Monday, September 2, 2019

"Real Food to You" By Dekota McGee, State Secretary

September Blog

“What am I eating?” “Where does my food come from?” “Is my food safe?” These are questions that more and more consumers are demanding be answered.  Parents want to provide healthier meals to their families, and some people want to treat their body’s better. As society becomes more aware of what they put into their bodies and what is going on around them, restaurant owners are taking the initiative in making their businesses’ more appealing to the public. 

Restaurant owners are making the choice to use local grown produce for their dishes, many hopping on the farm to table bandwagon. Farm to table restaurants are becoming a thriving sensation in larger cities across the state of Louisiana and the nation. If you’re not familiar with the farm to table movement, it is a social movement that promotes serving local food at restaurants and school cafeterias, preferably through direct acquisition from the producer. These establishments use their simple recipes to attract customers who want to experience a fresher and healthier meal, while also enjoying a groovy environment. Customers say that the food tastes fresher and overall much better than frozen and processed foods. This happens due to the effective transportation of goods being transported immediately from the fields of local farms to the kitchens of small restaurants.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Mr. Nathan Stubbs, the owner of a farm to table restaurant, The Saint Street Inn, located in Lafayette, LA. Stubbs began his business just under ten years ago and says that he absolutely loves his job. He says, “I have two favorite parts. The first being my staff and suppliers. The second being the customers and the atmosphere the community provides.” He mentioned that he enjoys seeing the vibes that his customers have as they sit with their friends. With the Saint Street Inn being only four minutes away from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, college students and professors often frequent the restaurant. “The support of the community truly fuels my passion to make my business thrive,” says Stubbs.

“When the Saint Street Inn began, it was built on the idea of cooking more meticulously and being creative with our ingredient choices,” said Mr. Stubbs. The restaurant provides consumers with a wide variety of food choices that are fresh and grown close to home. One thing that amazes and sticks with me was how the Saint Street Inn mainly used farm products grown or raised in Louisiana. The restaurant does not use large food distributors, but instead partners with local farmers to provide a fresher dish. The Saint Street Inn has over twenty farms that supply produce and products used to create their spectacular dishes. Stubbs says, “[Suppliers] are the backbone of our business. We couldn’t make it without them. Pastured pork comes from Husser, LA, eggs come from Alexandria, LA, pastured chicken comes from Singer, LA.” For me, there is nothing more refreshing than enjoying a meal with ingredients produced by Louisiana farmers.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love chicken nuggets and fries just as much as the next person, but I also enjoy supporting a restaurant that supports our local communities. Walking into a restaurant like the Saint Street Inn gives me hope that our small-time farmers are still appreciated. Choosing to eat at a farm to table restaurant will change a person’s view of creativity. I never thought of food as an art until I sat down with Mr. Nathan Stubbs. Stubbs truly loves what he does, how he does it, and the impact his business has had on himself and others. He started his business with a friend to try something new. This one choice turned into a profession that he is passionate about. Agriculture is affected by large corporate industries, but small businesses, just like the Saint Street Inn, matter too.

