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Aug. 31, 2016

Hannah Taylor - Reporter
Poynette FFA Chapter
Section 6

Brenna, Laura and I had the chance to attend the GROWMARK Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to fancy hotel rooms, delicious banquet meals and a Craig Morgan concert, we were able to listen to some amazing speakers who talked about everything from leadership to teamwork to the future of the agricultural industry. The theme of the conference focused on the word “next.” All week long they asked the question, “What’s next?”
The theme got me thinking, where is the balance between focusing on what’s next and living in the present? We create dreams, set goals and plan the steps it will take to get to the next big thing in our lives. But what happens when we focus so much on what comes next that we forget to appreciate what we have now? Now, for cooperatives like GROWMARK and other companies, especially ones in the agricultural industry, focusing on what’s next is how we get the new technology that we need in order to keep up with the growing demands of consumers. But in our own lives, focusing for too long on tomorrow can make us miss today.
Just in the past few months since I was elected as a state officer, I have had so many people ask me what my plans are for next year. To be honest, I really don’t know yet because I am just living in the moment this year. My years in high school were clouded by dwelling on the past and focusing too much on the future. I don’t want that to happen again. My hope is to “be all there” this year, to simply enjoy the moment we are in and worry about the future when it gets here. This doesn’t mean that I won’t ever think about next year, or that I won’t start making the plans for whatever I decide to do. It just means that I will limit the time I spend focusing on the “next” so that I can appreciate the “now.”
High school seniors, I speak especially to you. There are times to plan for what’s next, and there are times to forget all about it and enjoy the time you have left in high school. We have limited moments in this year, so make them all count. Have a wonderful year everyone and I can’t wait to see you all later on.
Have fun and enjoy the moment,
Hannah Taylor

Coops Believe in the Future
Aug. 26, 2016

Ciera Ballmer - Vice President
Clinton FFA Chapter
Section 5

Cooperatives Believe in the Future of Agriculture!

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Cooperative Experience led by Cooperative Network and the Federated Youth Foundation. We had the pleasure of touring 5 different cooperatives in La Crosse, Westby, and Cashton. From electric cooperatives, food related cooperatives, and even credit unions, I discovered that all these cooperatives has some strong similarities.

Cooperatives are a unique business model, as the customers are actually members and partial owners of the business. Therefore, cooperatives have a strong devotion to their members and their community. When visiting Dairyland Power, Organic Valley, Westby Community Credit Union, Vernon Electric, and People’s Food Cooperative, it was evident that all of the cooperatives were fully invested in their community. All 5 cooperatives offered something special to the community varying from open fitness and educational Classes to community members, activities for youth, community solar gardens, and even community grants.

Cooperatives are created to provide a specific service to their members. For example, farmers started rural electric cooperatives because farmers wanted to create a service (power) that was not provided to rural communities. Collectively, farmers came together to invest in a business. In doing so, those farmers invested in the future of their cooperative, in the future of their community, and in the future of agriculture.

When starting up their cooperative business, the farmers believed that they would see success and continuation within their business, community, and agricultural fields in which their cooperative was a part of.

The strongest similarity that I noticed within the cooperatives was their welcoming arms to the next generation of leaders and agriculturalists. The cooperatives founders all believed in the future of agriculture when they invested in their business, and today the cooperatives continue that belief in the future. All of the cooperatives were excited that young agriculturalists took interest in their companies, and they were thrilled to hear everything that we were doing and our plans for our future.

I learned so much about cooperatives during our tours, but my biggest take away is: Cooperatives always have, and will continue to, believe in the future of agriculture!

