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By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

DES MOINES – Blue and Gold will be dominating colors in downtown Des Moines come April 16-17 when the 81st Iowa FFA Leadership Conference is held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium and the Polk County Convention Complex.

Allyson Ladd, Iowa FFA North Central vice president, said the convention is making the move back to Des Moines after being held in Ames the last several years.

“Step Up and Stand Out,” is the theme for the conference, Ladd said.

“We want you to step up and be more involved in your chapter and stand out in your community,” said Ladd. “We encourage all FFA members to take advantage of all the opportunities agriculture has to offer.”

One way members will be able to explore the world of agriculture and help them purse a livelihood in the field agriculture will be a career show that will be held at Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium.

“There will be a large career show and we are excited to be offering that to our members,” said Ladd.

Although the conference will benefit FFA members in many ways, Ladd said it’s open for everyone.

“What’s great is it’s not only for FFA members, but for all Iowans to come out and see what FFA has going on,” she said.

Prior to the official start of the conference on Thursday, April 16, state president candidate interviews as well as state officer candidate interviews will be held a few days before.

Beginning on Thursday, Ladd said the conference would be full of events and workshops including career development events, the career show, delegate sessions and award sessions.

The annual Iowa FFA Leadership Conference is also time for the Iowa FFA Degrees to be awarded as well as a chance for major sponsors of the Iowa FFA Foundation to be recognized.

Keynote speakers for the conference are scheduled to be Josh Sundquist, a Paralympics Games downhill ski racer and nationally known inspirational speaker. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey may also be a speaker, Ladd said.

Ladd, 18, graduated last year from Boone High School and is now a freshman at Iowa State University, pursuing a degree in agricultural education.

While in high school, Ladd said she tried to stay as involved in as many activities as she could. Wanting to be involved is what led her to joining her high school’s FFA chapter during her sophomore year.

Although she started a year later than she could have, Ladd wasted no time in becoming involved and held the office of chapter secretary that year.

Throughout high school she was her chapter’s president and also served an office for the North Central District before being elected Iowa FFA North Central Vice President at last year’s state conference.

Ladd said that although she is in college and her state officer term will end in April, she would continue to be involved in FFA at the collegiate level and most likely after college.

“I will continue to be active in collegiate FFA at school and will always be involved in FFA helping out in some way,” said Ladd.

Over the last year, Ladd said she has been in charge of North Central District events, which included helping to plan conferences and the district convention. She also represented FFA and the national level and was involved in many visits to FFA chapters as well as businesses and industries.

“I saw so many opportunities FFA had to offer that are benefiting me now and in the future,” Ladd said. “FFA’s helped me learn about what I enjoy and it is so beneficial and the opportunities to its members are endless.”

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

Painting one of several downtown Glidden business fronts are, from left, Michael Richardson, Jason Winker and Will Reever. With a new fire station, community members wanted to "spruce up" local store fronts. This serves as one of many community service projects the chapter runs on a monthly basis.

GLIDDEN – In the past decade, there has been a total turn-around in the FFA programming at this small high school in eastcentral Carroll County.

When current adviser Dana Weeda stepped into the agriculture education position at GRHS, the ag program then had 25 total students, three of them were girls. Today, that program has grown to 90 students, (about 61 percent of the total student body, which numbers 146 in grades 9 through 12). Two thirds of the members are girls, Weeda said.

A decade ago, she said, the focal point of the ag program was on ag mechanics. But since then, the FFA/ag classrooms were relocated to an underground level where there is no adequate ventilation to eliminate exhaust and welding fumes.

So the G-R chapter’s program focus, Weeda explained, has shifted to consumer-oriented agriculture, biofuels technology, career exploration, monthly community service projects and participating in FFA contests.

A few years ago, the chapter built a greenhouse, which allows for more horticulture to be worked into the curriculum. For Weeda, there is no division between ag education and FFA. “They are meshed together,” she said.

Gabe Bennett in a soils pit at Soil Judging contest in Council Bluffs in October.

Prior to her tenure, the FFA students had little experience with FFA contests and were not attending the national conventions. But she changed that, getting the students to go to the national and getting exposure to the broader picture of FFA and what it had to offer students.

“After they went to a few conventions,” Weeda said, “they started seeing the contests as something they could do.”

Just like 4-H has become, the ranks of FFA’ers have as many city kids as farm kids, sometimes more. So Weeda has to orient her ag instruction accordingly.

On the first day with a seventh-grade exploratory class, Weeda asks, “What is agriculture?”

She said that answers are typically activities others do that don’t affect them. “But then I ask them do you eat? Do you wear clothes? Do you live in a house? You are all involved in agriculture.”

Nicole Kasperbauer and Emily Scanlan working during an Adopt-A-Highway clean-up project in September 2008.

From there she begins to build a consumer-oriented awareness in these seventh-graders. It must be a successful effort because she gets a 60 percent-plus return rate when those seventh-graders come back two years later as high school freshmen.

The Glidden-Ralston FFA is ranked 14th among 230 Iowa chapters and received the 3-Star National Chapter Award.

Two of those freshmen, who returned four years ago, are seniors Weston Conner, the chapter’s president; and Corie Walsh, one of the chapter’s two reporters.

Conner is from an active farm family, owning and operating a cow/calf and farrow-to-finish operation with his brother. They purchase grain for feed from their father, who also leases the hog building and pasture to the boys.

Conner said he is planning to attend Iowa State University to head into ag education after high school.

Painting one of several downtown Glidden business fronts are, from left, Michael Richardson, Jason Winker and Will Reever. With a new fire station, community members wanted to "spruce up" local store fronts. This serves as one of many community service projects the chapter runs on a monthly basis.

Walsh lives in town and plans on a career in photography. “Being a chapter reporter has helped me with working with a camera and writing releases.”

Both seniors said they enjoy the chapter’s monthly community service projects. They clean the football field after games in the fall. They also adopt the local highway and keep the ditches cleaned out. During harvest they set up at the elevator in Glidden and at Ralston and feed producers who are bringing grain to town. The chapter raises its own funds to pay for the meals through meat and cheese sales.

In 2008, the chapter raised $1,500 for the local Alzheimer’s Memory Walk, which is a local five-county event similar to the cancer-fighting Relay for Life.

Conner said FFA has brought leadership skills, friends, and values such as being responsible, understanding teamwork and respecting others.

Walsh said the FFA contests “have brought me out of my shell. It has taught me to be more of a people person through creed speaking, being on the parliamentary procedure team and career development events.

When asked what it would be like if there were no FFA program, Conner said, “It’s be pretty quiet around here, because there’s a lot that wouldn’t get done.”

Walsh agreed. “We do a lot, because we enjoy giving back to the community.”

Advisor Weeda noted that “Every school district has kids who just disappear and I think FFA helps to capture some of those kids.

“For some, FFA is their homebase. They learn that they can try things and it’s okay if they don’t win.

“Some find career choices that they never knew existed. They all get something out of it.”

Contact Larry Kershner at editor@farm-news.com.

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