Monday, August 5, 2019

"Living to Learn" by State Vice President, Salem Johnson

August Blog

When many people think of agriculture, the image of a 500-acre row crop farm may pop into their head. For others, it’s an open pasture with 200 head of cattle roaming around. Either way, these agricultural industries are very important, but what about the industries only a few think about? What about the fisherman working in the Gulf of Mexico, or the foresters estimating how many board feet you can get within a certain area, or even the farmers that grow flowers for weddings instead of lettuce for salads? We as FFA members continuously represent our organization in and out of the blue jacket, but it is also our duty to be able to effectively advocate for each agricultural industry and its importance to our society. Here are three of my personal favorite unusual and unfamiliar agricultural industries.
Pearl Farming: The pearls generated by the pearl farming industry make up nearly 99% of all total pearls sold around the world. Since the beginning of pearl farming in the early 20th century, to now, it has become a billion-dollar industry. Starting at the beginning of the pearl farming process, many pearl farmers start by breeding their oysters. Once the oysters are mature, in about 2-5 years they will make a beloved pearl that will eventually be made into jewelry. How cool is that?! Each oyster can produce about 2-3 pearls in their lifetime before they are released back into the wild or are sold to various restaurants. Many people are not familiar with the pearl farming industry, but just imagine life without the beautiful, gleaming pearls that many of us enjoy today. 
Deer Urine Collection Farms: This second agricultural industry does not directly supply food to its customers, but instead better enables a customer to supply their own. If you are not familiar with hunting, a human's scent can repel a deer from a certain area; the deer urine collected from these farms can be used to mask this smell, resulting in a lower chance of repelling a deer and a higher chance of a kill. The deer urine industry is small and not very well known, but has a great impact on the food supply in the United States. About 40 million Americans' food security depends on the consumption of wild game each year. With the help of these deer urine farms, hunters can be better equipped to feed their families!
Lavender Farming: The popularity of lavender farming has grown tremendously over the past couple of year and is known to be very profitable. It is said that a quarter-acre of lavender can produce about 3,000 bunches, which is worth about $18,000! From floral arrangements and essential oils, to air fresheners and medicine, lavender has a great array of things it can be used for. So, next time you smell the calming sent of lavender, remember that a farmer produced it too!
Many people only consider the agricultural industries that produce us food, while a handful think of commodities such as jewelry, oils, wood, and countless others. However, it is our job as the future generation of agriculturists to inform the public about these different commodities and the effect they have on our lives. I encourage you to learn about a new agricultural industry you’re not familiar with.  Don’t be afraid to advocate for an agricultural commodity that has not had a direct impact on you. We as FFA members have the opportunity and obligation to be a platform for every agricultural industry and its influence on our world! So, stay informed, use your voice, and change the world!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"And on the Ninth Day, God Created the Ag Teacher" by State Vice President, Lane Degenhardt

May Blog

What exactly does student-led mean? It means that we as individuals, we as members have the right to choose what happens to our future, to our organization. This responsibility means dedication, passion, and persistence. However just because we are student-led does not mean we are on our own, so God created the Ag teacher. Every tree has its roots, every story has its origin, and for us as members we have our advisors. The guidance, the wisdom, the knowledge we need is provided to us thanks to these people for having made a choice to be involved in agricultural education to lead us, the future of our country. Many times when you ask an agricultural educator what made them decide to pursue this profession they will give you the same answer “I was inspired by my own agricultural teacher." These individuals work tirelessly to make sure that we get the same unique experiences that they themselves were able to procure as FFA members. We all have a specific story about a specific moment or a conversation with our advisors that truly made us into who we are today. For me it was practicing for the Creed Speaking competition my freshman year in FFA. It was after school and there were so many other things that my teacher could be doing, such as spending time with his wife and kids and yet he chose to spend it helping me. The moment I walked into the room I was told to leave and walk right back in, I repeated this process over fifteen times this was just in order to perfect my walk. We stayed for over two hours after everyone had left to make sure that I had everything I needed to succeed in my endeavors. The stories I’ve heard, the conversations I’ve had, the laughter I’ve experienced, and the tears that have fallen thanks to my advisors is something that has inspired me and countless others beyond belief. However this is something that is in extreme risk in this day and age.
Today within all fifty states there are over eleven thousand agricultural educators this might sound like a lot but there are over 135,00 private and public secondary schools and middle schools. One major argument that could be made is the majority of these schools don’t have an agricultural program for teachers to even go to. But with the major shortage of Ag educators, many schools who might be interested in building a program won’t have the teachers needed to properly care for its foundation. In addition of the 131 reported (meaning their information was sent into the the state office) 55 teachers are within 0-3 years of retirement, that means that within those 0-3 years, over 44% of agricultural teachers are eligible for retirement, leaving a giant need for agricultural educators to step into those new roles. That is the future of our organization, our passion as FFA members. Imagine if you didn’t have the experiences you’ve had in FFA, imagine if that teacher never took the time to offer guidance or wisdom, imagine if everything you’ve grown to love wasn’t available. These thoughts are becoming the new reality as we are in desperate need of Ag educators for the next generation. So what can we do?
If you believe that your passion could be in this field, don’t hesitate to at least look into it. Talk to your Ag teachers listen to their own stories and experiences, and really think if that’s what you want in life. If not for yourself then for the future generations. We are taught to be servant leaders not just for the betterment of ourselves but for those around us. So thank you teachers for showing us exactly what that means and consider the opportunity you have to do that for others.

