A New Side of Convention

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Arkansas FFA Convention as a true “has-been.” I don’t mean this in a negative way, but it was the first year I joined the convention as an alumna.

In high school, I spent four different summers at Camp Couchdale as an FFA member, and last year I was behind the scenes and on stage as a state officer. This year, I was honored to return as a workshop presenter and a representative of Arkansas Farm Bureau and Arkansas Tech University.

The week gave me a fresh outlook on all that the FFA has given me through the years.

 

1. Confidence

As I facilitated three workshops with one of my old teammates (the fabulous Sunni Wise) I began to think how I would have never been able to do it without FFA. I remember when I went to my first FFA workshop as a ninth grader. I sat quietly, tried not to be noticed, and envied the students who seemed like they enjoyed answering questions and meeting new people. As I attended more and more camps, I began to notice a change in myself. Slowly but surely, I was no longer afraid to speak in front of people or to make new friends. Over time, I began to appreciate who I was as a person and stopped wishing I was someone else. I was happy to be Lindsey.

2. Friends

Since ninth grade, I have made more friends through this organization than I can count. I have met people at camps, conventions, and competing in events like CDEs and talent. The networking I have gained through becoming involved has been incredible. I’ve met professionals and individuals whom I can turn to for advice across the state and country, all because I sported the blue corduroy jacket.

3. Ambition

I’ve always considered myself an ambitious person. From the time I started school, I always wanted good grades and worked towards the highest honors and biggest wins. However, through FFA, I learned that success is not only measured by top grades, blue ribbons, and plaques (even if they feel great at the time). Success is knowing you worked your hardest to achieve your goals and not walking away wishing you had done more. To me, success is also learning from your mistakes. Through showing livestock, speaking contests, and judging poultry, I was driven to always do my best and to make myself, and those supporting me, proud.

4. Support

This point hit me hard when facilitating our workshop. During it, we had students write down a goal they had and obstacles that make it hard to achieve that goal. Students wrote things like, “lack of supporters,” “fear of failure,” or other hurdles that discouraged them. For the next part of our workshop, we had them pass around their papers they had wrote on. As they passed them around, they were asked to read the person’s obstacles and write down a way to overcome it or a word or encouragement. “I am here for you,” “You can do it!” and “I believe in you,” were all commonly found phrases. Suddenly, these members who had been paired in groups with strangers, found the support system they needed and craved.

5. passion

Growing up, I always thought I would follow in the footsteps of my mom and dad and would enter the medical field. My grandpa has made his living from being a dairy farmer and now a beef cattle farmer, but I never imagined I would enter the field of agriculture myself. Through FFA, I found how passionate I am to tell the story of agriculture. I love speaking, writing, and interacting with people. Public speaking contests, going to leadership workshops, and ultimately serving a year as a state officer opened my eyes to that. Not everyone who joins FFA will enter the agricultural field, but it is an excellent gateway to find your passion and learn skills that you will use the rest of your life.

 

Millions have proudly worn the same blue jacket I did and many more FFA members continue to today. I am proud to be an alumna of an organization that’s not just “cows, sows, and plows” but also “beakers, speakers, and job seekers.”

Photos of our workshop from the Arkansas FFA Convention courtesy of another one of my incredible teammates, Caleigh Moyer. She’s a killer photographer, cosmetologist, agvocate, leader, and best of all, friend.

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Your Claim to Fame

My freshman year of college, I had the opportunity to serve as an Arkansas FFA state officer. During this time, I was able to travel all over the state, some parts of the country, talk to legislators, spend time with incredible FFA members, and have experiences of a lifetime. Before I retired from office, my fellow officers and I each presented a retiring address (RA) to FFA members at our state convention. My RA highlighted my Papaw and other individuals who make in impact in others’ lives, maybe without even realizing it. I’m by no means the best speech writer in the world, but I still believe in this message and figured I would share an excerpt from my  RA as a reminder than we are constantly influencing others. It also seemed like a great opportunity to talk about how much The Farmer (my Papaw) has influenced my life. So without further ado, here’s a piece from my retiring address titled, “Your Claim to Fame.”

For anyone who knows me, they know my biggest role model would have to be my grandfather. My Papaw has got to be the most hardworking, God fearing, stubborn, and loving man I know. No, you will never hear him played on the radio, or see him on TV. Honestly, outside of my small hometown of Damascus, not many people even know him. I spend every Sunday at his house after church and every time I see him he asks, “Well Lindsey, what’s your claim to fame today?” The first time he asked me this I was honestly confused. I’m not famous by any means, nor do I ever expect to be. Papaw could tell I wasn’t sure how to answer so he smiled and said, “Well my claim to fame is I married well, I have a loving family, and a great church home. You have your talents and you were blessed with being smart.” I thought about this for a long time. What had I done to make an impact or to leave my mark on the world around me? Have I done anything notable I could call my claim to fame? If the great things you’ve done in your life or how you have impacted others measures true frame, then my grandpa is one of the top people I can think of. He has truly built me into the person I am today and shaped many others as well through leading by example and being the honest, hardworking man he is. My Papaw may not be heard about across the world, but to me, he couldn’t be any more famous.

Since it was a seven minute long address, I’ll spare you the whole thing. This part meant the most to me though and really hit home. We all leave a mark on others’ lives; big or small, good or bad. We are the ones who decide what we do in our everyday lives to leave an impression. So in the words of my Papaw, “What will be your claim to fame?”

 

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The Farmer actually left the farm to come watch me give my retiring address at the 2014 Arkansas FFA State Convention

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Always one of my biggest supporters

The Has Been

Today I went to watch my little cousin show her sheep at the Arkansas State Fair. As I walked towards the ever-so-familiar barn, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion.

It’s been two years since I’ve stepped foot into the ring to show livestock. In high school showing sheep and cattle was what I lived for. When some of the students getting their animals ready caught my eye, I found myself wishing I could be in their place.

I miss the pearl snaps, rhinestone belts, big buckles, intense eye contact with the judge, and the smell of Freshen Up being sprayed before walking into the ring. But most of all,  I miss the competition of trying the have the best animal.

Before my cousin sold her lamb, I asked if I could brace it one last time. If you look at the picture below, it’s clear that I’m out of practice.
I tried to place the lambs I thought should have won and compared them to the judge’s placings. It proved how much trends in livestock have changed over the course of a few years.

As much as I miss it, I had a good run in my show career.
For now, I’ll wait until I have children that I can turn into my own little show protégées and enjoy being the has been.

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My cousin’s lamb “Rosie” and I