Kansas FFA Blog

Snooze Buttons

Beep… Beep… Beep… The sound of my phone’s alarm clock rips through the room at 6:00 AM. I had set that alarm the evening before with every intention of rising early and getting a head-start that day on my work. But, as most of us have probably experienced, that’s much easier said than done! I found myself habitually groping for my phone, hitting the power button, and falling back to sleep for eight more measly minutes. There weren’t any events or appointments looming that morning, so, in the short run, it didn’t cause much harm to fall back to sleep a few times.

Most of us know that it’s often best to start our day earlier. When we do, we feel better, get more done, and aren’t filled with guilt for that morning. We also know that snoozing just isn’t really worth it! When we hit the snooze button, we fail our own expectations, waste more time in bed, and make it that much easier to press it again next time! Why, then, do we keep on doing it? The short answer: it’s easy. The long answer: We sacrifice long-term effectivity in exchange for a short-term reprieve. And we hit the snooze button on more than just our alarm clocks!

Alarm clocks are a metaphor for the things in our life that fall into the second quadrant of the time management matrix, as proposed by Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

This “Quality Time” quadrant is where we truly grow. You know those to-do list items that always get pushed back behind more pressing matters? That’s us hitting the snooze button on our growth as leaders. What are the tasks you’re hitting snooze on?

One of my Snooze Buttons is reading. I love to read, and I read a lot in elementary school, but when high school (and now college) hit, it suddenly seems like I just don’t have the time. The truth is that I just keep hitting snooze on making time to read. Tim Ferris, a time-management author, sums it up pretty well when he says…

“Lack of time is actually lack of priorities.”

Going forward, I want to commit to using my time better according to Covey’s time management matrix! So, here’s to working on things that truly matter, and zooming out of the crisis/deadline-driven tunnel vision. Let’s prioritize, take care of the little things as soon as they come up, and make time for the meaningful things that won’t have any deadlines but the ones we set ourselves. Let’s break the snooze button habit and wake up our potential!

Living to Serve,

Max Harman

Posted in 2018-2019 | Leave a comment

Building Community

I’m finally a Wildcat! I sway back and forth with all of the students to the Wabash Cannonball. We sing the fight song loudly and proudly. In my short time at Kansas State, I have begun to experience all over again, what it feels like to be part of a community. The definition of community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. I experienced community growing up in a small town, but now I see it on a much larger scale.

When I stand up and yell at K-State football games, I am proud to be doing so with other students by my side. Our “community” that we have is all moving in the same direction, working towards the same goal. Bill Snyder did not create this community overnight– no, it took many years and an unfathomable amount of hard work. It is a community of support that surrounds Kansas State University. Being a person with a mindset that lends itself to daydreaming, I found myself dreaming after the first football game. I was thinking of the great accomplishments that could be achieved if we all had the undying unity of a community.  We could build a community where people felt they belonged, that was passionate, loud, and showed up in droves whenever we needed them. One we never hesitated to give our all to.

Great things could be done if we all had this type of support, but just as Bill Snyder took many years to build the community, we each should have the expectation of hard work if we want to build something similar. We can accomplish things like making our schools or places of business feel like a family.

I think it starts with lending yourself to a community. If we can’t bring ourselves to have fellowship with others who have similar interests, then how are we going to build a community? If we are to build community, we must be passionate. I do not believe there was ever a moment when Coach Snyder didn’t believe in his team 150%. Lastly, be grateful for any community we experience. Greatness can be formed in the midst of a group who has similar interests, common attitudes, and goals; be thankful for that. I am happy to be a part of the K-State family and feel equipped to pursue greatness. Whether we are walking down the halls of our school, or interacting with coworkers at our jobs, try to build a community that you want to feel surround you. Whatever your community is, nurture it, believe in it, and be proud of it. If we do this, we can see our own greatness sprout from the love within our community.

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Progress for the Best

How many times do you ask yourself “What have I actually accomplished today”?

Since college has begun, I have found this to be a reoccurring question that, at first, I have had no answer to or anything to show for what I have managed to tackle on my way-to-long of a To-Do list. I’m sure that many of us could say the same thing, whether we be in school or out, we seem to have so much going on at once. But what good does it do us if we do not feel like we have actually got something done?

A major theme among my officer team this year so far has been a quote from past national president David Townsend: “Action without reflection is meaningless.” There’s just something about these words that resonated within us and almost shook us to our core. Throughout our summer of training, we focused on great actions that would help progress ourselves, our members, and our organization, while also reflecting on the good wehad accomplished. However, I believe there was one crucial element missing in our process of achieving our goals: we did not understand the true meaning of progress and how it may be measured.

