From Kenyon-Wanamingo senior Michael Pliscott’s perspective, joining FFA is more than being part of an organization. It’s a feeling of being a part of something much bigger than that.
Each year, FFA chapters around the country celebrate National FFA Week as a time to share what FFA is and the impact it has on members every day. Though many activities and events are different this year, the impact of FFA is ever-lasting.
For the 2019-20 year, K-W FFA Advisor Chuck Larson said things were looking great for the K-W FFA chapter.
“We had just come off of our third consecutive Premier Chapter Exhibitor for the Minnesota State Fair and were looking forward to a great school year,” said Larson.
K-W FFA also had four teams qualify for state competition, four members ready to receive their State Degrees, Isabelle Patterson all set as a Star candidate for the Agribusiness division, Emma Berquam was ready to interview for her American Degree and Pliscott was elected as the Region 8 FFA Vice President.
Then, Larson said, the pandemic brought everything to a “virtual” halt. All activities for K-W FFA’s other teams were canceled and the State FFA convention was held virtually.
The State Fair was also canceled for 2020 and all activities, leadership camps, the National Convention and all judging contests were re-scheduled and put onto a virtual platform. Though it has been quite a change from previous years and students may find it harder to make those connections that they did face-to-face, Larson believes K-W’s FFA students have made the best out of the situation and will continue to perform at the highest level.
Looking ahead to this year, Poquette will receive his State Degree, four students will apply for their American degrees and K-W FFA’s strongest teams will be competing in their virtual contests to see if they qualify for state in March and April.
Larson, who is also on the State Fair FFA exhibits committee, said they have been planning the logistics of a modified State Fair for this summer.
“I believe that, barring any pandemic changes to the contrary, we will be able to show in and enjoy the state fair in 2021,” added Larson.
An inspiring sight
Pliscott, a six-year member of K-W’s FFA chapter, is also the K-W FFA president. He joined FFA because like other in his family did. His dad has been an advisor for many years and at the time he joined, his sister was a region officer.
Currently, Pliscott takes part in the Milk Quality CDE. Due to COVID-19, the bulk of fall contests were pushed back in hopes of being able to have in-person competitions. In the past, he participated in general livestock judging, best informed greenhand and the creed speaking CDE.
Though there are many things Pliscott enjoys in FFA, the most enjoyable are the connections he makes.
“Every competition, convention and event is filled with other members, eager to participate in the same activities that I am, which is a truly inspiring sight to see,” said Pliscott.
Despite living inside the city limits of Kenyon, Pliscott grew up around FFA and the animals of FFA members as his father grew up on a farm. He also started raising goats after fourth grade, which has helped strengthen his bond with both agriculture and the agricultural community.
So far, Pliscott’s favorite memory is attending the Region 8 greenhand camp in eighth grade. Since he hadn’t experienced much in FFA before then, camp really brought him out of his shell and helped make him into the person he is today.
“If I had never gone, I would have never taken the path I am on today, and I surely would not be able to speak in front of hundreds of people the way I can today,” added Pliscott.
After graduation, Pliscott plans to attend the University of Minnesota on the St. Paul campus and study applied economics, and audition for the Gophers marching band this spring.
Meeting new people
John Smith, a junior at K-W, decided to join FFA five years ago because both of his parents were FFA advisors while teaching at Hutchinson High School before moving to Kenyon, and they said it was fun. At first, he was skeptical that their idea of fun matched his, but tried it out and found he did enjoy being in FFA.
He is involved in the Poultry CDE and though they have not had any competitions this year, they hope to soon. He finds judging a fun activity to participate in, but he also enjoys meeting new people through judging.
“You never really realize how many new people you can meet when you go into new environments,” added Smith.
Smith lives on a small hobby farm between Kenyon and West Concord where he raises pigs, cattle and chickens, with his primary focus being his chickens. The two different types of breeds of chickens he raises are Rhode Island reds and black australorps. So far he has been raising chickens for about 10 years and it is something he looks forward to each day.
If he was convincing someone to join FFA, he would tell students it’s a lot of fun and that they will learn a lot.
“I have enjoyed all of the FFA experiences that I remember, and it truly allows you to realize more of what happens in the community whether it be in agriculture or just everyday life,” said Smith.
His favorite memory in FFA was attending the state convention for the first time, as it made him realize how big FFA was in Minnesota.
“It really made me realize how cool it was to be a part of something this big,” said Smith. “The judging was fun as usual but I met new people as well. and the guest speakers at the leadership workshops were very interesting and told good stories too.”