitting by themselves at a school dance because no one has asked him or her to dance with them. At a CDE this spring you may notice that there is a nervous FFA member standing next to you who could use some comfort.

How will you respond? Will you act with kindness like the people of South Africa and extend a hand of service? Will you go out of your way to talk to the new student? Will you ask the forgotten to dance? Will you calm the nervous member by cracking a joke? H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, “Earn your success based on service to others, not at the expense of others.” How will you be known, through cheating the needy by not giving of yourself to them, or by serving them with a smile?

Living to Serve,

John Kennedy
2017-2018 Kansas FFA Vice President

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It Takes All

In high school I had two favorite subjects. One was, as you may have guessed, Agricultural education. However, the other was History. I have always had this fascination and excitement for what has happened in the past. Furthermore, I am a fairly competitive person, and most history is abought competition. So much so that many would say that history is written by the winners. In my studies of history this is largely true. This leads me to wonder how the many writers of history became winners. Now, I am not an expert and I do not claim to know the answers to everything in history but I have discovered a commonality amongst many of the winners throughout history. That commonality is inclusion of all.

Perhaps the best example of this is in the American Civil War. As you probably know this was the war between states caused by the extreme division of our nation. If you study much on this war you will quickly find that in the beginning the Union or the North was losing. The first couple years the Union Army had very little success. However, some brave men from here in our home state of Kansas came up with a solution. In 8th grade I was able to do a research project on Col. James M. Williams, who along with a group of other Kansas abolitionists, came up with the idea of including escaped slaves and freed African-Americans into the Union Army. After a secret meeting between Senator James Henry Lane and President Lincoln, Col. Williams had the permission to raise up a unit right here in Kansas. His unit, The First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, would become the first to see combat in the civil war. They went on to become one of the most distinguished units on the western front of the war. They led the way for what would become 180,000 African-Americans to see combat in the Civil War. While this is not the only reason that the Union forces would go on to prevail during the war, it can certainly be argued that it led to a turning point in the war. Through simply including others the Union was able to greatly grow their force size.

As we go about our day to day lives and work towards success in our chapters and lives. Look for ways that you can expand your inclusion. Col. Williams seen the potential that others around him had and he took the step necessary to provide others a chance to participate and fight for shared beliefs, and experienced great success as a result. You never will know what kind of a movement could be caused by simply finding a place for others to get involved and help you toward your mission.

Me as Col. James M. Williams

Living to serve,

Quentin Umphenour,
State Treasurer

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The Alchemist

Near the beginning of the school year, Ms. Kane, my guide, passed a book on to me titled The Alchemist written by Paulo Coelho. Throughout my first semester at Kansas State, I slowly made my way through the novel, and I find it hard to believe that it took a whole semester to read the short book. Now if you are anything like me, you are probably scanning the web right trying to define the word “alchemist,” do not worry, it took me an entire college semester to learn what an alchemist is, thanks to Coelho. After finishing the novel, I realized that Coelho’s words broadened my view on the impact that “love” creates on those individuals around us.

Throughout the novel, the main character embarks on a journey to fulfill his Personal Legend and along the way encounters multiple personal development experiences. Toward the end of the novel, the character begins to mentally piece together his learning experiences to define love and alchemist. Coelho defines love as: “the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World,” and states, “when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.” This definition sent me into deeper thought, making me wonder if what I love helps improve the world? Am I spending my time loving things that do not provide benefit to the world around me and instead simply preoccupy my time with momentary pleasure? And to build off Coelho’s theme for love, do my loves push me to better myself?

Thinking more on the topic, I began to categorize my loves into two different types: alchemistic love and individual love. My loves that fall under alchemistic love are the activities that I not only enjoy but also make a positive impact on the world around me, while the individual loves simply bring myself pleasure. I noticed a correlation that my alchemistic loves are more commonly the things that I enjoy doing but require more effort or commitment from myself, so I find myself not doing them as often as my individual loves. This correlation led me to realize that I need to spend more time focusing on my alchemistic loves to fulfill Coelho’s definition by using my loves to create a better world. Once I begin to focus myself on those loves, I would be able to consider myself an Alchemist in Coelho’s eyes.

