State FFA Convention

The time has finally come! For a Missouri FFA member, one of the most exciting times of the year is the middle of April. Contests are over, and the best of the best teams will be competing in Columbia for the chance to go on to National competition. This is the largest annual gathering of Missouri FFA members, and it is one of the most exciting things I have done. I have went to State FFA convention every year since freshman year of high school, and I am so excited to be attending this year as a representative of Missouri State University. So many of my FFA memories are from these conventions. The first time I went I was about eleven, and I went to watch my sister get her state degree and awards for competing in the dairy foods contest. Later, I made my own memories in Columbia. The infamous u-turn by Ms. Epperly in the middle of Columbia, going to the movies the same year because there were only four of us, the insanely early mornings spent at IHOP, and the ridiculously late nights spent attending sessions and participating in random shenanigans. I was so blessed to have my mother accompany me last year to witness me receiving my state degree and my proficiency award. As much as I dislike Mizzou, that will always be a place that I associate with some of my fondest FFA memories. As Missouri FFA members, we come from many different backgrounds and regions. The Boot heel, the north, central Missouri, and the southwest. However, for these few brief days, we can gather in one place and share our passion for agriculture and our hopes for the future. Bring on State Convention!

My FFA Journey: A Family Tradition

As some of you may know, the last full week in February is FFA week. Which is this week. In my chapter, and in many others across the nation, we coordinate different activities each day that will help to highlight the importance of agricultural education. This is the first year I have not participated in these activities, as I am in college. However, I can still celebrate the ways in which FFA has touched my life. So, as a tribute to this organization, I thought I would share with you my FFA journey.

My FFA story started long before I put on the corduroy jacket. My grandfather was a member of the Cassville FFA Chapter from about 1960 to 1962. He was a member of the meat judging team and his group went to nationals in the meats contest. He can quote all of the opening and closing ceremonies still today, as well as the FFA Creed.

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My Papa (second from left) and the meats judging team with their adviser.

 

Later, my parents were both members of the FFA, as well as most of my aunts and uncles, and many of my cousins. My older sister joined the Cassville FFA in 2001, my brother in 2005, and I joined in 2008.

When I became a Greenhand in 2008, I was a shy, quiet high school freshman. I was terrified to speak in front of a group of my peers, and I had absolutely no plans of ever making a habit of it. However, I was chosen to be the Creed speaker for my chapter, and I soon found myself standing alone at the front of a room before two judges, with my hands shaking so badly I probably couldn’t have held a thing. I only made alternate to districts in Creed Speaking, but I learned something incredibly important about myself: I have the power to become better. At the end of that year, I interviewed in front of 5 people (including my older brother!) for a chapter office and became the historian.

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The first time I wore the blue. This picture appeared in a local newspaper, and I am showing off my newly painted green hand.

Sophomore year brought many more incredible experiences. I went to National Convention in Indianapolis for the first time, attended Washington Leadership Conference, and began exploring my leadership potential. I competed on the floriculture contest and found an odd love for all things plant-like. At the end of that year, I interviewed for office again. At that chapter banquet, I was installed as the 2010-2011 Cassville FFA President.

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A picture I took in Indy. We literally flood the city each year with blue corduroy.

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This feeling is actually pretty amazing. Having so much leadership potential in one city is phenomenal, and the fact that we are all connected through the blue absolutely blows your mind. I’m pretty sure I cried the first time I saw so much blue!

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Washington Leadership Conference in D.C.

I loved my junior year. As president, I got to see every aspect of being part of the FFA. I remembered being the freshman terrified of my peers, so I could coordinate activities around that, and I had an active voice in the chapter’s activities. That year I sang with the State FFA Chorus for the last time (I had done this the previous two years) and again competed on the floriculture team. At the end of that year I became chapter vice president.

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I’m pretty much in the middle!

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Handing over my gavel

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Our annual end of the year reward trip to Tulsa, OK.

