By Darrin Cline
FFA in Iowa continues its upward trend. In August, the organization’s enrollment crested at more than 14,900 members for the first time in its history. To lead this membership, the organization relies on the leadership of its annually elected state officer team.
The state officer team not only serves as leaders for thousands of their peers, but also represents the organization at events and activities across Iowa. They meet with teachers, students and agriculture professionals to spread the word about the value of ag education in Iowa.
Zach Hamilton is serving as the Iowa FFA state president. Hamilton, a member of the Northeast FFA at Goose Lake, is a sophomore at Iowa State University majoring in Apparel, Merchandising and Design. He also served as reporter on the 2016-17 state officer team. “I love getting the chance to meet with members and find out their passions and dreams. I have had the chance to meet with many members and am always amazed by how high-quality Iowa FFA members are. I enjoy seeing their wide array of skills and interests,” Hamilton says.
More urban schools offer FFA
One of the greatest areas of growth for the organization has been in urban schools. Cassie Bond, the south-central state vice president from the Earlham FFA chapter, says she is excited to spend her year working in these schools. “In the south-central district, there is a lot of potential for growth in urban areas. I hope to extend opportunities to students in urban areas that typically wouldn't pursue agriculture,” Bond says.
The diverse skill set of the organization’s membership has manifested itself through the 2017-18 team. Ally Babcock of the Gilbert FFA was elected to the office of north-central state vice president. As a pre-med and agronomy double major attending Iowa State University, she encapsulates the multifaceted nature of FFA members. “My goal as a state officer is to be someone who motivates others. No matter what FFA members are passionate about, my goal is to encourage them to pursue that passion,” Babcock says.
Desire to motivate, inspire others
The desire to motivate and inspire others to get involved is a common theme among the team. Caleb Finnegan was elected as the southwest state vice president and is a freshman at Central College studying actuarial science. He is a member of the Adair-Casey/Guthrie Center FFA chapter at Guthrie Center. “Personally, being impacted by state officers that have come before me gave me a passion to help others. I want to pass that same passion on to those that come after me to make agriculture relevant for the next generation,” Finnegan says.
Carli Grau, northwest state vice president, is a member of the Newell-Fonda FFA chapter. She is a freshman at Des Moines Area Community College, with plans to transfer to ISU and major in agricultural education. “My favorite experience thus far was getting to work behind the scenes at the 2017 Iowa State Fair. I was given the chance to help make an impact and witness first-hand all of the success that our members can achieve through all of their hard work,” Grau says.
Annie Wallin of the Brokaw FFA at Clarinda was elected as the state reporter; she echoes Finnegan’s sentiment. “My passion for agriculture is what really motivated me to run for state office. I also had an awesome support system that reminded me of how others inspired me and how I would like to inspire others,” Wallin says.
Rachel Zumbach of the North Linn FFA was elected as northeast state vice president. Zumbach is a freshman at ISU majoring in ag communications. “The experience that sticks out to me the most so far has been handing out blue lemonade along the RAGBRAI route. Not only did I have fun talking with bicyclists from across the world about agriculture and FFA, but also bonding with members who came out to help with the event every day,” Zumbach says.
FFA offers inclusiveness, support system
Chase Brinegar is serving as the southeast state vice president. Brinegar hails from Ottumwa and is a freshman at Kirkwood Community College with plans to transfer to the University of Nebraska to study beef production. “As the year continues, my main goal is to advocate for agriculture. I want to spread the truth, science and message behind what we do,” Brinegar says.
Not only does the team want to promote the educational and professional opportunities, but also the inclusiveness of the organization. Peyton Schmitt is serving as the state secretary for 2017-18. Schmitt is a member of the Lone Tree FFA and is attending ISU, pursuing a degree in agricultural communications. “I firmly believe that there is a place for everyone in FFA, and that being involved in this organization provides countless opportunities to achieve growth and success,” says Schmitt.
The Iowa FFA Association and state officer team is thrilled to see the growth of the organization and looks forward to continuing to make differences in the lives of more than 14,900 members.
Cline is the communications and annual fund manager for the Iowa FFA Foundation.