“That’s what Alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” After over four months of trying to pick apart the definition of an alchemist, Coelho’s definition came across clear: one whom unintentionally improves the world by seeking self-improvement through prioritizing their alchemistic loves.

In the novel, Coelho makes it known that Alchemists are found few and far in between, yet sheds glory on those that are there. This is seen in my every day life, as the number of true Alchemists that I can name seems to be low; although, the Alchemists I can think of are individuals who are truly making a difference in the lives of those around them, such as the members of the Wichita Southeast FFA Chapter. I have had the opportunity to interact with Ms. Farmer, the advisor, and members of the Wichita Southeast FFA Chapter over the past few months and hear about the projects that this new chapter is embarking on with the community. They have recently accepted nearly $5,000 in grants from National FFA, the Wichita Community Foundation, and various other organizations to construct a Koi pond, seating area, and community garden on the newly constructed Wichita Southeast campus. These FFA members are truly developing into Alchemists by using their passions for improving their community to not only grow as individuals, but to also connect their community through civic camaraderie.

The Alchemist has encouraged me to focus more on my alchemistic loves in life to not only improve myself, but also others around me. What alchemistic loves can you identify in your life? Are you prioritizing your time toward these loves, or is your time being distracted by other individual loves? As Coelho implied it: many yearn to become an alchemist, yet few are self-aware enough to identify their alchemistic loves to truly become an alchemist. Where are you?

The aspiring Alchemist,
Riley Sleichter

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Watermelon Festival

What if I told you that my little home town of 700 residents can swell to 3000 people in one day? This may be an odd thing to say, or even think about, but it is true. Every year for Labor Day Weekend, the City of Clyde puts on the Watermelon Festival. The Watermelon Festival is a four-day event. A few of the activities include a parade, a golf cart scavenger hunt, a demolition derby, fireworks, a homemade ice cream social, watermelon feed, and a contest to see who can grow the largest watermelon. Obviously, the festivities are hosted in celebration of Labor Day. But you may be wondering, “Why Watermelon Festival?” The answer to this lies in the history of the town. When Clyde was being settled, farmers were looking for a crop that could be profitable in the area. The soil in the area is sandy and at the time the most efficient way of shipping was by train. So, the farmers grew watermelon. They found that the vines grew well in the soil and the melons themselves could be easily stacked in train cars. The town had found a profitable venue that would allow it to grow and form the foundation that would allow it to not only survive, but thrive over many years. Today, agriculture is still a large part of the town’s economy, but it has changed to beef and grain production. Despite this change, the impacts of that original idea to grow watermelon are still honored. The Watermelon Festival represents and celebrates the pride and community service that keeps this little town alive and well today. Growing watermelon and access to the railroad laid a foundation for the town.

What about your FFA Chapter? Many chapters have various “foundations” that shape the chapter’s activities and culture today. Some might have a strong history in various CDE’s and LDE’s. Others find their niche in proficiency or national chapter awards. Some may just now be building their foundation for the future. I know my chapter struggled with laying a concrete foundation for many years. While this presents a challenge, this challenge comes with opportunity! And, let’s face it, all chapters – those which are very strong and accomplished and those who are trying to follow in their footsteps – must always work hard to improve. And how exciting for all the new chapters that are just getting started in our state this year. Their first members are building the very first footings for their foundation. We can all play a part in forming or adding to our chapter’s foundation. We can lead the charge by starting a new event in our chapter or we can lead by example by being an active member who gives 100% effort in all they do. Even when our time as a member has passed, we can still have an impact through the alumni chapter. What will be your chapter’s Watermelon Festival?

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Fill the Baskets

Halloween wasn’t too long ago and you might have seen a friendly ghost or a couple wicked witches wandering up to houses to trick-or-treat. Who still wishes that they were young enough to go trick-or-treating? I know I sure do. I remember stashing candy for weeks and hiding it from the rest of my family. The way I measured my Halloween success was seeing how much candy filled up my bucket. The more I had, obviously the better.