Senior year was pretty emotional right from the start. I had grown so much in my three years as an FFA member, but I still had some growing to do. I had to learn to say goodbye and be thankful for the memories I had made. I went to National Convention a final time, had a blast with friends, and expanded my SAE. I had the first place area proficiency award in goat production, and I received my state FFA degree. All of this built up to the final evening that I knew would change my life.

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Amazing times with friends at Ag Olympics

 

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My final trip to Indy. We got to meet the national adviser, who is my adviser’s father-in-law.

 

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My last FFA Sunday with Papa.

 

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State Convention 2012, after receiving my proficiency award.

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Receiving my proficiency award.

 

At the end of my senior year came the annual chapter banquet. This was when we handed out awards earned throughout the year and installed new officers. This one was different though: it was my last one. I have sat through so many chapter FFA banquets. I went to my sister’s, brother’s, and finally my own. I knew that this one would have the same ceremonies and the same customs, but I wanted to remember everything that happened. The opening ceremonies were performed, and I said the vice president part for the last time. After the meal was the slideshow, then we started handing out awards. All the time I can remember thinking “This is it. This is my last FFA banquet.” Finally, all the awards were handed out and the president handed the microphone over to me. It is tradition for senior FFA members to officially retire their FFA jacket and present it to someone who had influenced them in their FFA journey. I had written a ceremony, complete with a few jokes about my advisers and other members, and I delivered it pretty well. However, when I said “Fellow FFA seniors, please join me in retiring your jackets,” I started to cry. Hard. I was not at all prepared to leave this part of my life behind, nor was I ready to say goodbye to the only organization in which I had literally engulfed myself in. As I read those last words, I left the front of the banquet hall, walked up to my big sister, and handed her my jacket.

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Taking off my jacket for the final time. Pretty emotional stuff!

 

At this point, I was bawling my eyes out, and I wasn’t feeling like the capable leader I knew that I was. At the end of the banquet, after the new officers had been installed, closing ceremonies had been spoken, and we had saluted the American flag, I took pictures with my friends and gave my advisers the gifts I had gotten them. The entire time, all I could think about was that I was done; there is no more. It took me a few months to realize that all was not lost and that I had exerted an influence in my world that others had felt. My experience in the Cassville FFA chapter has influenced my in so many ways, including my future career as an Ag Ed instructor and FFA adviser. There truly is nothing to equal all that I discovered about myself in the FFA.

My experience in the FFA took me farther than I could have ever imagined. I walked the streets of our nation’s capitol, where I helped to make an impression on the world about the importance of agriculture. I have volunteered countless hours in community service, giving my time and effort to help improve the lives of others. I developed a valuable set of leadership and communication skills, and built a profitable SAE from the bottom up. I learned that I have infinite potential, and that I hold the key to unlocking that potential. I gained friends from all over the nation and I am a part of an international network. But most of all, I made a difference. Not a huge difference, like Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr., but a difference nonetheless. I inspired others to follow in my footsteps and discover the leader within, and I gave them a person to look up to. I grew myself, while helping others to step out of their comfort zones and announce their potential to the world. I am still the same freshman I was four years ago, but I am no longer afraid to share my potential with the world, and all the credit goes to FFA.

My mom likes to joke that she was in the FFA for eleven years. In that time, our calendar was always full and we were always staying after school or going early for an FFA event. These days, the calendar is strangely empty and I don’t have to be at school hours early or late. However, the aftershocks of my time in the FFA still affect me today. I constantly find myself referring to my FFA years, and my public speaking class is literally a breeze (don’t tell my professor that!). I will forever cherish the memories I made in the Cassville FFA chapter, and I will never forget how much I learned about myself. I wore the blue, and I made a difference. Thank you, FFA.

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Two generations of FFA members.

 

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And another two generations.

