Okoboji FFA’er finishes up state officer duties
By Karen Schwaller
MILFORD – Blake Lineweaver never meant to get involved in FFA.
Nonetheless, he is just finishing up his service as a state FFA officer – vice president for Northwest Iowa State – as well as the Northwest District president this spring.
Lineweaver is the first state officer to come from Okoboji High School, or the former Milford High School.
Lineweaver, 19, is a 2016 Okoboji High School graduate and has just finished his first year of college at Iowa State University, studying agronomy and horticulture.
He looked at his options for studying horticulture at college and found that he could prepare for it by taking a high school class via the ag education classes offered at OHS.
“I enrolled in Intro to Ag and had no clue what FFA was,” Lineweaver said. “With the ag class, I learned the five-paragraph FFA Creed.
“At that point I knew I wanted to do something with it.”
He qualified for the state FFA competition as a freshman, receiving a bronze placing for Creed Speaking, and by that point, he was hooked.
The road to state office
Lineweaver came back sophomore year to serve as the OHS chapter’s vice president and followed that with the chapter presidency during his junior and senior years. During his junior year, he increased his scope to include regional activities, serving on the Northwest District Nominating Committee – part of the nominating process for the following year’s district officers.
One of his peers on the committee asked him about running for a district office. After thinking about it, Lineweaver decided to run for Northwest District vice president and subsequently won. He served in that role during his senior year.
At the 88th Iowa FFA State Convention, also during his senior year, Lineweaver learned that he had been elected as a new Northwest Iowa State vice president. He went on to serve the following year, while he was a college freshman, as one of six regional state vice presidents, alongside the state president, secretary and reporter.
He was also the Northwest District president this past year.
In that role, Lineweaver said he had the chance to travel the Midwest, meeting business people and legislators while also having the opportunity to advocate for agriculture to high school students throughout his district.
“I gained eight really close family members,” he said of his state FFA officer colleagues.
The state officer team received training for speech and putting together conferences.
Lineweaver said ISU offers five credits to its students serving on state FFA committees. It eases some stress for class loads because the job requires frequent travel, and they don’t get paid for the time they put into their positions.
But he added it has its perks. As a state FFA vice president, Lineweaver said he was able to help Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey as he honored Iowa Century Farm families during the state fair ceremonies, which ended up being an eight-hour process.
He’s also done other traveling.
“I got to go to South Africa for two and a half weeks for the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers,” he said. “They only take 100 state officers, and every state has nine of them. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis.”
They met state officers from around the nation on that trip and learned about specialized farming operations in South Africa, such as vineyards, citrus operations and crocodile farms, where the crocodiles are raised for the skin and hide.
“They have a labor-intensive economy because they don’t have machines to do much of anything, and they have a surplus of people who will work for not much money,” he said. “We got to hear about Nelson Mandela’s journey as an advocate for equal rights in South Africa – it was one of the last countries to end segregation.”
Because of Apartheid, Lineweaver said nearly all the farmers they saw were white.
He said the one black farmer they did see was part of a program called Emerging Black Farmers, whereby black farmers can purchase land for equal value from white farmers when the white farmers exit the business. Lineweaver said they saw a racially different picture than typically seen in northwest Iowa.
He said he takes pride in getting to help explain to people where their food comes from.
“There’s a farm family that dedicates their lives to this, and putting together a healthy product of the earth and of their toils,” Lineweaver said. “So appreciating on all levels is what I’ve been trying to get across this year in my travels as a state officer.”
Lineweaver encouraged any youth to get involved in FFA, saying they don’t have to come from the farm to be good at FFA.
“If you come from town and you see the impact that agriculture has, we need you,” he said. “Our entire human population needs an appreciation for agriculture and where our food comes from.”
Lineweaver said serving as a district and state officer was fulfilling.
“To be a representative for all small FFA chapters in Iowa is what I wanted to get out of it,” he said. “You can be a leader at anything you set your mind to.”
He added that being involved with FFA changed him.
“FFA has developed me into a well-rounded individual,” he said. “I was able to find like-minded individuals that had a passion for agriculture, and being able to communicate that has been a huge plus for me.”
Lineweaver will finish his agronomy degree in 2020 and is thinking about spending a year in Agri Corps, a year-long ag-based program that takes people to communities to teach about agriculture. He said he would choose South Africa or South America.
After that he hopes to get into crop consultation in the Midwest or work for the Iowa conservation district.
“This year’s theme for FFA was, ‘Transform.’ That is so appropriate because that’s the story of my FFA journey,” Lineweaver said. “I did not come from my freshman year of high school being able to advocate for agriculture the way I can now. It has given me the skills to say, ‘I believe in the future of agriculture because of (blank)’ … from the FFA Creed. It hits you right in the soul when you hear somebody say that.”
He is the son of Eric and Tammy Lineweaver, of Milford.
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