Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Supporters and Role Models--Thank 'em!!

This past weekend, the Michigan FFA Association lost a very important and influential person from its family. Mr. Rich Karelse, who served as the Michigan FFA State Advisor from 1972 until 1997, passed away Saturday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He will surely be missed by all of those teachers, faculty, state officers, FFA members, industry representatives, etc. that had the pleasure to work with him during their experiences with the Michigan FFA Association.

Mr. Karelse's passing has sparked many thoughts within me the past few days about the value of role models and supporters in our lives. Throughout my involvement in numerous activities, I have been blessed to be surrounded by individuals that have been there every step of the way--ultimately molding me into the person that I am today. Whether that was my parents, siblings, coaches, teachers or friends, my support circle is a huge reason that I have accomplished all of the things I have.

Who is your role model or supporter? Is it your parents that have offered advice when you didn't know what to do? Perhaps it is an older peer that has shown you the ropes of a new activity or in a new place. Who knows? It could be the group of friends you hang out with day in and day out and drive you crazy, but who you know you could never live a day without. Have you thanked them for all they do? Are they aware of the impact they've had on your life and successes?

I often wonder if people like Mr. Karelse know all the people they've touched. In most cases, probably not. I'll admit it, I don't say thank you to all my teachers, friends, coaches, etc. for everything they do. Frequently we take that selfless assistance for granted, never voicing our appreciation for their countless hours of advice-giving, driving, cheering, praying and so much more that some of us will never know. While it may not be possible to thank them all, with this blog I would like to take a second to thank all of the people that have supported me. I encourage you to do the same!

In a few days I will be heading to Louisville, Kentucky for this year's National Junior Summer Spectacular show. We are expecting record breaking numbers, having over 650 youth and 1100 gilts registered for the NJSA's largest event! This event not only brings together kids to show pigs, but also encourages the growth of youth as role models and supporters for each other. Many older members will act as mentors to their"protege's"in the MVP (Mentoring Values People) program, showing them the ropes of an NJSA show and becoming friends--because who didn't want to be friends with a cool older kid when you were little?! It's always great to see programs like this foster relationships that could last a lifetime.

With that, I'm out until next time!

P.S. Thank your supporters! :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Believe in the Future of Agriculture

I was at Applebee's in West Lafayette, Indiana this evening for dinner and was pleasantly surprised to see a crowd of blue corduroy-clad FFA members loading into a short bus (not unlike my home chapter's!) on their way out. That's right, the Indiana FFA State Convention is in full swing at Purdue University this week! Although I really have nothing to do with Indiana FFA or their convention, it was nice to see the familiar jackets flooding the local businesses with their presence.

That presence always brings back waves of memories for me and thoughts of the distance I've travelled in my (sniff...) almost year since the conclusion of my term as a state officer and, in the fall, year since becoming an FFA alumnus. Everything seems so long ago and, at the same time, just yesterday. As a member, I always strived to accomplish great things and make a difference. That hasn't changed, but for a long time I thought the only way to do so was through the organization. I've come to realize though that that is not the case at all.

This summer I'm on my internship with the National Junior Swine Association and I absolutely love it. While I will still continue on my path to becoming an agriscience teacher, sometimes I wonder if that's where I'll end up. I value ag education and the FFA like no other. However, this summer I'm seeing that the opportunity to help youth develop personally and professionally exists through a number of different avenues and all of them are valuable. I am seeing people that I grew up with and people I just met trying to better themselves by running for Junior Board positions with the NJSA. I just talked to a dad today who, when asked whether his daughter would be participating in the speech contest at our next show, said, "This is our first time at this show, but yes she will. I think it will be good for her." My eyes are really opening to the world of possibilities that lies before me and I am definitely keeping my options open.

Even as I am experiencing new things, so are the people that were on my state officer team--something I was reminded of when those blue jackets invaded the Applebee's. My state president is running for National FFA Office for the second time; it is a feat that I can do nothing but give her credit for, knowing the heartache that came following the hard work of running the first time. My Region I State Vice President is running for an NJSA Junior Board position and is working for Michigan Agricultural Commodities. My State Treasurer is working for the State Park system and loving it. My State Sentinel is back at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the second summer finishing a Poultry Science program. The rest of my team has found summer and full-time interests as well, and it is so interesting to watch everyone grow up. Who knows where we'll be in 5, 10, 20 years? No matter what, it never ceases to amaze me the connection we all have and to know it all began with a little (well, actually kind of big!) organization revolving around a group of people who "believe in the future of agriculture".

It's good to know, though, that we can take what we learned in the FFA and do good elsewhere. A great movie once said, "Don't you mean, do well?"

And like the movie replied, I also say, "No. I mean do good."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And they said, "It went well"....

After any event, it's good to say that things went well. After last week's World Pork Expo, it's even greater to say that--especially after everything the pork industry is going through, regarding the H1N1 virus, low pork prices, and a suffering export market.

The week began with the World Pork Expo Junior National show. Youth ages 2-21 participated in the event, showing their crossbred and purebred market barrows and breeding gilts and competing in showmanship and livestock judging. They represented all the major breeds including Berkshires, Chester White, Duroc, Hampshires, Landrace, Poland China, Spotted, and Yorkshires. Junior entries and the number of pigs were both up, having 500 youth exhibit 1404 pigs. The results show just how amazing youth in the swine industry are!

While the open show didn't have quite the record numbers, the show still went well and the sale went even better. The sale grossed $31,000 more than last year and the top selling boar (the grand champion Duroc) sold for $60,000--twice as much as the highest selling animal last year!

The number of foreign visitors did appear to be down (most likely due to a variety of country bans on U.S. pork), but there were those who visited to cover the event. Jane Wells and the crew from CNBC made the journey and did some great pieces on America's pork producers and our youth showmen.

So now, we're back to the office, getting ready for the National Junior Summer Spectacular in three weeks. Hope to see you there!