In honor of FFA week, I thought I would take some time this week to reflect back over my experiences in the National FFA Organization and the great opportunities the program gave me. Extra-curricular activities of any kind are great for high schoolers to be involved in and FFA is one that is held dear in the hearts of the Kuespert Family.
After buying 67 acres of land in Southern Idaho when I was 8 years old, my family was quickly introduced to the 4-H program. The involvement in 4-H led to many county and state fairs, loads of new animal knowledge, and a great high school FFA experience.
My experiences in FFA included showing and selling animals at the county and state fair and other livestock shows. I showed market lambs, dairy cows and one year I even got brave enough to follow in my sister Stephanie’s footsteps and showed a beef steer. Our family also filled our barn and pastures with goats, chickens, a horse and (for a brief time) even a llama and some piglets. It was such a great adventure to learn about caring for all of these different types of livestock at home and in ag class. FFA also taught us a lot about what to look for in quality market livestock thru livestock and dairy judging competitions.
But FFA isn’t just about livestock or farming! It is an incredible organization for youth to learn about leadership and so many other life skills. I learned to appreciate formal leadership when learning about organizational leadership and Robert’s Rules of Order thru my leadership roles at both the chapter and district levels. I also gained a new appreciation for competition as I was able to compete at the district and state level in Public Speaking and Job Interview contests.
FFA also taught me a lot about record keeping and budgeting thru the SAE books. Each FFA member tracks their records and financial information about their projects in SAE books each year. These books taught me about fiscal responsibility and organization and with doing them, I was able to receive my Idaho State FFA Degree and my American FFA Degree.
With the projects, competitions and leadership conferences available to member of FFA, high schoolers are able to travel to conventions and competitions in places that most high schoolers don’t get a chance to experience without a program like FFA. In high school, I was able to the Idaho state convention in Twin Falls every year, Idaho Judging contests in Moscow, and the National FFA convention in Louisville Kentucky two years. My positive image of FFA was reinforced to me one year when my parents were able to travel to National FFA Convention to see Stephanie receive her National Degree. During this trip, my mom told me that she had never seen so many polite and respectful high schoolers than she saw at FFA events and conferences.
The blue and gold of the FFA organization stands for more than just farmers and agriculture. The leadership, respect and life skills reinforced thru the program are traits that would benefit every high schooler. I never had a formal job outside of the family insurance agency while I was in high school, but thru my projects at the fair, I was able to earn a nice amount of money to put towards college and I learned the value of hard work more than most of my peers. Caring for animals and having the responsibility of taking projects to the fair teaches how to work with your hands and do all of the “dirty work” while also earning money. I am so excited to share my FFA experiences with my children and for them to learn to love the organization as I do.
Sara Ricks is the youngest daughter of Paul & Janelle Kuespert and works at the Operations Manager for the agency. She and her husband Matt have four active kids who love playing outside and working in the family garden.
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