Original article published in the Mower County Independent, Thursday March 24th, 2022. Reprinted with permission and gratitude.
By Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Emily Miner’s FFA’ed out of her zone.
For that, she’s forever thankful.
“I have not been anywhere special because of FFA, but it has encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone,” said the Kingsland senior FFA member who is proud to be claiming her FFA State Degree at the Minnesota FFA state convention next month. She is as a member of the Spring Valley-Wykoff FFA chapter advised by Ag instructor Kristal Brogan.
Miner joined FFA as a seventh grader in 2017 “because all of my siblings had been in it, and it looked fun.” She explained, “I like the opportunities and challenges that it gives me. It has influenced me to do more in my community and to help others. I enjoy that we work together in groups outside of the classroom and get involved in the community and that I get to compete with my friends.”
She elaborated, “I have been on the Horse team, Nursery and Landscape team, and Small Animals team. I joined the Horse team because I’ve always been interested in horses. I joined the others just as something to do as a time-passer. My favorite event is competing in my horse career development event (CDE).” Also, she’s gotten to lend a hand during FFA service projects, such as making blankets for the local nursing homes, along with participation in the chapter’s other efforts to fulfill its mission to work toward bettering community through leadership.
“A challenge was trying to find time between school and sports to get to work. It’s been rewarding to learn all of the things that I did. It has helped me succeed in my work experience—it’s hard work to try and juggle so many things, but it’s rewarding in the end. Being in FFA has helped me learn to do my job better, and it will help my future by allowing me to better learn in my career…and [it] helped me learn things that I may not have learned.”
Miner is excited to attend the state FFA convention to receive her degree.
“It’s knowing that I was able to get my degree before I graduated. It’s an honor and an award that I had the ability to receive … I look forward to going on stage and walking in front of everyone and knowing what I accomplished.”
She shared that she is “enlisted in the Army and hope to make a career out of it,” but that if she has a chance to help future FFA members find their way, she’d gladly do so, concluding, “I am always willing to help someone if they are in need. Just join FFA. The opportunities are endless, and it helps you grow as a person.”
Fellow Kingsland senior Emma Kuisle is also receiving her FFA State Degree, and Brogan honored her work as a member with an announcement on the chapter’s Facebook page, stating, “Emma Kuisle participated in the Small Animals competition on Feb. 8 at P-E-M High School. She was interested in trying this event because she is planning to go to South Dakota State University (SDSU) to major in Vet Science. She really enjoyed the competition and thought the information is helpful to further her career goals.”
Kuisle joined FFA in 2018 because she “had friends in it and wanted to show my animals.” She’s learned leadership skills and determined her career choice through her FFA experiences. “I have realized that I want to be a vet and currently work at Spring Valley Vet Clinic. I am going to SDSU to major in Animal Science.”
As an FFA’er, she’s also gotten to be chapter sentinel, meet “friends from other schools,” has participated in the job interview and veterinary science CDEs, been part of the floriculture team—finding that she’s preparing for her future through the Veterinary Science CDE, and that she enjoys horticulture—and been able to make a difference in her community through the chapter’s contributions to the Christmas in Fillmore County Christmas gift family assistance program. She’s also been on hand for the chapter’s corn drive, taught others about farming through the Little Farmhands and Miracle of Birth educational opportunities and taken part in FFA Week activities. Additionally, she’s been part of the goat and dairy shows at the Fillmore County Fair.
Kuisle named “recording hours and completing work” as her personal FFA challenges, but that she enjoys getting “to show off my hard work as an FFA member.”
She anticipates going to the state convention because it will be her first and only chance to attend, as the previous conventions were canceled due to the COVID pandemic. Having her FFA State Degree in hand will be to Kuisle like getting a bucket filled with kittens … almost.
“It is a good way to show your hard work and show your dedication to agriculture,” she commented, inviting others to consider FFA membership for the potential it holds, even if they don’t pursue their degrees.
“Do it! You will not regret it! You will make lifelong skills and meet friends.”
Kuisle and Miner will be among the numerous Spring Valley-Wykoff FFA members attending the state convention, as Brogan’s lineup of deserving students has grown since the first event in October through the most recent held in mid-February. The Soils team took fourth place at competition, with an announcement posted on the FFA Facebook page boasts, “Great job to the soils team on placing fourth at the Soils competition … they will advance to state in April!” followed by a list of the team’s membership— Ryley Guy, Kensie Heusinkveld, Jacob Warren and Emily Mlinar.
The Fish and Wildlife team hooked a second-place win at competition Feb. 8, with members Carson Wolfgram, Courtland Drury DeBoer, Connor Tangen, Dylan Schultz and Sam Snitker celebrating their individual placings, as well as their advancement to State.
Forestry team members—seniors Maddie Snitker, Hannah Lange, Becca Hanson and Lexi Harwood—have competed together for quite some time and also have the State convention on their calendars, readying themselves to show their knowledge about identifying the trees in a glen, as well as best management practices.
Also, a Feb. 16 meats competition at Stinson’s Meat Locker in Houston, Minn., garnered the Spring Valley-Wykoff FFA’s team a third place on the bracket and a trip to match their grading skills at State convention. Participating in this year’s team are Sam Howard, Ira Schmidt, Seth Howard, Gavin Hubka and Parker Johnson.
Brogan then posted just this past week that she’s “super proud of the members that competed on Friday in Cannon Falls,” as the Farm Management team placed third and is set to advance to State—including Audrey Webster, Anika Reiland and Kennedy Fenske.
Finally, Brogan extended her congratulations to the Ag Mechanics team, comprised of Max Erdman, Landan Hunemuller, William Arndorfer and Zach Reiland, who “placed fourth and missed going to State by seven points, as State competitions only take the top three teams … William placed third individually and is able to advance to the State competition by himself.” And a young Dairy Foods team gave it their best go at knowing what’s a good gallon of milk and chunk of cheese during the Dairy Foods meet, with Mylah Montgomery, Gretchen Hubka, Blake Krahn and Cody Howard taking close inspection of the calcium collection before them.
Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, Brogan’s FFA’ers have been found living to serve—gathering gifts for Christmas in Fillmore County; bringing small presents to Spring Valley Living (SVL), making Valentines for elementary students, carrying out annual fruit and bread braid sales; hosting FFA Week (including offering their fellow students the opportunity to pet farm animals during the FFA barnyard, held in the ag shop); testing their metal cutting skills using the department’s new plasma table to make trees for the elementary special education program for which the elementary “students will use magnets to manipulate the tree and work on various skills,” and collecting new hats, mittens and gloves to “help keep Kingsland cozy this winter.”
That’s not all the FFA’ers conquered, as another announcement posted explained, “Early October, these 14 members collected monetary and corn donations to raise a total of $9,000. ALL of the money was donated to True Friends (special needs camp), the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf, the Wykoff food shelf, and the Kingsland backpack (food) program.” And yet another post acknowledged the “24 FFA members who spent Friday making nine fleece tie blankets and hanging out.” Ultimately, the chapter’s membership entertains a very busy schedule each school year.
For more information on what’s getting students out of their zones on agriculture, log onto the Spring Valley-Wykoff FFA Facebook page.