Thursday, April 28, 2016

Home Is Where the Heart Is

A Simple Message

A simple message can have a lot of meaning, but it’s how you interpret that meaning to receive the message clearly. This past week I attended the 88th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference; at this conference I was able to hear from inspirational and devoted leaders of the agriculture industry. Speakers such as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Governor Terry Branstad, National FFA Officer Abrah Meyer, and Rick Rigsby, who gave the keynote address. Each of these speakers had their own message that they wanted FFA members to hear—whether that is to inform, congratulate, or inspire.

Not only was I able to hear from prominent leaders of today but also some devoted young agriculturalists. The Iowa FFA State officers each had their chance to inspire a record-setting 5,527 FFA members from across the state of Iowa with their retiring addresses. Each message the officers gave had a special meaning and reflected each officer’s personality. Message themes included the following: How to live life to the fullest and “Live in the Moment”; “Strive for Happiness” with hard work and dedication; Embrace your true self and know that being weird is okay; Take the time to enjoy the little things in life and “Live Your Dash”; And know it’s okay to “Come Home.”

I’d like to talk about one of the retiring addresses specifically. This message came from the Iowa FFA State President, Michael Tupper. He talked about the agriculture industry and how young leaders are needed for the future of the industry. But he mentioned something that stuck out even more to me. He stated, “In agriculture, we talk a lot about urban sprawl and how it reduces the farmland that we can produce on. What we don’t talk about is the other commodity that urban sprawl takes from rural communities—our people.” One reason I wanted to highlight this retiring address is because of the message that it holds. My generation is constantly fighting this notion of “do I stay or do I go.” We have been told that in order to get the career of our dreams we need to leave home, that our rural communities hold nothing in terms of success for our lives. Michael ended his speech with this message: “What makes Iowa and rural communities great isn’t our place on the map—it’s the people we produce. Wherever you choose to live, build up your community. But always remember, you can make an opportunity to COME HOME!”

Success Follows Passion

His words make me stop and think for a moment. It makes me think about the agriculture industry, the state of Iowa, and even more importantly my own home. You see, home is where the heart is. If it weren’t for my roots back in Northeast Iowa, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have established a passion for agriculture, and I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog.

In the next two weeks, I will be traveling home for the summer. Another finals week will be done and my sophomore year at Iowa State will be in the books. Other students may decide to take the same path as myself; some may decide to take on an internship; others may look to study abroad. No matter the decision we make, we each can find success in our endeavors. Ultimately, we all need to be reminded that success follows passion. And if your passion takes you home, then that’s where you belong.

By Hannah Pagel

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Youth Institute Can Change Lives

According to one alumni participant, “The Youth Institute can change lives.” For her it meant an eventual connection with the World Food Prize and a trip to do food, nutrition, and health service in India.

On April 25, nearly 300 high school students participated in the Iowa Youth Institute on the Iowa State University campus. Some of them will eventually attend the World Food Prize, and a few will achieve scholarships to work with ag programs around the world. But all of them gain from the experience as they learn about the dynamic world of agriculture.

Participants gather from schools throughout Iowa, and the Youth Institute has been a model for more than 17 other states. During the day they share research, meet for roundtable discussions, and learn from many experts. “My report is about poor soil quality in Haiti,” said one student from Johnston High School near Des Moines. She hopes to travel to the impoverished island someday to help solve the problems associated with inadequate growing conditions for a hungry population.

Many of the students have never lived on a farm, but they realize the importance of agriculture and the need to make connections. Their interests range from helping with hunger programs to researching CRISPR techniques in genetics labs. “I just want to solve problems and help people,” said a junior from Keokuk. She is interested in a medical career, but this is her second visit to the Youth Institute. “I enjoyed it last year. It’s a great way to meet others and share information.”

The spirit of Norman Borlaug floats through the event, and most of the participants know him as the “scientist from small-town Iowa who helped feed millions.” The world needs more Normans—whether they be male or female, rural or urban, farmers or scientists. The Youth Institute is opening the door to the young people who can step up to the task.

by dan gogerty (photos from the Iowa Youth Institute WFP site)