Don't Stop Believing,

The Cooperative Experience!
Aug. 23, 2016

Kari Fischer - Parliamentarian
Argyle FFA Chapter
Section 4

I’m typing this travel blog as I ride along in Travis Cadman’s Subaru Outback! Travis, Ciera, Dani, and I had the privilege of attending the Cooperative Tour Program put on by past FFA President Ethan Giebel. Over the past two days, we toured a total of five cooperatives in the La Crosse area and learned exactly how a cooperative works and how they work for and contribute back to our local communities. These five cooperatives included Dairyland Power, Organic Valley, Westby Community Credit Union, Vernon Electic Cooperative, and People’s Food Cooperative.
Dairyland Power is a cooperative that produces power for Western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota. While on this tour, we learned about the various ways Dairyland Power produces power, such as through hydroelectric means and coal. Our group also saw the employees behind the scenes and how they make sure we always have power to keep our communities running! During our Organic Valley tour, we got to see both the distribution center and their office areas for advertising, customer service, and other jobs. One of the key points that Organic Valley stressed to us is that they try to stay environmentally friendly. Their distribution center did not have a large floor plan, but much of their space extended vertically up into the air, that way they did not have to unearth so much area for their company. Also, their office buildings are made from many different recycled materials and are heated by geothermal means. Westby Community Credit Union concluded our first day of tours and is a local banking service that is housed out of Westby, Wisconsin. This cooperative has amazing programs for their community and employees. They have implemented many small loans to help community members, such as an LP loan in the winter so that people can afford to heat their homes. The credit union staff was extremely welcoming and helpful in teaching us about cooperatives.
Day two of our cooperative experience kicked off with the Vernon Electric Cooperative! Here, we learned from two veteran linemen about their jobs and some safety tips for down power lines. Tip: Don’t ever fly a kite around a power line. We saw a demonstration and it was not fun for the fake dummy they had. Another awesome thing that Vernon Electric Cooperative is doing is their Community Solar Garden. So, any member of Vernon Electric Cooperative as the opportunity to purchase a solar panel from the company for only $600, and the cooperative takes care of it for them! It’s a great way that they are promoting renewable energy. Our time touring cooperatives concluded with the People’s Food Cooperative. This is a grocery store located in La Crosse that promotes healthy living and local farmer. Lots of their produce that they sell comes from local farmers and if it isn’t then the food is labeled where it came from. This cooperative promotes mostly organic products, but also sells conventional products.
These past two days were full of much action and learning for the three of us! We learned much valuable information about cooperatives and even about some career options in them. Ethan Giebel does a wonderful job with this program, and if you ever have questions about it, feel free to contact Travis, Ciera, Dani, or I about our experience with it. These past two days and two months have flown by as a State Officer and while they’ve been fun and exciting, we can’t wait to get out and start working with students!

The Last Three Weeks
Aug. 21, 2016

Laura Munger - Secretary
Holmen FFA Chapter
Section 3

Well, State Fair and Jag Lake are over! The State Officers spent almost three full weeks together learning more and more about each other every day, and having the opportunity to educate the public on agriculture.
The first week and a half was spent at the Wisconsin State Fair, where the state officers worked in the Discovery Barn and helped out with the Veggie Races. It was great having the opportunity to share our knowledge of agriculture with millions of people. It gave us a pretty good feeling when we saw someone's light bulb go on when they made the connection about where their food comes from.
The Veggie Races were always so much fun too! We got to build cars out of REAL vegetables and share our excitement about them with students! It was always very entertaining when we got the parents cheering for the veggie cars too! Go Veggies Go!

During the final week, we were at Jag Lake. We connected a little more with each other, ourselves and nature that week. Northern Wisconsin is beautiful this time of year, and when we were not busy working, we had the chance to have a bonfire, go swimming and boating, or try and catch fish with beef sticks (very unsuccessful, the fish appreciated the snack though!)
As the past few weeks come to a close, I can say that the state officer team feels really good about this year! We have now completed our first newsletter, our chapter visit schedule, FIRE Conference workshop, and our Sectional Leadership Workshop (get pumped, it's going to be great!!) This year is shaping in to be a GREAT year, and we all cannot wait to meet Wisconsin's FFA members!

Big Changes in the Works!
Aug. 10, 2016

Caleb Green - Vice President
Stanley-Boyd FFA Chapter
Section 2

What’s up Wisconsin FFA! This is my first official traveling blog entry and I am super excited to be writing it! I have very exciting news to share in this blog. Brenna and I had the chance to head over to Milwaukee-Vincent High School while at State Fair for a Press Release. Now, as we drove over, we weren't sure what the entire event was about. We had our guesses and heard all of the rumors, but we couldn’t be certain of anything. When we arrived, the school- to me at least- didn’t look like a Milwaukee Public School. It looked more like a smaller town school that had a fairly distinct FFA program. However, as some of you may know, Milwaukee-Vincent has been struggling the last few years. Now, when we arrived, we were greeted by a very nice young man who said he helped with the start and upkeep of the new garden, goat pen, and chicken coop that had been started earlier in the summer. This was the first of many exciting things I got to hear. A little while later, we all headed into one of the agriculture classrooms for the press release. This is when things got really exciting! We first heard from the new principal and superintendent about a few changes to the program. Then we got to hear from some state officials. Both groups had the same message- Milwaukee-Vincent High School will now be a “magnet” school for agriculture. Many of you would say “Well, what does that mean?” or “What does that have to do with me?” This means that many Milwaukee students, that may have not gotten the opportunity before, now are given the chance to learn about agriculture at a high level. I believe that this is a great change within the school district and that this will have a huge positive impact on students’ lives. One student- Jeremy- spoke today about how Milwaukee-Vincent has become like a second home to him and that he has taken the opportunity given to him by the school to learn at a high level. Jeremy wants to be a large animal veterinarian. He is currently going into his senior year of high school and, with the changing agriculture program, will get the chance to work with some larger animals through his school. I believe that Jeremy is a true pioneer for his peers and that Milwaukee-Vincent is a pioneer for schools throughout the nation to make a difference in the lives of students who may never get to see an animal growing up in the city. Great job guys and keep up the good work!