Monday, April 1, 2019

"The Role of Alumni Members" By Brooklyn Hampton, State President

April Blog

Our time in the blue jackets is filled with wild adventures, once-in-a-lifetime relationships, and a tremendous amount of knowledge gained. One of the most memorable times I have experienced within my blue jacket is competing the Agronomy Career Development Event. My team and I spent many hours preparing for the competition and were fortunate enough to represent Louisiana on the national level, and eventually win the National Agronomy CDE in 2016. Now this was such a great accomplishment for my team and I--I mean, we were national champions--but looking back, my favorite part about the Agronomy competition was not winning, it was learning how to learn and sharing such an awesome experience with my teammates, who grew to be my brothers. As FFA members we have opportunities to grow and challenge ourselves at such a young age that we stand out amongst our peers. We become leaders, educators, relationship builders and advocates for agriculture. FFA becomes a part of who we are, but what happens when our time in the blue jacket is up? Do we throw away everything that has helped make us who we are? Do we forget about the organization that educates students about our nation’s largest industry? What do we do when we hang up our jackets for the very last time?
I have often thought about this as my year as a state officer quickly comes to and end and my time in the blue jacket will be no more. What will I do to stay involved in an organization that has shaped who I am? As FFA members we can transition from our time in the FFA to our time outside of the FFA, while still being involved with the organization by becoming FFA Alumni members. The National FFA Organization has made becoming an FFA alumni member easy and effective. While exploring the National Alumni page, potential alumni members can discover what type of alumni they would like to be: a fan, mentor, advocate, volunteer, or donor.  The National FFA Organization has also initiated a program called “Alumni Check In” where “checking in allows our FFA community to learn, support, unite and connect nationwide.” The national FFA alumni website offers opportunities for members and chapters to get involved as well as promotes events that alumni members can be a part of.
As past FFA members, it is our responsibility to ensure that current and future FFA members have the resources and means needed to be successful. By becoming an alumni member, we can do exactly that.

The success of the National FFA Organization depends on past members just like you and I who know the type of impact this organization makes, and to continue to lead the way for members to reach new heights. Remember the adventures, relationships, and knowledge you had the opportunity of experiencing when you were a FFA member and let those memories inspire you to become an alumni member. Becoming an alumni member will allow you to help make the same memories happen for a kid wearing that same blue jacket as you once did.

Keep on rocking,
Brooklyn Hampton

Thursday, March 7, 2019

"Living To Serve" by Katie Mestayer, State Secretary

March Blog
The year was 2010. Ten year old me was forced to go to the homeless shelter with my church’s youth group. I specifically remember thinking to myself on the way there “I wish I was home, I don’t want to be here.” My bad attitude followed me into the men’s shelter in Baton Rouge as we began to set up the dinner we were providing them. As I carelessly served the salad onto their plate, my negative thoughts were interrupted by the most sincere and humble “thank you.” I looked up and saw the face of an older gentleman with the biggest smile on his face. He gave a genuine “thank you” to each person as they served him. I decided to later sit down with him and share our meal together. He never once told me what he didn’t have, or what he wished he had. He only told me what he’s thankful for, and he started by saying he was thankful for my church group coming every month to serve them dinner. Wow. I mean, my heart literally sank in my chest. It was at that moment that I truly realized the incredible value of community service.

