Kansas FFA Blog

The Day Is Uncertain

I’m sure we can all remember the Pocahontas movie scene where she is singing “Just around the River Bend”.  Life is a lot like that river with many twists and turns. At times just around the bend, there is a calm moment in life that is peaceful and allows one to feel motivated for what is to come. Other days just around the bend is a series of rapids and every time you struggle to overcome one you are hit by another before you can even recuperate. Sometimes you will get lost in the current and your life will flip upside down like a canoe. That’s when you decide, “Do I allow myself to be lost in a current or do I right my canoe and push on?”. I hope you choose to push on, because just around the river bend is another surprise. There is always a chance that it will be more rapids, but life will never give you more than you can take. There is also a chance that just around the river bend is a calm stretch of water and warm sun rays to warm your overworked muscles.

In South Africa there are many rivers, and one is called the river of Joy and another is called the river of Sadness. There was an expedition to see if a railroad could be built from a city all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean.  A man took his wife on this expedition and the more they traveled, the unrulier the terrain became. He decided that it would be faster if he and the men traveled on horseback while his wife stayed with the wagon on a river bank. He told her if he did not return in ten days she was to assume he had perished and head back to the city. After ten days he did not return, and his wife assumed he had perished. She mourned as she packed the wagon and decided to call the river she had been living on, the river of Sadness as she had lost everything she cared about while staying there. On her way back to civilization, she took camp at a different river. As she began to lay down for rest she heard rustling in the bushes. Then out of the brush came her husband and the other men. They had not perished at all and were just simply late returning! She decided then to name that river she was camping on, the river of Joy. Little did she know that the two rivers she had named eventually joined together as one further downstream. The river of Sadness is larger than the river of Joy, yet after they join, the river is still called the river of Joy.

There are many struggles in life, and many surprises around each bend. There’s a chance you will go through many bad days before you reach a good day, but the good days always outweigh the bad. Use the promise of better days as motivation to find better ways even through the challenges that life will give you.

Living to serve


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Thanksgiving in April

Take a moment and examine the screen that you’re viewing this blog through. If you happen to be particularly clumsy like myself, that screen might have a few cracks and chips on it…or maybe an entire spiderweb of broken glass.Image result for photo of broken iphone screen

Sometimes these broken screens show up without our realization, but most of the time it happens after a tragic drop. For me, this drop happened after my hand slipped while opening a door. The phone flew and hit the ground face down with a sickening *splat*. Naturally, my reaction was just like this

This unfortunate series of events has led to plenty of blurry selfies, glass cuts on my fingers, and no more Apple facial recognition. But I realized something very important during all of this. For the first time in a long time, I had an unblemished phone screen for 3 months (which is truly a miracle for me) and when it finally cracked, I realized I had taken that luxury for granted. I never appreciated the screen when it was here, I only missed it when the screen finally became broken. Far too often, we take for granted the goodness around us. Maybe it’s in the people who support us or the individuals who make our lives easier. It’s essential for all of us to appreciate those individuals especially when we’re not in a season of gratitude.  My challenge to readers today is this:

Find 5 people who deserve your gratitude. Write each of their names down, and make an effort to thank them verbally in person or through a phone call.

I hope you’ll find that taking a moment to appreciate that goodness will foster more gratitude and help later on.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

William Arthur Ward

Living to Serve,

-Michael Dowd

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Shoot for the Stars

When I was younger, I had a serious fascination with the stars and the moon. So much so, that my grandmother got me this moon night-light that was about a foot in diameter and could go through all the phases if the right button on the remote was pressed. My father and I had an evening tradition where he would come in and turn on my moon and say good night. Takes the saying “hung the moon” to a whole other level! Recently, while packing the garage of our house in preparation to move, I found that moon once again. It instantly took me back to those thoughts of my grandmother and my father. It’s crazy how much of an impact simple objects can leave on a person, but what is more surprising is our ability to give these objects so much meaning.

