Kansas FFA Blog

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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The Lasting Impact and Legacy of a True Champion

I don’t know about you, but if you are anything like me you have your favorite tunes. I love to jam out any chance I can. I have been instructed to turn my music down more than a few times. I love country music and although I cannot play an instrument, or sing any pleasant sound, I still like to rock out. Most of my favorite songs come from what has commonly been referred to as “Red Dirt” music. It is mostly bands from Texas and Oklahoma that are not commonly played on our local radio stations. One of these songs is by Aaron Watson and it is titled “July in Cheyenne.” It is a tribute song to the late Lane Frost. Lane Frost was a legendary bull rider whose life was portrayed in the infamous movie 8 Seconds. The movie shows a glimpse of the life that he lived and it shows some of his greatness. Take a minute to understand some of the reasons why this incredible cowboy was able to make such an impact on so many.

Lane Frost began riding at a young age. He knew that he didn’t just want to be a cowboy, but a rodeo cowboy. He started riding dairy calves on the family ranch around the age of 5. From there his passion flourished and he began his quest to achieve what every rodeo cowboy aspires to be, a World Champion. While he experienced success in nearly every event of rodeo he wanted to be a bull rider. Lane was about five foot eleven inches in height, which is relatively tall for a bull rider. But, his hard work helped him make it to the top of the ranks quickly as he won high school rodeos all over the country. His career continued to take off as he was named 1983 Rookie of the Year for the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). He and his close friends Tuff Hedeman and Cody Lambert, continued down the rodeo trail for the next few years qualifying for the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) multiple times. Eventually in 1987, Lane finally achieved his goal of becoming a World Champion Bull Rider. He continued to be a successful rider and cowboy. In 1989, he was once again on track to another successful season when on July 30th his life was cut short after an accident following his dismount.

As you can see Lane lived what many would say a “successful” life. Considering he only lived to twenty-five years old, it is impressive that he could accomplish so much. Rodeo has existed for many years, and there have been many world champions. The NFR has existed since 1958 and has continually crowned w

orld champions in each of rodeos 7 primary events every year. That said we now must evaluate why this cowboy was so special as to have songs and movies created in tribute to him and why he is one of the most legendary and well-known cowboys to this day. I truly believe it is because there is more to his story than his accomplishments in the arena. Those that were closest to him would lead you to believing that he was not just a rodeo champion, but a champion at life. Lane was genuine and sincere. These are qualities that many of the leaders we look up to in history, and in our lives, possess.

When Lane was young and starting to ride competitively he twice got the opportunity to meet his bull riding hero, 8 Time World Champion Donnie Gay. When young Lane went back behind the chutes to meet his hero he was disappointed and hurt by his encounter. What was expected to be a dream come true became a nightmare as Lane witnessed his hero wearing tennis shoes, smoking a cigarette, and said he didn’t have time for him. The other time they met Lane was about to ride and asked him for advice only to be told he had drawn a bull too difficult for him to ride. These two instances made a significant impact on Lane as it taught him the importance of being genuine. As a result, Lane always wore cowboy boots and wrangler jeans with long sleeved shirts, the way he believed cowboys should dress. He also would hang around to sign every autograph. Fellow cowboy and close friend Jim Sharp would say “He was always smiling. When we were signing autographs, he would stay until the last kid. He enjoyed everybody. He was there for everybody and it wasn’t just an act. He’d set and talk to a guy and get to know him.”

That sincerity carried over when he met a 12-year-old J.W. Hart who aspired to be like Lane and was riding in a youth rodeo in San A

ntonio, Texas. He was the only boy in the steer riding not from Texas and as a result had been outcast by the others all week. They were waiting in a line when someone smacked him on the chest from behind when he turned around it was his hero Lane Frost standing there smiling. J.W. had been to Lanes riding school the year before and Lane remembered his name and later helped him in the chute as he prepared to ride. Eventually J.W. Hart did achieve his dreams and like Lane also became a World Champion Bull Rider. He also inspired another young boy he met at age 11 named Mike White who also was encouraged from meeting Lan and too became a World Champion.

Genuine and sincere, those are two of the many qualities that our cowboy had. Lane was truly a champion, and he carried that with a charisma that few have ever before or since have possessed. If we take these qualities and truly apply them to our lives we too will be able to bring out the best in those around us. We will be able to create an impact. Perhaps even a lasting one. To this day people that knew Lane can still tell you about how he impacted them. Lane has helped to inspire many to follow in his steps. Every day we have that opportunity to lead those around us andto encourage them to grow and aspire to achieve more. Lane Frost was able to leave a legacy that has, and will continue to impact people for years. He built those around him up. Now it is time for all of us to create our impact and build the legacy that we will leave behind, in our homes, our chapters, and our world.

Living to serve,

Quentin Umphenour,
State Treasurer

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Relevance Over Time

One of my favorite things on the farm is the equipment. Tractors of all sizes, combines, grain carts, planters, drills, air seeders, and so much more! I would even like to pursue a career involving agricultural machinery. Recently, I have spent some time with local John Deere dealership, Concordia Tractor Incorporated, or CTI. It has been an awesome experience! During this experience, I learned about the many different aspects and functions of the dealership, from looking at the big picture with management, to the parts and service where the nitty, and gritty details are worked through.

While pulling up to the dealership, a piece of equipment caught my eye.  Along the row of massive, beautiful combines, there was one that looked out of place.  The paint had faded to a moldy green, and just by looking at it from a distance I could tell it was a machine from days gone by.

As much as I love talking and learning about equipment, I had never stopped to wonder where that equipment goes when the farmers of the area no longer have a use for it.  I mean, it still functions (although it might need some work!) and scrap yards taking on vast amounts of retired agricultural machines are few and far between.  So I asked, “Where will that combine end up?”

Most machines that are no longer useful in the area are shipped off to another country.  Usually they end up in South America or parts of eastern Europe.  Why?  While these implements have been used and are considered too old or obsolete for the farmers of the U.S., the equipment still has relevance.  In the many different countries the equipment is shipped to, the agriculture companies (if there are any) do not produce equipment of the quality or quantity of what is manufactured here in the United States.  Not all the equipment is as old as the machine pictured, more and more of the equipment that is leaving the country was manufactured in the 90s.

At SCCL, chapters created their vision; one component of  vision is establishing 2-3 year time frame.  Of all the components of vision, to me this was the most interesting.  The vision that was created and will be carried out will last much longer than your year service.  It may last longer than two years, and in many cases past three.  As officers, this means that we will not be the only officers or members to carry out our vision.

The fact that our vision will last longer than our time as officers cannot be overlooked.  If we get bored with our vision, or lose enthusiasm with it, the new leaders of our chapter may not take on the vision.  If this happens, our chapter will lose its vision and the progress that your team has made.  Just like I saw no use left in that old combine, we can’t look at our vision and decide that it is irrelevant.  However, for our new members and officers, our “old” vision will still be extremely relevant and provide them with a sense of direction.  That old combine can still do good work for another operation.

Living to serve,

Eli Ohlde
State President

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