Now that I am old enough to be the one handing out candy, I have the opportunity to see the smile on everyone’s faces as I fill their trick-or-treat bucket. But why does this just have to happen on Halloween? Why can’t we always strive to fill someone’s basket and make them happy? After having the opportunity to attend National FFA Convention, I listened to Trey Elizondo’s retiring address about “Love Is”. The message I took away was that we ALL have the ability to help others, or fill their baskets.

Every single person has a basket, and it needs to be filled. Some people might require different types of love or acts of kindness than others. Each of us have a responsibility to try and fill everyone’s basket in some way. This may look different for each person. Perhaps you work at a restaurant, and simply sharing your smile with costumers is your way of filling their basket. Or perhaps you work on a farm, and you put every ounce of effort you have into your job. The people that will benefit from your hard labor, is having their basket filled by you. It is always easy to fill our frie


nd’s baskets and give them what they need. However, we should try and fill other’s baskets who are very different from us. We may be the only ones who have what they need. To truly make this world a better place, we need to start by helping people. People helping people ripples out to make a big effect.

Embrace the power you have as an individual. You can make the difference in someone’s day. Everyone needs something. It could be laughter, a hug, a deep life conversation, or even just a smile. You can fulfill that something for each and every person. Fill their baskets, and you might just find that yours are being filled as well.

Living to serve,Marie Reveles

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Enjoy the Process

A while back, the team and I helped at the Kansas State Fair. I spent my time in the sheep barn. For me, it was a new experience. Honestly, that was intimidating as everyone around me seemed to have had been around for years. In fact, one day, I overheard someone say in their conversation “After fair last year, the kids said it just wasn’t fun anymore.”

We’ve all been there before, haven’t we? You do something so many times that you don’t see the point in it anymore. Even something as important as state fair can get here. What do you do to bring back the novelty and excitement of an event?

What if we didn’t weigh our happiness on our placing? Each success is a chance to celebrate everything we worked hard to achieve. Our failures teach us what to improve on for next time. Either way, we figure out what works, so why don’t we take a moment to relax for a little?  At state fair, there’s always a ride to go on or some other adventure to be had.  If you have been studying for hours, what is the harm in watching a single Netflix episode?

The results of this day weren’t exactly what I wanted them to be but having fun with a friend made up for this.

Keep the rivalries in the competition.  Fellowship is easily one of the most important parts of life.  We know we can’t always be first or best of the best.  With these things in mind, should we really choose who to socialize with based on whether they do better than us or not?  Focus on spending time with an individual who utilizes a different strategy than you.  Who knows, maybe we would be able to learn a new thing or two.

Keep moving forward.  These types of opportunities are all about growth.  Repeating the same exact process each year won’t do much for us in terms of our growth.  Trying new things won’t be the end of you, I promise.

Never forget the purpose of an event.  With that in mind, don’t let it become monotonous; it shouldn’t be something that you dread doing.  Find the fun in everything you do.

Living to serve,

Skyler Denio
State Sentinel

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How am I possibly going to find all the time for this?

Now that school’s in full swing, most of us are probably feeling swamped with all the activities that come with school. There’s tons of things competing for our attention. Classes, football, volleyball, cross country, cheer, band, choir, FFA, Art Club, family, and places of worship–just to name a few. For those high school juniors and seniors out there, worrying about career choices and post-secondary plans are another big stressor. With more and more responsibility that piles on, the less amount of time we seem to have.

Like most of us, I have been struggling with time management lately. Just the other night, I was thinking about all the things on my To-Do list wondering: “How am I possibly going to find all the time for this?” To help relieve some stress I decided to conduct my routine check of my Twitter feed. As I was scrolling through all the tweets, I came across a helpful quote from Florence Kennedy: “Don’t agonize, organize.”