Staying on the topic of astronomy, I would like to refer to constellations. We know through science that they are simply stars formed in peculiar patterns that really have no scientific evidence or structure for the objects they often represent. However, history tells us that each and every collection of stars was put together in the sky for a different reason. Some stories recount tales of love, while others recount tales of danger and heroism. Whatever the tale and whatever the mythology behind them, the simple fact is that humans, yet again, gave significant meaning to something that was created randomly.

My question is, if we can give such fantastical meaning to inanimate objects, can we not validate the work of our friends and family the same way? Why don’t we recount tales of our friends’ heroism in conquering their fear? Why don’t we fantasize the tale of how our parents met? Maybe it’s because these stories aren’t as fantastical as we would hope, but the fact still remains that we often go day-to-day thinking our lives are trivial and boring when all it takes is a change in our mindset to make our lives more fantastical and full of meaning.

Go find who hung your moon. See what constellations give you meaning and shoot for the stars!


Forever Blue,

Scuyler Zenger

Kansas FFA Secretary



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KS FFA Officers- Pawnee Edition

Over the last 9 months, our state officer team has grown to know each other on a VERY personal level. Whether we’re living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time, prepping for a conference, caravanning to an event, or flying halfway across the world, we’ve all been through thick and thin together. After all of this, what could be better than a side by side analysis of our personalities compared to Parks and Rec Characters? Now, these personality traits are NOT 100% PERFECT, but I’d like to say they’re pretty accurate, enjoy! (Disclaimer: quotes are from the show, not the officer!)

happy chris traeger GIF

Max Harman- Chris Traeger

  • Unwaveringly positive
  • Enjoys a ~quality~ facilitation
  • Always excited for literally anything…especially science and leadership
  • BIGGG running guy (in high school)
  • “There is literally nothing that you can’t do”
  • Great with names
  • Huge hearted and passionate about serving


parks and recreation treat yo self GIF

Michael Dowd- Tom Haverford

  • Prefers everything brand name
  • Small but feisty
  • Owns a pair of stylish sunglasses
  • Still uses terms like swagtastic, groovy, and legit
  • “Treat yo self”
  • Tries to be a business man but enjoys policy more
  • Sometimes over extends himself but only because he cares about lots of stuff, yo
  • Uses spunk to bring the department together


parks and recreation mic drop GIF

Scuyler Zenger- Ben Wyatt

  • LOVES calzones (from Jeff’s Pizza)
  • Did finances n stuff in FBLA and accounting
  • Is a registered Knight (of Columbus for Scuyler) (of the UK for Ben)
  • “(every single pun every made by either person)”
  • Incredibly devoted to specific TV Shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Teen Wolf, and Game of Thrones
  • Mature, thrives while working
  • High key celebrities in their fields (@FFAstylesquad)
  • Has a slew of information readily available

april ludgate wolf GIF

Krissy Isle- April Ludgate

  • Quirky and sometimes scary
  • Not afraid of dead animals
  • Uses snakes and other vermin to prove a point (sometimes in a roommate’s bathtub)
  • “That’s gross. I love it”
  • Lives by the tough love philosophy
  • Appreciates all kinds of animals and wants to be a vet
  • Genuinely cares about her work
  • Exceptionally creative
  • Has a soft spot for helping with people


rashida jones GIF

Miranda Depenbusch- Ann Perkins

  • Has a problem with falling frequently
  • Is nice to every single human being on the face of the Earth
  • Despises running
  • Loves children
  • “Ok, but we should talk soon because I almost bought a toe ring the other day”
  • Has crazy eyes (occasionally)
  • Hugs are mandatory
  • Gives her love selflessly to everyone around her


oh my god wow GIF

Garrett Craig- Andy Dwyer

  •  Comically hilarious and occasionally witty
  • Naturally born theatre guy aka Burt Macklin and Johnny Karate
  • Casually aloof- can be spotted running into doors or ripping pants
  • Was in a rock and roll band (or Tiger Choral, same thing right?)
  • “The bad feelings make me feel sweaty”
  • Has/wants to take a women’s study course
  • Kind, caring, and loyal
  • Passionate and will devote fully to the right cause
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The Humanity of Agriculture

What is unique about agriculture? Out of all of the other disciplines that mankind has developed over the years, what makes agriculture “our wisest pursuit” as Thomas Jefferson told George Washington. Why is agriculture always going to be one of the most important subjects studied? I think the answer to all these questions is the same– people.