Service. What exactly is service? Google says it is “the action of helping or doing work for someone.” In the FFA, we heavily emphasize on service and its importance. Most of your chapters probably participate in at least one service project throughout the year, maybe even once or twice a month.  Whether it’s helping out at your local food bank or visiting your local nursing home, community service is a necessity. It’s extremely important that we realize how valuable these actions are, and if your chapter doesn’t participate in any service projects, it may be time to consider how serving your community can be beneficial for you.

If you or your chapter are unsure where to start, or you are looking to enhance your service opportunities, schedule a meeting with your town’s mayor and learn where your community is in need! This is an awesome way to develop a relationship with your city officials as well as serve your community. Even if your project is small, no service goes unnoticed. In my chapter, we have built a relationship with a local elderly man who can no longer care for his citrus orchard and greenhouse. Once a month we visit for an hour and a half to help him out as much as we can. This past month that we visited him, I told him that I wished we could come more often because we feel like we could do more. He told me that we don’t understand how much us coming meant to him, even only for an hour and a half a month. No matter the project, the work you are putting in, it is always impacting someone much more than what meets the eye. You and your chapter may even find yourselves making some impactful and lasting relationships memories. Always remember, a servant’s heart is never out of style.
Keep serving,
Katie Mestayer

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"Get to Chasing" by Sara Toal, State Vice-President

February Blog

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been chasing after something. Of course, when I was younger, that something was most likely a wild, escaped lamb or one of my even wilder, little siblings. In elementary school, I was chasing after the title of “Biggest Taylor Swift Fan” amongst my friends and that first place ribbon in the Spelling Bee.. or is it “Be”... I don’t know, it’s safe to say I didn’t win either. Junior High was filled with me chasing the school’s record for most books read in a year… which I did achieve at the expense of my social life. In high school, I was chasing after summer breaks and that beloved diploma… only to find myself months later in college chasing after the same thing all over again. I think it’s safe to say that everyone has something to chase after, a goal that we see at the end of the race, waiting for us to reach it. Now, as FFA members, that something doesn’t have to be big banners and shiny trophies, but something more self-fulfilling. I’m talking about degrees.

Now, now, hold up a minute. I’m not talking about those degrees that keep you up all night worrying about essays, math homework, and chemistry exams. I’m talking about a much more fun take on it: FFA degrees. Whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, or even already a high school graduate, you can add an FFA degree to your list of accomplishments. Sara, what are these things you’re talking about? Great question, you read my mind.

FFA degrees are opportunities that show everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve throughout your time in the blue jacket. They even have a tier system so that you don’t have to wait four long years to receive this honor. As a freshman or a first-year FFA member, you can qualify for the Greenhand FFA Degree. All you have to do is learn about the FFA Creed, what our motto, salute, and colors are, and know a few FFA history facts. If you think you’ve got that down, grab the closest FFA manual and go the “Greenhand FFA Degree Requirements” and make sure you can check off everything on the list, and you are good to go! Next time you see your ag teacher, ask them how you can apply to receive your Greenhand Degree because every chapter is different! You might even walk home with a fancy certificate and new pin for your jacket from your end of the year banquet too. Holy cow, look at you go!

Okay, now I’m talking to my Sophomores or second-year members who have already received their Greenhand Degrees. You, my friends, are now eligible for your Chapter FFA Degree. Since you already have received your Greenhand Degree, there are only a few more requirements you have to meet in order to advance to this next level of achievement. Make sure you have a well functioning SAE (if you don’t know what this is, go check out Kerington’s blog last month!), have 10 hours of community service, and have effectively led 15 minutes in a group discussion in your chapter. Again, take a look in one of your chapter’s manuals to make sure you have everything you need, then hit up your advisor to see what steps you need to take to apply for Chapter FFA Degree.

