COLUMBUS, Ohio — This was my second year attending the Ohio FFA convention out of the blue jacket and behind a notepad and camera instead. Convention has definitely grown since I donned the blue and gold around 10 years ago.
Over 8,000 FFA members and guests walked the Ohio state fairgrounds, participated in career development contests and agriscience fairs, and thousands of FFA members crossed the stage to be recognized for their accomplishments.
I am always blown away by the dedication of students to the FFA program and the agriculture industry. As keynote speaker Matt Rush said, FFA members are valuable — they are the future of agriculture.
Although the keynote speakers are typically geared toward getting FFA members excited for their futures, I can’t help but find myself a little more inspired by the personal stories and words of wisdom of the speakers.
This year’s keynote speakers focused on overcoming obstacles, finding your passion and knowing your value.
I was particularly inspired by the words of Amberley Snyder, 26, a barrel horse racer paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident.
In 2010, Snyder was on her way to the Denver Stock Show and Rodeo when she glanced down to look at the map display on her phone. When she looked up, she had drifted over the center line, headed for a metal pole. In a panic, she overcorrected her truck, which slid of the road, rolled, and ejected her — she wasn’t wearing her seat belt.
When she came to, she sat up only to find she could not move her legs or toes. Upon ejection from the truck, her body slammed into a fence post, breaking her back.
The doctors told her if she had been wearing her seatbelt, she might still have the use of her legs. Their diagnosis: Snyder would never use her legs again.
But that wasn’t good enough for Snyder. She loved her horses and she loved the rodeo more than anything. So, she set three goals for herself: walk, ride, rodeo.
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference,” Snyder said. After 18 months, she was back on her horse.
Before her accident, Snyder had won over 70 buckles in rodeo events, but the one that means the most to her is the one she won six years after her accident.
Snyder now travels America, telling her story and encouraging everyone to “get back on the horse.” Her wheelchair is merely an obstacle she has learned to overcome.
“I have no doubt in my mind, I am going to walk,” she said. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’, it’s just a matter of ‘when’.”
Is FFA for me?
FFA members also heard from National FFA Secretary Victoria Harris, who almost didn’t join her school’s FFA chapter.
Harris explained she didn’t grow up on a farm and assumed a city girl like herself didn’t belong in a classroom full of those who did. She worked up the courage to finally attend a meeting and even apply for a chapter office, when she found herself frozen outside the ag room door.
A fear of rejection and embarrassment overcame her and she couldn’t turn the knob. She had already made up her mind to turn and run when a couple of her friends walked up. They opened the door and walked in together.
From then on, Harris dedicated herself to learning those things in agriculture she didn’t understand and found her own place within the FFA organization. Her message: FFA can be for anyone and you can find your own place within it.
It was the final session of convention and Mary Buehler was set to give her retiring address as president.
You could hear the emotion in her voice as she called the convention hall to order for the final time, and tears glimmered in her eyes. Although a little sad as she took her final bow as president, they were also tears of happiness for all she had been able to accomplish as a state officer.
Happiness was the theme of Buehler’s speech — creating your own happiness and doing things that make you happy.
Throughout the two days of convention, Buehler enlisted the help of a select number of FFA members to pass out business cards with the word “happiness” and a definition. By the final session of the FFA convention, Buehler asked anyone who had received a card to stand.
There were over 8,000 people in the convention hall for the final session, and almost everyone rose from their seats. Buehler said the cards represented the ability to touch thousands of people in a short amount of time, which could lead to the happiness of someone who needs it most.
She concluded her speech by sharing how being a part of the FFA organization, creating new friends and being able to reach out to other FFA members across Ohio as a state officer, was a way for her to find her happiness.
Hundreds of FFA members overcame obstacles, to share their passions and earn valuable recognition for their hard work and dedication to their FFA projects throughout the year. And 910 FFA members crossed the stage to receive their state FFA degrees — the highest award the state FFA association can bestow upon its members.
I hope these FFA members found some level of happiness and a drive to continue to do great things in the FFA organization and agriculture industry.