Though I have no relation to Florence Kennedy (or the former president for that matter), I found this quote very inspiring. Rather than spending all this time worrying about how I was to complete items on my To-Do list, I could be spending that time setting a schedule and prioritizing. To help those of you who may be struggling like I was last week, here’s a list of four essential time management tips:

  1. Use a calendar and keep it up to date: This is the first step to taking control of our time. By keeping a calendar, agenda, or journal of some sort, we can remember important dates and deadlines. Also, be sure to check your calendar. Obviously there’s no point in keeping one unless you check it regularly. Personally, I like to use Google Calendar since I always have my smartphone with me. Plus, I can program it to set reminders for deadlines that are approaching. What kind of time organizer will you use?
  2. Don’t just mark events on your calendar, use it to set habits! This was a helpful tip that I received from a friend. Not only is it important to keep track of events on your calendar, but it is equally important to set aside time to study, practice for CDEs, or other events. When we set specific times to finish our homework, for instance, we hold ourselves accountable and avoid procrastination. What is something that you need to set aside time for?
  3. Eliminate distractions! It’s one thing to set aside time to work on a project, it’s a completely new task to try to follow through with that! Sometimes we get distracted and don’t get the best use of our time. For me, a big distraction is my smartphone. Beforelong, I’ll find myself checking Snapchat and Twitter rather than writing a paper! To solve this issue, Isilence my phone and place it out of sight until my work is finished. How can you avoid distractions during work?
  4. Reward yourself! If we were to work one hundred percent of the time, we would miss out on the things that really matter in life. Once you get your tasks completed, take a deep breath and relax. This could be through hanging out with friends, spending time with your family, doing your favorite hobby, or binge-watching Netflix. How will you reward yourself?

Time management can be tricky, and overwhelming. With these tips, time management is a lot less stressful and you’ll find more time to do the things you enjoy.

Living to serve,

John Kennedy
State Vice President

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Trusting in Dillon

Prologue: For this story to make sense, we must understand that although I poured my heart into bettering myself for sports, my mediocre athletic abilities never allowed me to excel at the varsity level.

During my junior year I had the opportunity to be the All-Star 2nd baseman and pitcher for the Abilene High School baseball team. The North Central Kansas League was not ready for Riley Sleichter’s blazing fastball that only hit the strike zone part of the time or his routine fly-out at bats. I was looking forward to my year being the only Junior on the Junior Varsity squad, which automatically made me the team captain.

I knew that the incoming freshman had talent in their class, so when practice started I was on the lookout for other star athletes that could propel our JV squad to victory. We got into practice and one freshman stood out to me because he had something special. This younger player simply had something about him that intrigued me; I could never define what is was, but I knew that I wanted to develop this member into a close friend of mine. As the year went on, I learned his name was Dillon, and I must have been right with the special feeling because he turned into my copartner as Dillon played shortstop. Dillon and I turned into the deadly duo, and no one wanted to hit a grounder up the middle because it was a guaranteed out or double play.

Dillon developed into a friend that I knew I could trust on the diamond and off the diamond.

This past spring I received a text message stating that Dillon had been in an accident and was currently being flown to the nearest Intensive Care Unit (ICU). That night Dillon began fighting for his life. After some time spent in the ICU, he was transferred to Kansas City and began rehab, but with one major change: Dillon was blinded by the accident.

Upon his return home, I went to visit Dillon because I had not been with him for a few months. Dillon and I went to a local restaurant for dinner, and I was quickly amazed that not much had changed: Dillon and I were able to talk just as we did before the accident. The trust that Dillon and I developed on the diamond had become even greater, as Dillon trusted me with leading and counting out his money. I quickly realized that Dillon pours his trust out to others and I am astonished that Dillon trusts everyone that he comes across, and the amount of trust he grants them with is a goal that I strive to achieve.

I have learned much from Dillon, and one of the greatest things I have taken from him is the idea of trust. Dillon’s life revolves around the trust that others will help him along the way. I now strive to trust others more, and encourage others to trust as Dillon does. How can you begin to live your life like Dillon and place your trust in those around you?

Riley Sleichter

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The Name on the Front

What’s more fun than spending five hours in a suburban playing road trips games, holding our bladders, and ignoring our rumbling stomachs? Well when it’s phrased that way… just about anything. However, when I arrived in Iowa, all these small things fade into the background. Recently, my fellow team members and I had the opportunity to attend National Leadership Conference for State Officers. Besides the knowledge gained at this conference, the people and relationships we built surpassed everything.