Alright, my Juniors and Seniors, I need your attention on this one. You of all can apply for your.. drum roll please.. State FFA Degree! Now, this is entering into the “big leagues” of degrees. Have you ever been to State Convention and thought to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I was up there?” Well, good news, you can be! Since you have already earned your Greenhand and Chapter FFA Degrees, you can apply and be awarded your State FFA Degree on stage at Convention with some very easy steps. If you have 25 hours of community service, can demonstrate 10 parliamentary law procedures, have participated in five FFA activities/events above the chapter level, and have only a handful of other requirements down, you are on the right track to getting that gold pin and certificate. Just go onto the Louisiana FFA website page, scroll down to “Awards and Degrees”, click on “State FFA Degree”, and start applying! After you’re done, ask your advisor to look over your application, and once they give you the thumbs up, submit it! Your application will be reviewed, and if accepted, you’ll be walking that stage at Convention in no time. Only 10% of members ever get their state degree, so remember that this is an extreme honor, so give it your all!

Now for my high school graduates and college students, you might not have known that there was anything after the state degree, but do I have news for you. After you are awarded your state degree, you can start working on your application for the highest honor in the National FFA Organization... your American Degree. This award is given to the best of the best in the country, and that can easily be you. Make sure to keep hold of your SAE records and get in contact with your advisor to help you fill out your application. This will give you a chance to be one of the elite 1% of members that are awarded this honor and give you the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis and walk across the stage at the NATIONAL FFA CONVENTION! Way to represent Louisiana! So if you have hung up your FFA jacket and are thinking of one great way to wrap up your FFA career and also make Louisiana shine, make sure to look into applying for your American degree, and make your chapter and state proud!

Everyone chases after something, and I can say from experience that the feeling of catching that dream or goal you’ve been after is one you’ll hold onto for the rest of your life. Don’t just go through the motions, step up and stand out. Rise above in everything you do. And when you slip on that blue jacket, remember that you are apart of something extraordinary, and therefore, YOU are extraordinary. So give yourself the recognition your extraordinary self deserves and apply for that degree, and chase that gold standard.

Stay awesome my friends,
Sara Toal

Monday, January 7, 2019

"Step-up to SAEs" By
Kerington Bass, State Vice President

January Blog

Chores - everyone has them, and only some of us actually complete them, but they undoubtedly exist. Day after day, we do our chores. This continuous cycle has made me wonder, what's the point in doing them and how will this benefit me or my future? My daily chores included feeding my livestock, tending to my grandparents’ garden, and taking care of my many dogs. After a while, I saw no joy in doing these tasks and saw it as a big waste of time. It wasn’t until my advisor introduced me to the acronym SAE. She explained that SAE stands for Supervised Agricultural Experience, or agriculture outside the class, like my daily chores. My advisor showed me a list of SAEs
( and how many I actually could be apart of.

My advisor also showed me that with any SAE I can apply for a proficiency award. This organized my SAE by detailing what my responsibilities are, the challenges I faced, impacts this SAE has had on me, skills I have obtained from it, and so on. After completing the application, I was able to compete with other members in the same category. Similar to any CDE I have competed in, the top four placings are given a banner.  Besides the banner, I also got a check which I used to improve my SAE in the upcoming years!

Before learning about SAE, I saw my chores as useless, tedious tasks. Now I see the value and have pride in my work. Time management skills are practiced when caring for my livestock in my Diversified Livestock Production SAE. From each new insect infestation, I was able to learn which treatment works best for each bug when tending to the vegetable garden for my Vegetable Production SAE. I was able to add new pens for my dogs in my Small Animal Care SAE with the money I won. These accomplishments will not only help me in the coming years of my SAE, but also in any career I finally decide to go into.

Many of you probably feel the same as I once did about your own chores or job. I encourage you to check if you fall under an SAE category and complete a proficiency application so you are able to find a sense of purpose in your chores.

Best wishes,

Here are some more resources: