FFA inspires future farmers and more

Caitlin Boden of Salem combs her purebred black angus heifer as she and other participants from FFA and 4H programs prepare for the Utah State Junior Livestock Show at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds Wednesday, May 3, 2006. (Jason Olson, Deseret News)

FFA is a program that we hold in high regard. Brooke Glaittli, the founder of UtahLandowners.com is proud to have been a member of the FFA and is a continual supporter. Seeing the growth that it provides to its young members is exciting! The friendships, lessons, accountability, member confidence, responsibility and community interaction is in itself a reason to join.

We want to thank McKenzie Romero with Deseret News for writing this piece.

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RICHFIELD — Samantha Arehart didn’t grow up on a farm.

The oldest daughter in a military family, Arehart moved across state and international borders before settling near Logan seven years ago. She learned to ride and began competing in rodeo, but it wasn’t until she took an agricultural biology class that she became interested in FFA.

Wanting to overcome shyness, Arehart explained to her parents that she wanted to sign up for up for FFA, which they knew little about, to meet more of her classmates and to compete in public speaking events.

Now an outgoing state officer in the organization and a college freshman, Arehart spoke before more than 1,500 Utah high school students Friday, sharing her animated personal narrative of individuality and confidence.

McCoy Christiansen, however, is all cowboy. The Emery High School junior carries a lasso that he fiddles with between classes and has a light sunburn from the hours spent working on his family’s horse ranch. This is his third year at the state FFA convention.

The three-day event, held this year in Richfield at a satellite campus of Snow College, is a celebration of member achievements attended by students such as Arehart and Christiansen with interests ranging from farming to biology to business. Utah boasts one of the highest attended state conventions, according to Arehart.

“FFA isn’t what it may seem to be,” she said, pausing between meetings during her final days in office. “It’s something that will change the type of person you are for the better. It gives you opportunities and skills, not just in agriculture, but that are so beneficial to the rest of your life.”

Arehart is pursing a degree in international agricultural business at Utah State University.

At the convention, students are recognized for long-term agriculture and business projects they have completed, and they compete in events such as public speaking and job interviews.

For many students, dedication to agriculture remains a deeply important part of FFA and their life goals. Students are introduced as multiple-generation farmers, aspiring agriculture teachers, and children of FFA alumni.

“I’m almost certain I’m going to follow FFA and agriculture and rodeo through college,” Christiansen said. “(FFA) influences everything I do.”

Talitha Valdez, a senior and president of her FFA chapter at Uintah High School, said she doesn’t know yet what she wants to do for a career, but she believes FFA will help her decide.

After two years in the program, Valdez was a finalist Friday in the job interview competition, an experience she hopes will help her as she chooses a career.

“I’ve never had a real job interview,” she admitted, grateful for the practice. “I learned a lot, and I had fun doing it. It was just talking to people. It wasn’t too hard.”

Valdez travelled to FFA events Kentucky and Washington, D.C., where she saw how programs in other states operate and made friends with whom she still keeps in touch.

“Not everyone is a farmer,” said Valdez, who has raised livestock for FFA competitions. “There are so many things in FFA, not just farming and animals. That was a bit of an eye-opener.”

Valdez’s parents drove from Vernal on Friday to see their daughter receive an FFA degree. Over the past two years, they have been impressed by her newfound leadership skills.

“To bring a group of kids together and be their president, helping them out, and finding new kids for future growth,” said her father, Nick Valdez.

Her mother, Becky Valdez, an FFA alumna, said she admires how her daughter has focused on motivating other members.

“She’s become very responsible,” she said.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spoke to students receiving their state FFA degrees, a two-year effort, reminiscing about summers of long, hard work on his grandfather’s farm in Hawaii. He joined FFA, he said, after seeing several cute girls on the island wearing iconic blue FFA jackets.

Reyes emphasized sharing defining principles of hard work and service, as well as those of faith and prayer for those with personal religious convictions.

“I’ve come to realize that instead of FFA being reliant on national values and national life, I really think that the strength of our nation and our way of life relies on the values that FFA embodies,” he said. “My challenge to you is to continue. If you hold those things precious in your personal lives, don’t keep them (to yourself). Talk about them publicly. It’s OK to share that because it will inspire other people.”