Agriculture connects us all as a global population. There is a uniqueness that is relatively humanitarian found in the area of providing for basic human needs.

From there I can tell you why I am passionate about FFA and Agricultural Education. There is no other organization like it, especially one that promotes agriculture, which is an industry unlike any other. What agriculturists do day in and day out, is providing the building blocks, the essentials tools, the basis of our everyday lives– whatever you want to call them– the things we take for granted every day that allow us to do what we do. It is more than farming; it is everything farming becomes. The food, fiber, and fuel produced are what drives our ability to exist as we do. Without those things which wouldn’t exist without agriculture, humanity as we know it would look extremely different.

People may argue that other industries like technology have shaped the world more, but I disagree. What has allowed advances in any industry, whether it be automotive, pharmaceutical, or electronics, those technologies were developed because the people developing them didn’t have to worry about food first. Agriculturist embraced changes early on that created an environment in certain cultures of humanity that allowed for less uncertainty and instability when thinking about one’s next meal. With that said, when we worry less about food, we begin to advance other areas. Without agriculture being there to support those other advances, once again, humanity as we know it would look extremely different.

When people ask me why I want to be an agricultural educator, or why I was involved in FFA, and then ask me why high school agricultural education is necessary, I tell them about the leadership and the personal growth. What I need to be more intentional about is including the importance that agriculture plays within humanity, and that FFA and Ag Ed are great ways to open doors and clear paths for students who want to make an impact. I would challenge those reading this to do the same.

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“Every day of our lives we are on the verge of making those changes that would make all the difference.” – Mignon McLauglin

“In every single thing you do, you are choosing a direction. Your life is a product of choices.”
-Dr. Kathleen Hall

Each day we make numerous choices and decisions occasionally it takes us longer to understand the impact of a particular choice we make. Sometimes they are small like what you are going to wear for the day, where you are going to eat lunch, or how much homework you are going to finish tonight. Other times the decisions are a lot bigger like which college am I going to apply for, what I am going to major in, and where I am going to live, but If I would have made a different choice in the eighth grade, the choice to not be in Mrs. Van Allen’s agriculture class things would be so different. I would have never joined FFA so I never would have competed in CDEs or started my SAE. There’s no way I would have went to National FFA Convention or Washington Leadership Conference. I couldn’t have run for chapter office and I wouldn’t have made any of the friends or memories that I have. I have no idea what I would be passionate about, where I would be going to college or what I would be majoring in. It is so crazy to think about how different things would be if I hadn’t made that choice. Luckily, I did make the choice to join 8th-grade ag and FFA. I love every single memory and friend that I have made.
Friends are so important! I loved the friends I had in high school we were so close and we kind of had to be. There were only thirty people in my class and most of them had been in my class since preschool I miss those friends all the time. Once I started college I made really great friends very quickly and it was because of FFA. We are all connected by FFA and our passion for agriculture. We do almost everything together like hangout and watch movies together. Many of us in the friend group take some of the same classes and study with one another. When we get stressed out and overwhelmed we all come together and work it out.

I love the choices that I have made in life, but my two favorites are choosing to join ag my 8th-grade year and making the amazing friends that I have. Think about a single choice that has completely lead you down a different path in life. Are you happy with what path you are currently on? What is one of your favorite things about your friend group and when was the last time you let any of them know?

Miranda Depenbusch
Living to Serve

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FFA members, the TIME is ours…

Whew!! January CANNOT be over! It feels like only a couple of days ago that I was flying back home from making what feels like a months’ or more worth of memories in what was actually only a week and a half on ILSSO. And ya know, I noticed these weird effects of memory and how we feel time passing while I was on the trip as well.

If we’ve ever had the chance to attend a leadership development conference or any type of facilitated training, we’ve probably heard the phrase “the time is ours” to signify permission to start work on the given task. Since election to state office and the deluge of training that’s followed, the phrase has become a little bit of a cliché for our team. But looking back on ILSSO, I find so much meaning in that little, benign phrase.