Yours truly,
Caleb Green
Wisconsin State FFA Vice President

Wisconsin State Fair
Aug. 09, 2016

Rylee Black - Treasurer
Amery FFA Chapter
Section 1

Hey guys! I apologize for this blog post for being a day late. I swear I had this done on time, but due to technical difficulties, I was unable to post it and lost the blog when I tried to submit it. I’m not super happy about this, but the show must go on!

The original article I wrote was a recap of all the summer so far, but I don’t really feel like writing the same article twice—no artistic mojo on that topic right now. It will also save a few topics for my teammates!

I’m currently writing this blog from the Wisconsin State Fair youth center after a long day of working in the Discovery Barn and the Veggie Races. Throughout the day, we interact with the public as they walk through the grocery store in the barnyard and race veggie cars at the Veggie 500. Our job is to educate people about agriculture and teach children about their food and where it comes from.

I think this is a great concept to advocate for our industry. However, this experience has opened my eyes to how much people don’t know about agriculture. It honestly made me sad. For example, on more than one occasion I asked some of the children in the grocery store where their milk comes from. More often than I’d like to admit, they pointed to the refrigerator situated in the corner instead of saying “cows.”

It’s very unfortunate that children aren’t receiving education about agriculture enough to even realize their food doesn’t originate in the grocery store. However, with more people becoming further and further removed from farming, kids aren't the only ones who don’t have a clear image of agricultural products. On more than one occasion, I had to clarify that eggs were in fact NOT dairy products. Who knew cows laid eggs?

I have countless more stories about the questions and misconceptions that I thought were silly but were legitimate inquiries from fairgoers, but this article would be way too long! I guess my point is that these inaccurate ideas are avoidable and fortunately, fixable. There are so many ways to promote and advocate for agriculture and no one right answer to the problem. Your chapters probably implement ag education programs in your schools and communities just like mine. Many of you exhibit projects in places with lots of the public present. Social media is easily accessible and often utilized by almost everyone--young and old.

With so many more options than the ones I listed, it’s possible to adapt to our world’s changing society and demographics. I challenge each of you to take every opportunity to promote agriculture to others. Exhibiting at the fair? Make an educational display. Giving a presentation for class? Do it on an agricultural topic. Someone ask you a question about agriculture? Take the time to thoroughly answer their question, and make sure they understand what you’ve said. Sometimes it’s the easiest things that can make a big difference. So go out and use your talents and resources to “agvocate” in your own unique way!

Break Through FFA
Aug. 01, 2016

Brenna Bays - President
Adams-Friendship FFA Chapter

What a great day to be in Wisconsin. The weather has finally cooled down a lot, especially compared to the weather that Ashley and I experienced in Washington D.C. at the State President’s Conference, also called SPC. We are just getting back from our week long adventure in our Nation’s Capital, where we learned how to advocate for agriculture, how to stay up to day with Agricultural Policy, what roles the National FFA Delegates play during the National FFA Convention and Expo, and what the 2016 Delegate Committee Topics are. Overall, it was a great week learning about the history our country was founded on and even touring the area.

The theme of the State President’s Conference was “Break Through FFA.” The definition of “Break Through” is a sudden, dramatic and important discovery or development. An example of breakthrough can be found when breaking glass, but another way is by finding a new way to excel. At the State President’s Conference, each of us in attendance were able to discover new ways to be dedicated to our teammates and our associations, along with finding new ways to communicate with the general public. The breakthroughs we made at the State President’s Conference are not meant to be left in Washington DC. They are meant to be brought back and shared with those around us.

Wisconsin FFA, this year is just beginning. Throughout every Leadership Conference, Speaking Contest, Career Development Event and FFA trip, we will be discovering new ways to breakthrough our current boundaries to grow as leaders, build our communities, and strength American Agriculture. As school quickly approaches, I challenge each of you to try something new this year. Take a new class, sign up for a new activity, or try out for a new sport. Stepping outside of our comfort zone or looking at our current situation is the 1st step to breaking through.

I look forward to hearing and seeing how each of us will Break Through FFA!

Breaking Through her Limits,

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