Ohio FFA’ers are ‘ag educators’ too

Ohio Director of Agriculture David T. Daniels.

COLUMBUS — Speakers at the 2015 Ohio FFA Convention luncheon April 30 at the Ohio Expo Center agreed: Being an agricultural educator applies not only to actual teachers, but all FFA members.

In his luncheon remarks, Doug Loudenslager, of Evolution Ag, urged students to both recognize the contributions of their FFA advisers and ag science teachers and consider pursuing a career in education themselves.

“We have a problem in Ohio: not enough people want to be ag educators,” Loudenslager said, noting the expansion of ag-related career opportunities since he was a student at Cory-Rawson High School in Hancock County.

“We need you as teachers of agriculture, spending time in the classroom teaching the next generation,” he said.

Disconnected community

Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels took that sentiment even further, pointing out that each of the members who make up the more than 300 FFA chapters in Ohio are already educators.

“Never before has the agricultural community been so disconnected from those it serves,” Daniels said. “We need you to be educators now.

“We need to do a better job making sure everyone understands all the ways agriculture benefits us. These projects have given you the opportunity to get into the community and the community can see you.”

Motivational speaker Curtis Zimmerman challenged FFA members to ‘live life at performance level’— even when they’re not on stage.

Daniels, a farmer, small business owner, and former city councilman from Greenfield, Ohio, said agriculture has always been the No. 1 industry in the state, and it always will be.

“(FFA is) providing leadership opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders in large industry and commerce,” he said.

Two donations

Lindsey Hoskinson, assistant vice president of financial services for Farm Credit Mid-America, noted the immediately recognizable professionalism and career skills exhibited by former FFA members who apply at Farm Credit Mid-America.

Hoskinson announced a new five-year program in which the lender has pledged $25,000 annually to state FFA associations in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.

Melissa Bell, director of the Ohio FFA Foundation, also took the occasion to present Daniels with a Greenfield FFA jacket, to replace the ag director’s original jacket.

“It’s been about 40 years since I’ve worn one of these,” Daniels said as he slipped on the jacket.

“In 1972, they changed vendors for FFA jackets. When mine came in, it was light blue and had my name and school district spelled wrong. But $35 or $40 was a lot back then for a jacket, so I wore it during my time in school. Then I thought, ‘well, my name is spelled wrong and the school is spelled wrong, I don’t need to keep it.’”

He noted, however, the jacket still fit. “I’m probably smaller now,” Daniels said with a laugh.

Growing interest

FFA State President Sydney Snider noted the growth of Ohio FFA in the past year alone, in particular the expansion of the convention trade show and the addition of six new chapters.

“I’ve been asking (members) to describe FFA in one word and ones like ‘fun’ and ‘awesome’ always come up,” she said. “But another one is ‘vibrant’ — full of a lot of options and ways to get involved with a lot of fun experiences.”

Josh Six, a senior at Alexander Local High School in Athens County, is a third generation FFA member who will be majoring in architectural and mechanical design at Hocking College in the fall.

This was the fourth year that Six, who spends much of his time working on his grandfather’s cattle farm, has attended the FFA convention. He said the gathering provides an opportunity to see what is happening in the world of agriculture, as well as meet many industry professionals. One area that Six is particularly interested in, however, was not represented at this year’s convention.

“Robotics — like self-driven tractors where you can program the property lines and they will do it all themselves,” he said. “In England, they have used robots to move cattle around and when something presents a danger, it sends out a warning.”

Gary Peters, Zane Trace chapter adviser and ag education teacher at Zane Trace High School in Chillicothe, said the convention both recognizes outstanding students and lets them actually see what has been talked about in the classroom.

“The convention is always great — to see the growth of the students from pups to where they are now,” Peters said.

Zane Trace Chapter member Audrey Hoey, fresh from an internship at Disney World in Florida, is majoring in ag education at Ohio State University. “This is my sixth convention,” Hoey said with a laugh. “You really can’t get away from it.”

Like Snider, Hoey said she was in awe of the growth of the convention and trade show in recent years. The convention’s two general sessions were attended by 5,511 and 6,640 members and guests, respectively, and the evening was capped by a live performance from country music artist Keith Anderson.

“It has expanded and grown so much bigger and there are a lot more opportunities for students,” Hoey said. “To so many of these kids, this is a really big deal.”

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