Trying to define and evaluate progress is difficult because everyone defines it differently and perceives progress in their own ways. The definition that has helped me comes from the Matthew Kelly book, Perfectly Yourself.Mr. Kelly states that “progress is simply change that is positive.” This resounding definition allowed me to reevaluate everything we had accomplished and helped me realize if we had actually made a positive change with our actions, or did we just go through the motions?

Personally, I found that we had made significant progress over the summer months of June thru August, but I question on where to go from here. With college in full swing, officer responsibilities picking up, and personal well-being all being priorities, I ask where is there room for progress? Mr. Kelly also addresses evaluating progress in his book, and he declares that progress is measured differently for everyone. With everything going on, I have found that for me progress is simply making my bed in the morning. It’s a positive change to the state of my dorm room that allows me to feel as if I have already accomplished something for the day. For others, it may be achieving larger, more complex items on your To-Do list. Whatever it is you see needs progress, and however you choose to measure it, keep in mind that your progress is not like everyone else’s.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ~Dr.Suess

Now is YOUR time! Make great progress, achieve your goals, and appreciate all the good you have in your life, because you only get one.


Living to Serve,

Scuyler Zenger

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Attitude of Gratitude

Moving to Manhattan, I knew I was going to experience many new things: a lot more traffic, many new friends, and several more people; but what I did not expect to experience was a flood. On the morning of September 3, 2018, I jumped out of bed because I heard a very loud banging on my door followed by Max Harman’s voice. Confused as to what was going on, I anxiously looked at my phone and saw several missed calls from Garrett, Krissy, and Max, who then shouted that the creek behind the trailer park I live in was flooding and we needed to get out! Never having faced a flood before, I had no idea what to take with me. I only grabbed my school backpack and a bag of clothes because, thinking optimistically, I thought we would be coming back very soon. Frantically, we left the trailer park as the water gradually crept higher and higher. Much to my surprise, there were already many firemen and policemen using jet skis and boats rushing to get people out of their houses. Once we were out and safe, I became concerned because I didn’t know what to do next.

Not sure where to go, I called Scuyler and asked if I could hang out with him and his roommate, Ben, for a while. They were nothing but welcoming to me and concerned about the entire situation; especially about where I would be staying later that night. They were helpful in thinking of many places and people I could stay with if it came to that. Even though the water had risen to almost two feet, it thankfully had receded and I was able to return home that night.


Thinking back on the entire day, I realized how fortunate I was to have such amazing teammates. They were all worried about me and my safety and they made sure to call me (even though I did not answer) just to ensure I was ok. Max even came to my house in order to make sure I was aware of the situation and made it out safely! Scuyler let me stay at his dorm for a couple hours when I had nowhere to go, plus the many text messages from Krissy, Michael, and Ms. Kane asking if there was anything they could do to help. I was at ease knowing if there was ever another intense situation, my team will always be there for me. I am so grateful to have such caring people around me who are willing to do anything to help during a very chaotic situation.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

-Melody Beattie

What are some things to be grateful for in your life? How can you be thankful for the challenges that you’ve experienced? How can you say “thank you” more? Make sure to take the time to let the people in your life know how grateful you are for them!


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Will food be affordable in the year 2050?

It’s that time of year again! The air is warming up, and farmers are heading back to the field. All the fields have been fertilized in anticipation of the growing season. The ground has been worked with care to prepare a seed bed. Finally, the seeds have been planted, kicking off a new growing season. In choosing when to plant and work or selecting seeds and fertilizer the decisions can be based on numbers. Not just any numbers, but numbers taken and collected to provide the absolute best data possible. These are essentially statistics for the different seeds. Statistics and data are a huge part of the world we live in. They are used as decision-making tools and as proof to back up ideas in an argument. A piece of data or a statistic familiar to those in agriculture, is the population growth expected by 2050. Depending on the source, the world population is predicted to grow to nearly 9.8 billion people. This is often the reason given for needing to drastically increase the amount of grain, meat, and dairy products our country produces. I do agree, the change in population is a significant issue for the future of agriculture and our world. However, I have learned we may be asking the wrong question. The usual question is,” Will we be able to produce enough food to feed the world by 2050?”