DeShawn Blanding, the 2016-2017 National Southern Region Vice President, was one of the facilitators at this conference. Talk, about inspiring! He brought the life, energy, and excitement each and every day. I soon found myself invigorated by his words and actions.

One evening he sat us down for our reflections. As normal, I grabbed my moleskin, pen, and let my mind wander through his words and stories. Then, something he said caught my attention. DeShawn was telling us a story about a time when his family could only afford one FFA jacket. Since his brother was older than him, his name went on the jacket. Once his brother graduated, Deshawn was handed down the coveted blue jacket. However, DeShawn felt like he was living in the shadow of his brother. It was his brother’s name on the jacket after all. It wasn’t until DeShawn received his own jacket with his name on it that he realized, it’s about who’s in the jacket…not the name on the jacket.

I remember when I received my first chapter FFA jacket. I wore that jacket during some of my proudest moments…and some of my toughest. While I was so proud of my name on the front, and my chapter or district on the back, I never thought to think…. it’s who’s inside this jacket that I am proud of. Our name’s on our jacket’s will only mean as much as the person inside of them. Maybe we are wearing our older brother’s or sister’s jacket. Maybe we are borrowing a jacket from our FFA Chapter. Or Maybe we have a jacket with our own name on it. It will always be the person inside the jacket that defines us, not the name on the front.

Living to Serve,
Marie Reveles

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The Golden Years

When I was about seven years old, my great uncle provided me with something that I cherish to this day; a family tree. It’s not an extensive one, as it simply traces the history of a single predecessor, in most cases the father. The family tree doesn’t branch off and reveal that I’m a distant cousin of one of our nation’s presidents. No, this tree offers something much more valuable (who isn’t distantly related to someone famous), a narrative. I can see where my 8th great grandparents were born in Germany and where they passed on in the United States. I learn in which generation the Borger family moved from Pennsylvania to Northwest Kansas.  My favorite part of the family tree is the listings of my 3rd great grandpa, Valentine “VP” Borger and my great grandpa, Oscar Valentine Borger. It’s from these two men who lived before me that I get my middle name, Valentina.

This past June Kansas concluded its 89th State Convention.  Next year will be the 90th and before long, we will be celebrating our 100th State Convention.  Eighty-nine years of recognizing FFA members and students enrolled in agriculture education.  Without a doubt, the FFA you and I now enjoy is not quite the same as members past have.  This is the exact reason our state association has launched the 2028 project.  The project hopes to compile and preserve a collection of documents, including personal interviews with past members, that will help in telling the history of our association.

Thankfully our association has done an excellent job of compiling this data as we’ve gone.  Over the past several months I’ve browsed the state website countless time.  I’ve looked through the past National and State Officer and American and State Degree lists more times than I can count.  Each time it seems I discover something new; for example the father of my best friend (who encouraged me to enroll in my first ag class) earned his American degree as a member.

As I explored the website further, I stumbled upon something that is as important to me as my family tree; Kansas FFA’s Golden Years 1929-1982.  It lists things from what year each chapter was chartered, Kansas Sweethearts, and even who won State CDEs.  While all of this is quite interesting, the publication recognizes “the real history can be found in the lives of present and past members.”

From these compilations, we can learn that Rick Malir and Gov. Sam Brownback served as both State and National Officers.  What it doesn’t teach us is how this association and organization impacted their lives or why they continue to support the organization.  It’s only from listening to these individuals that we can learn from them.  Many of our Alumni lived through those “Golden Years” of the Kansas FFA.  While many things were different during their time as a member, do we not gain some of the same experiences?

It may have been called the Golden Years because when something is new, it is shiny.  However, to this day, FFA members continue to grow in their Blue Jackets, living out GOLD Standards. We’re told that highschool is the best time of our lives.  How can we maximize our time as members so that our golden years are remembered for years to come?

Living to Serve,
Skyler Denio
2017-2018 State Sentinel

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