The pursuit of excellence
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY
DES MOINES – Andrew Lauver can relate to the motto, “Dreams come a size too big so we can grow into them.”
For this Drake University law student and former FFA member, big dreams started at a young age on his family’s Calhoun County farm.
“From the time I was three years old, I wanted to grow up to be just like my father and grandfather, who were FFA members and have spent their careers farming,” said Lauver, 27, who grew up on a farm between Lake City and Rockwell City. “FFA was a natural fit on the path to growth and development to become a better man.”
Lauver grew up hearing his father, Kevin, describe the positive experiences he had at Lake City High School learning from long-time FFA advisor Rudy Engstrom.
By the time Lauver was a freshman at Southern Cal High School in Lake City, he was ready to give FFA a try.
“I couldn’t have imagined the impact FFA would have on my life when I enrolled as a Greenhand,” said Lauver, who would become his chapter’s FFA president during his senior year in 2008-2009. “FFA taught me to remain persistent and follow my dreams.”
Those dreams propelled Lauver to Iowa State University for his undergraduate work, then to Kansas State University for his master’s in agribusiness degree and now to the Drake University Law School.
Along the way, he’s embraced many unique career opportunities, from serving as a United States Senate legislative intern for U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to being named a Frank Ross International Business Emerging Leader with DuPont Pioneer, where he helped grow the company’s North American business from Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada.
“Four years after sitting in a high school classroom at Southern Cal, I found myself helping prepare a speech for Senator Grassley to deliver on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and later helping farmers plant corn for the first time on the prairies of western Canada,” Lauver said. “These experiences wouldn’t have been possible without FFA, and I’m forever indebted to FFA for all the doors it has opened for me.”
Learning skills that last a lifetime
Learning how to maximize opportunities started early for Lauver, a fifth-generation farmer.
“Growing up on my family’s farm, along with participating in FFA, ingrained in me the importance of hard work, community involvement, personal tenacity, time management and negotiation skills to enhance the lives of others,” Lauver said.
He learned some of these lessons by participating in the FFA Greenhand camp, creed speaking, extemporaneous speaking, parliamentary procedure training and other leadership skills.
“Developing a servant leadership approach to life has empowered me to believe I can create considerable change to enhance the rural quality of life,” said Lauver, whose FFA advisor was Matt Carlson, of Lake City. “This would not have been possible without my time in FFA.”
Creed speaking was one of Lauver’s favorite FFA experiences, since it helped him capitalize on his past experiences as a 4-H member. He also enjoyed livestock judging at the Calhoun County Expo, learning farm and financial management skills, soil judging and attending the National FFA convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Giving a speech about corn entitled “Yellow Gold” at the district and state level is one of the highlights of Lauver’s FFA years.
“FFA teaches you how to speak up for agriculture, plus the soft skills you learn through FFA are invaluable,” said Lauver, who worked with FFA advisor Brian Lantz to earn his state FFA degree. “A firm handshake, making eye contact and smiling when greeting someone will take you far in any occupation.”
“FFA’s values are ingrained in our hearts and minds”
FFA guided Lauver’s continuing education and career path into agriculture.
“ISU was a clear choice for me, since they invest so much into agriculture,” said Lauver, who earned his bachelor of science degree in agricultural studies with a minor in agronomy from ISU in 2012.
Lauver pursed an advanced degree part-time after starting his full-time career with DuPont Pioneer.
“The pursuit of excellence I learned in FFA provided the motivation to continue studying agriculture by enrolling in a master’s program,” said Lauver, a former Calhoun County Farm Bureau board member who earned his master’s in agribusiness degree from Kansas State University in 2017.
This opportunity provided networking experiences with other FFA alumni from across the country who are working in agribusiness, policy and education and have influenced his new career path.
“Recent issues in agricultural policy and a greater need for agricultural advocacy inspired me to pursue a law degree from Drake University,” said Lauver, a 2017 graduate of the Leadership Iowa program. “All my academic experiences have provided an opportunity to leverage the public speaking and interpersonal skills I developed in FFA.”
Lauver is inspired by FFA alumni past and present, including Jerry Litton, a former U.S. Congressman and farmer from Missouri.
“He led a life of public service centered around principles learned in FFA and a tireless effort to give back to the organizations that had given so much to him throughout his life,” said Lauver, who will be working for the American Seed Trade Association on ag policy in Washington, D.C. this summer.
Lauver hopes to work for a member of Congress, an agribusiness, a commodity organization or a rural law practice to serve rural families after completing his studies at Drake University.
“I’m looking forward to exploring the opportunities as I approach graduation and remain actively engaged in our family farm,” he said. “Overall, I hope to be a champion for agriculture who is fighting for families at the farm gate throughout my career.”
Lauver also looks forward to giving back to FFA.
“Graduating from high school as an FFA member means you have the potential and tools to embark on a successful career that impacts others, but actually doing something with those tools and building better lives for those around you is what makes an FFA alum,” he noted. “Although we alums may not wear our blue and gold jackets daily, FFA’s principles and values are ingrained in our hearts and minds each day as we serve agriculture and society.”
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