FFA and 4-H Alumni - Come Home to Farm Bureau

By Shantel Koering
MFBF YF&R Committee Member

I was in Louisville. It was an exciting, nerve racking and slightly bitter place for the end of an eight year FFA career, that had me thinking back to the beginning of those years. But even before that I gave my time and energy to another organization. We were the Ripley Raiders 4-H Club, my cousins and siblings and I put on skits, went tubing and held some interesting meetings and that’s where I started as did many other proud 4-Hers.

It was there that I had my first taste of meetings run via Roberts Rules and my innate skill for taking meeting minutes, It was there I had stood on a stage playing a news reporter for a skit, enjoying the attention and the people, the camaraderie in the room and the people more so than the spotlight. All before I ever had the chance to advocate for agriculture.

From there I moved to advocate for dairy where I did get my first stuttering try at a classroom visit. Both moves , the first to 4-H where I was with family and incredibly shy, the second to the dairy industry where I learned how the majority of the population felt about public speaking, because I too was and still am outrageously nervous before speaking with a large crowd, all developed my teamwork and leadership skills. These experiences paved the way for a stunningly exciting, nerve racking and at times bitter sweet FFA career, where I held chapter office twice, competed in my respective Career Development Events and ran for state office.

Which brings me back to the beginning of the end, I was in a room with a record number of recipients anxiously waiting and after a couple of long hallways and a few pictures as well as thoughts about what I should do if I fell on stage, I walked across the big stage with my fellow FFA members in front of 60,076 plus people to receive the golden key of my American Degree. It was my proudest and most sad moment of my life thus far and my thoughts were of what do I do after I take my beloved blue corduroy off for the last time? Where do I go from here?

But just like those organizations before, this too was a stepping stone, not an ending but a new beginning. I had heard about Farm Bureau from my dairy association coordinator, knew some high school classmates of my aunts were active in Farm Bureau and had heard many times the huge amount of support and sponsorship Farm Bureau gave to the organizations that I loved.

So the transition from FFA to Farm Bureau was smooth, the structure was familiar and similar as well as the flow of events, it felt like I had stepped into an older lifelong version of FFA. But that wasn’t all, throughout my leadership journey that has lead me to Farm Bureau, I have noticed a common theme and realized why I joined 4-H, American Dairy Association, FFA and Farm Bureau, because of the people.

The camaraderie, the shared sadness and joy amongst people with similar interests and a singular goal. I didn’t join because of the cool gear or the possibility of advancement, but because when I walked into a meeting room of people I had never met, and we introduced ourselves, it felt like coming home.

I knew right away despite age gaps or a difference in preference of machinery color that even though we only see each other a couple of times a year - that these are people I can talk to, advocate for agriculture with and have fun with. They all care, about each other, our organizations and even me, whether that means taking care of me on a trip to Nashville where I learned that the camaraderie and unity crosses state lines. I wholeheartedly hope to find many, many others who are willing to join me for this next part of our leadership journey.