The question that could be more appropriate is, “Will food be affordable in the year 2050?” In history, it was not uncommon for people to predict that the world population would grow in a significant enough amount that it would outrun agricultural production. A man by the name of Thomas Malthus predicted that when this happened, famine would bring the population back to a sustainable level. Malthus and his followers have predicted this more than once but have failed to be accurate.  With continual growth in population, amount of food demanded could certainly outrun supply. With technological innovations and changes in ability to grow we have been able to produce food to keep up with our population growth. Even though this will continue, if supply decreases enough the price of our food will increase. While this won’t bring the earth to famine, the many people who live on extremely low incomes will not be able to feed themselves or their families.

Several scenarios are brought up as solutions to this problem. The first, is to stop feeding grains to livestock. This seems like the logical choice-it takes many pounds of grain and a ton of energy to produce only one pound of meat. The flaw however, is that the highest consumption of meat tends to come from areas of higher income. They likely would continue to purchase meat, even at higher prices continuing to create demand. And those eating the grain diverted from livestock may still have an inadequate diet. The second, concerns the vast amount of food waste. We’ve all heard the statistics. The common estimates are that around 30% of food is wasted. Some would even say higher. Be cautioned-check the definition of these statistics. In some instances, any grain that is fed to livestock or used to make fuels is considered waste. While this does mean these grains are not consumed directly by humans, I don’t believe that this is waste. I also am not saying that food waste is not an issue, it just may not be as significant as some would think. Being wasteful of food is poor stewardship of our resources, but that’s another topic. Regardless, eliminating food waste alone won’t not solve our problem.

Will food be affordable in the year 2050? There is a ton of speculation, estimates, and ideas about this problem. There are also many viable options to solve this problem. Technology is great, but it may not be enough. The hope is in the future of agriculture. The answer to this question lies in the ability of future generations to answer the question differently. The answer is in us, the FFA members. No matter our background or our goals in life we all have the ability to contribute to the answers to this question and the many other questions that plague the future. How will we answer this question?

Posted in 2017-2018 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lessons Learned from Western Farm Show

I got out of my car after just completing my 21st hour of time on the road since the beginning of FFA week.  It was Saturday the 24tb of February and the official week was finished, but I had volunteered to be at Western Farm Show in Kansas City, MO.  As I slipped on my exhibitor’s badge and got instructions from the person on the shift before me, I geared up for passing out lanyards, representing the Kansas FFA booth (which was right across from delicious smelling food), and talking with show-goers.  What I didn’t realize was that I’d learn so many life lessons this day.  Here they are.

Free items are like gold for young children.
Most people asking me for lanyards were small children.  Once I saw a little one running from his parents who were a little way behind him.  Wanting, to help, I knelled down to get to his level and offered him a lanyard.  The short amount of time he stopped allowed his parents to catch up.  These kids can’t get enough of an item if it’s free.  Even though they’ll likely never really use that object.  As we grow older free items start to lose their appeal because we learn that anything of value often requires some sort of sacrifice.

Smiles are free.
While at the show, I wanted to be ‘on.’  I stood in place and smiled my way throughout the afternoon for two reasons.  One, I wanted to appear approachable to anyone who wanted a lanyard or may have questions.  Two, I’m a generally happy person.  As I made eye contact with others, many smiled back.  This may seem like a simple courtesy, but you never know when it could spark a meaningful conversation.

“Better than I deserve.”
Another common courtesy I extended at the show was the typical Midwest “Hi, how are you?”  “Good, what about you?”  “Good.”  However, not everyone sticks to the script.  One gentleman responded to my “how are you?” with “better than I deserve.”  How much truth is there in that?  While we may think we deserve certain things in life because of hard work, nothing is guaranteed.  Everything we cherish are things which we should be constantly thankful for.

Grandparents love showing off their babies.
I’m human and like most humans, sometimes I have full conversations with myself in my head.  However, unlike most, I often will mouth these conversations complete with facial expressions.  Unfortunately, sometimes that’ll lead some to some people thinking I’m a little cuckoo.  Another exhibitor had walked by me laughing at one of said conversations.  The next time he walked by, he stopped to chat with me.  Do you know what we talked about?  He pulled out his phone to show me a picture of his grandson.  You may not be told every day, but your family is proud of you.

Food waste is a large factor when we talk about creating a sustainable food system.
A man wearing an exhibitors badge walked up to me.  He walked to discuss where the food collected during the show would be going.  He then went on to tell riveting tales of his experience of food waste, specifically in retail situations.  Obviously, I knew food waste was an issue, but he put it in a perspective that you don’t often think of.  Why are we pushing producers to create us more product when much of it will end up wasted? How will we maximize what’s currently produced?  This exhibitor walked away before I could get his name.

Coming to Western Farm Show I wasn’t expecting to experience any of these learning experiences.  Had I not had an open heart and open mind, I may not have learned some of these lessons.

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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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