 

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One of my advisers, Ms. Epperly. She was my adviser all four years in the FFA, and she was my inspiration and a major reason I want to go into Ag Ed. Ms. Epperly (Hall!) you truly are forever my owl.

 

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We gathered most of the family’s FFA jackets to display at my graduation party. Although this is the majority, there were still a few missing. It really is a family tradition.

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Tucker Farms: An Official Introduction

Hello to all! There is so much going on at the farm that I will probably have to post several times this week! I went home this weekend, as I do most weekends, and I had no problem finding something to do. For this first post, I thought I would introduce you readers to a few of our animals. This will be rather lengthy, so I apologize in advance!ImageSo, first and maybe the most exciting activity is the building of the new goat barn. We have been wanting to do this for a while, and my Daddy started setting posts earlier this week. This barn will be used for housing goats, particularly during kidding season.

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Here we see the brains of the operation, otherwise known as my Daddy and my older brother Dustin. Dusty lives in the next house down, but still comes to help out when we need him. Daddy is a regular man of all trades, and he dreamed up the ideas for this barn by looking at other plans. I will keep you all up to date on their progress as best I can!

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Okay, so this one I might get in trouble for! This is my older sister Carolyn building a rabbit box. I reassured her that I was only getting the box in the picture, but I sneaked her in too! Carolyn has several rabbits, and is always perfecting some sort of feeder or pen that will make caring for them easier. I guess she got that from Daddy!

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So here is my department: the goats. These are a few of my breeding does, and one of my bucks. As I mentioned last week, they are mostly a Boer-Nubian cross, although we do have a few that we have “collected” from random places and people. They thought I was going to feed them so they came running, disappointing them, but giving me a great photo op!

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A few more of the breeding stock.

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And a few more!

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This is one of my bucks I used this year. His name is Captain Jack, and this is the second year I have used him. He threw some gorgeous buck kids last spring, and I hope the same will happen this year!

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These are a few of my yearling does, who were born in March 2012. They are mature enough to breed, but I prefer to wait until they are older.

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Another shot of the yearlings, along with the “guard llama” Buddy. Ever since some dogs killed most of my herd years ago, we keep at least one llama in every pen of goats at all times. I have not had a security issue with my goats since!

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Another pair of llamas. This is Onyx and her baby, who remains unnamed as of now. The llamas are my momma’s project, and she’s been raising them almost as long as I have been raising goats.

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The latest baby born on the farm. The sire is on the left; sort of weird how the baby is almost pure white!

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Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper! These hogs were born early this spring and are actually going to be leaving the farm this Thursday to go to the slaughterhouse. Anything tastes better when you raise it yourself, and this is going to be some good bacon!

ImageThis is my little doe rabbit, who was also born earlier this year. I used to raise many rabbits for my 4-H project, but I gradually got out of that when I started with goats. This doe is bred and will have babies in time for Easter!

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These guys are noisy, messy, and so much fun! I have always enjoyed raising ducks, and I bought the first of these particular ones two springs ago. I believe they are Crested Blue Swedish, and I get little ducklings every spring. In the words of The Little Rascals, “Nothing beats a buck and a duck!”

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A few of our laying hens and the rooster. These are Cinnamon Queens, which are excellent egg producers and are very hardy and easy to raise. We get about one and a half dozen eggs per day.

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This is Hank, my dog. He is Blue Heeler-Australian Shepherd cross. I have had him for about 12 years, and he helps us work cattle. His partner, Katie (below), belongs to my sister, and is Blue Heeler. They are both getting pretty old now, and mostly laze around, play fetch, chase the cats, and shred shoes.

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Okay, I think the only one I have not introduced you to so far is my momma. So here is a picture of Momma and I back in April at Missouri State FFA Convention in Columbia. I had just received my State FFA Degree at this point.

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So hopefully now you know a little about my family, farm, and the animals we raise. I would love for you to follow me or comment on my blog anytime. I hope you enjoyed catching up with me this week, and thank you for reading. Happy farming!