Beginning on one end of the spectrum of how we experience time passing, I began the trip with fourteen hours of time on a plane ride from New York City to Johannesburg, South Africa. It was such a mind-numbing amount of time, and we were all just hoping to slip through it as fast as we could. In the moment, trying to distract myself, it honestly did not feel like 14 hours’ worth of time had slipped through my fingers. I only remember snippets of that plane ride, it seemingly passing in my memory in a blip. This is what I would describe as the most negative way to experience our time. Distracting ourselves to the point where minutes and hours disappear without us even knowing and gaining little to no memories from the last stretch. And it doesn’t just happen on plane rides. Something that still saddens me is how little of my two weeks of winter break I actually used, and therefore, remember. Those two weeks without structure, deadlines, or definite tasks sent me spiraling, like many of us sometimes do, into passing the hours by in a blur of YouTube, or Snapchat, or Netflix, or insert your given distraction ___ here. Needless to say, I was not contributing; I was not happy; and I gained nothing out of it myself.

Thank the good Lord that I had something to shake up my life coming up soon. My time in South Africa could not have been more different than those blurred days of winter break. I noticed immediately that with those packed days of crazy new experiences, each moment passed slower. Each day stretched out into a week. But I was remembering every detail about the day, and those memories made me feel like I was actually living life MORE. That feeling, that perspective, is how I think life is meant to be lived, fully in each moment, making memories, and FEELING our passage through the minutes going past us. This is one of the greatest lessons that I appreciate ILSSO for teaching me. Because it wasn’t just the literal mountain top experiences that gave me this slowed down perspective. I also found myself savoring every moment during seemingly mundane moments like riding on the bus, full of wonder at the little conversations and the casually awesome people I was surrounded by.

These moments, mountain top and mindful, showed me that everyday life can be just as awesome as crazy new things too; it’s all is just a matter of perspective and finding the little, awesome things in each moment. So FFA members, the time really is ours, to use as we see fit, and to experience either mindfully and fully, or distractedly and fleetingly. Let’s choose to appreciate our moments, and hopefully, create some more awesome memories for the people around us who need them even more.

Living to Serve,

Max Harman


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It is a new year! Along with many people I decided to make a New Year’s Resolution. My New Year’s resolution was to not spend as much time on my phone. I was able to stick to this fairly easily and I’ll tell you how!

The state officers and I were going to South Africa on an International Leadership Seminar for State Officers ILSSO. We were flying out of New York and left a couple days early, so we could spend time in the city. Some of us went to Times Square for New Year’s Eve and it was a blast. The next day January 1st we did a lot of sight-seeing we went to battery park to see the Statue of Liberty, we went to ground zero, central park, times square and some other places. It was getting late, so we decided it was time to head back to the hotel, we got on the subway and then a bus and it was finally our stop. We all got out and went to our rooms. I sat down and immediately said to myself I left my phone on the bus! I calmly went to tell the boys what I did, and we tracked it for a while, but soon it was time for us to fly to South Africa.

At first, I felt a little lost without my phone, but we were constantly going and always doing something incredible. I realized that it was probably better that I did not have my phone because I was truly living in the moment and not behind a screen. We saw some amazing things and made even more amazing friends. Ian Brown said “If you put your cameras down you might be able to live in the moment. You have a memory there of something you’ve never lived. I can honestly say that I lived! We went on a safari and saw incredible animals, visited schools with outstanding students, woke up and fell asleep to the most beautiful views, ate food that was way out of my comfort zone, and met the most exceptional people.

I might have stuck to my New Year’s resolution by default but I’m glad I did! I challenge you to put down your phone and really live in the moment.

Miranda Depenbusch

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Don’t Worry

Call me crazy, deranged, or straight up insane, but international travel truly changes a person.

It’s only been the second day our team has reentered the United States of America again after having traveled first to New York for New Year’s Eve and secondly to South Africa on the 2019 adventure of the National FFA International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (ILSSO).

If only I could put this experience into words.

There was so much seen, felt, and learned, I couldn’t possibly write it all down and truly capture what this experience was like. So, for now, I’m mainly going to focus on the one thing I feel has truly changed my perception on life: the pursuit of happiness (not the movie, because that would be copyright).

I felt a LOT of emotions on this trip.

There was awe in absolute beauty of South Africa.

Frustration at the crowded streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, etc.

Inquisition of the culture of South Africa.

Admiration of the steadfastness of a country still in turmoil.

Love and appreciation for my fellow travelers, group leaders, and friends.

But the thing that changed the most is where I find joy.

This may seem like a really cheesy, flowery thing to admit, but it is true. The people of South Africa, and those I experienced South Africa with, have taught me a new definition for the word. Joy, and happiness, come from everywhere around us. A lot of the time, we find them in the material things we receive like the new iPhone, more livestock, or the great meals we eat. At least, these were the things that I thought brought me happiness. After being disconnected from my phone for a while, being away from my livestock, and having to generate a new palate in a place that definitely was not like home, I was able to perceive South Africa in a completely different light.

South Africa defined happiness in a way that nothing else could. Happiness is making new friends from around the country that are doing and will continue to do great, amazing things. Happiness is learning from the earth around us and the people who inhabit it. Happiness is

listening to others’ opinions and respecting them even if they don’t align with your own. Happiness is finding a way to make others content with themselves even when you are not.

Happiness is doing for others what they cannot do for themselves. Happiness comes from what happens around us just as much as it comes from within ourselves. It may be hard at times to find that happiness. I get it, but we cannot fixate on the negatives in our lives. If we do, we create a toxic atmosphere around us that others recognize and feed on. When something bad happens, take a moment to process the moment, then place it to the side and continue on with your life.

Nothing positive comes from a negative attitude.

I have a huge amount of learning still left to do about how to find my inner happiness. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing, continuous journey with many side roads and forks along the way. Follow your inner compass, trust your instincts, shed negative thoughts, and surround yourself with positive people.

Most of all, be willing to change in order to find joy in your life and be happy.

Forever Blue,

Scuyler Zenger

Kansas FFA Secretary

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Ooohhh We’re Halfway There….

It’s been almost 7 months since State Convention which means that we are halfway through our school year, and halfway through our year of service in FFA.

First off, congrats! We have survived some of the busiest months of the year. Whether it’s September with the State Fair, or October with National Convention, or sports and school throughout the entire semester, we’ve learned and grown through new opportunities and challenges. Second of all, here we go! The next 6 months will also be marked with business, dedication, and exciting new opportunities. This includes FFA week in February, spring break and Leader Lab inMarch, State CDEs in April, and lastly State Convention in May.

Sometimes it might seem like we’re “Livin on a Prayer” , pardon the Bon Jovi reference 😉

iheartradio music awards applause GIF by iHeartRadioBut between the craziness of life, It’s always a good idea to reflect on everything that’s happened during 2018. Now, I know it’s cheesy and might seem cliche, but taking steps to look back then look forward can help tremendously next year. As someone who frequently utilizes the Futuristic and Strategic Clifton strengths, I know how important it is to reflect before pressing onward. New Year’s resolutions are fun and all, but New Year’s goals can make a tremendous impact on what we accomplish this year.

One of my best friends, Caleb, keeps a list of all of his accomplishments. He adds on to this list every time something big happens and he uses this list for encouragement when he’s feeling challenged. We can implement the same type of reflection today. Grab a notecard and hop to it:

Let’s take a moment and write down our 5 best accomplishments in 2018.

Next, let’s jot out 5 moments in 2018 where we made a mistake. Think about how we can grow from this mistake in 2019.

Lastly, let’s brainstorm our 5 biggest goals for 2019. In order to optimize our goals, we should stick with the SMART model and keep our goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

Each goal is nothing more than words written on paper. In order for these goals to become a reality (and an addition to our list of accomplishments), we have to be committed and make actions to press towards them. I challenge you to keep this notecard somewhere that you’ll see it frequently. Maybe tape it to your mirror or door or hang it on the wall by your desk. That little reminder will help you embrace the rest of the year with purpose. With planning and persistence, we can make the most out of the next months to come!

Happy New Years!

Living to Serve,

Michael Dowd

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