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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Falling Down and Getting Up

“Ummmm…I’m not too sure about this…”

“Oh come on, Tiffany. It’ll be fine.”

“But I really don’t think you understand. I have no balance, no hand-eye coordination, actually no coordination what so ever. This is not going to end well.”

“Tiffany, just get on the chair lift.”

It was December 31 and my friends and I had ventured up to Boyne Highlands Resorts in Michigan for a ski trip. And this was the big day--my first time ever skiing.

I was arguing with my friend, Kelli, who was trying to convince me that it was ok to attempt a more advanced hill, the next hill up from the bunny hill. But the thing was that I hadn’t even successfully made it down the bunny hill once and here she was trying to get me to try the taller one. I finally gave up arguing and got on the chair lift.

We reached the top of the hill and I stumbled off the lift. We stood at the top of the hill, I looked down and just knew this was going to end badly. I just started talking to Kelli and asking her a million questions but then she caught on, “Tiffany, you know you can’t stall forever. Sooner or later you’re going to have to go down the hill.”

I closed my eyes and pushed off.

First mistake:closing my eyes. You should never close your eyes when trying to ski, it kind of prevents you from seeing. Which is kind of important.

Second mistake: pshing off with a little too much excitement makes you go faster than you should. I made it about a whole 10 feet before I fell for the first time on the hill. Then I fell another four times on the way down.

For the most part I rolled down the hill and landed in a heap at the bottom. Kelli skied up neatly beside me, “Ready to go again?” Obviously she just missed my epic fail. But we got back on the chairlift and headed up the hill again.

Round 2: ow this time I fell again but with even more style this time. As I fell down the hill this time I lost my grip on my ski poles and “Oooops…there goes the first one……. oh and there goes the second. ….oh great there went a ski…..fantastic, now I’ve lost both skis.”

I just left a nice little trail of ski equipment behind me as I tumbled down the hill. Kelli collected my things as she came down behind me, “Alright, let’s go,” she said. She had to be kidding. Again? Really?

Round 3: This time was the best of them all. I made it about half way down the hill and things were going just fine until out of nowhere appeared a group of people. On my third trip down the hill I managed to take out an entire family of four and cause everyone else on the hill to fear for their life.

After about 14 more unsuccessful tries I was just about done. It had reached the point where my friends would act like Olympic judges and score the originality of my falls. “And the judges scores are in…7, 7.5, and a 4. That was a tough break on that final score. Maybe she’ll redeem herself with the next fall. ”

I was ready to be finished for the day but Kelli told me I should try it one more time. I made it to the top of the hill, preparing myself for the fall and the judges’ brutal scores.

By some miracle I made it down the hill in one piece and without falling. I had no idea, and still to this day have no idea, how that happened. But one thing is for sure, that without Kelli there to encourage me and keep me going, it wouldn’t have happened.

Whenever we have a dream or goal we hope to achieve, the most important thing we can do is surround ourselves with people who care and people who support us. Chances are our first few attempts might be unsuccessful but when surrounded by people who encourage us and believe in us, that makes the final goal of reaching our dreams that much easier. Without Kelli there at the ski hill with me, I would still be taking out small children on the bunny hill or would have just given up all together. Thanks to her encouragement and her persistence, even though it was a tough road, I was eventually able to reach my goal of skiing down the hill.

Whether we are trying out for the varsity soccer team, competing in a new CDE, auditioning for the school musical, or attempting to learn to play the guitar reaching our goals can be difficult. But they are so much closer and so much more within our grasps when we take the initiative to surround ourselves with people who care and believe in us. When others can see our infinite potential, that is when it becomes even more clear to ourselves.
Tiffany Rogers is the 2010-2011 National FFA Eastern Region Vice President. She is a member of the Cassopolis Ross Beatty FFA chapter in Michigan. She is currently attending Michigan State University where she studies agricultural business.

The Forrest Gump Approach

Shakespeare has nothing on the great Forrest Gump when he said the classic line “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get!”

Well, I didn’t have many boxes of chocolates this FFA Week while in North Carolina but I of course had some great BBQ, met some stellar people, and really saw how this quote was true as each day brought new adventures.

Many of us have seen the movie Forrest Gump and can quote several lines. This line about chocolates is probably the most recognizable to us. Every day brings with it new challenges, hardships, and those moments that make our heart smile. We don’t necessarily know what is in store for us each day but we can be fully confident in the fact that we can each do something great for others both in our communities and even globally.

I saw first-hand during FFA week how FFA members do make an impact in their communities by having breakfasts, animal nurseries and Ag literacy projects, coordinating career fairs, and even building up school spirit. Yet, FFA members’ impact travels far beyond their own communities. FFA members can and do make a giant difference for people halfway around the world.

We hear the word ‘global’ and the fact that it encompasses each individual around the world. We hear about how food production is crucial to saving lives. Although it can sometimes be hard to recognize how we can make that impact for others outside our community, FFA members continually amaze me in how much determination and thought they give to others next door and others over 1,000 miles away.

The determination of one FFA member can literally save lives. While my teammates and I went to our first schools to give workshops, I was able to meet one person that showed me that when focus and passion meet, anything is possible.

I met Jessica at Lebanon High School. Jessica has a heart for service and a passion to help others. I learned that Jessica had gone to Haiti on a mission trip to help in any way that she could. While she was there, she saw that children were not getting medical assistance and nothing seemed to be getting done.

This fired up Jessica and she was driven to help. When she returned, she has put her focus on setting up STAR Missions (starmissions.org). This is a program that helps to raise money to help children have the medical attention that they need. Jessica lives out her favorite quote, "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." Jessica truly is making a difference around the world.

Similar to Jessica, my good friend Austin is an FFA member from Virginia and has seen a need and has focused on doing what he can to solve this problem. Austin has been able to do a lot of travel in his life and on one particular mission trip to Nicaragua; he realized that “no one should have to live in such poverty just because of where they are from…” Motivated to help, Austin has devoted much time and energy in building “Feed By Seed.” (Check it out on Facebook!)

This organization that he started is focused on raising agricultural resources, with an emphasis on education, to help people produce enough food for themselves and their families. Austin says that "Through educating underdeveloped countries on agriculture we can help save lives through an abundance of secure food.” Austin sees the need and has reached out to find what he can do to help in the global marketplace.

Jessica and Austin are just two great examples of FFA members that are actively engaged in the global marketplace. Each one started off by having that heart of service. Then they took action and began reaching their own potential. We all can make that kind of impact each and every day. I saw it during FFA Week and I continue to see it each day I meet new FFA members.

Each day brings with it something completely new. When Jenny asked “Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re going to be?” Forrest responded, “Aren’t-aren’t I going to be me?”

We don’t know what each day will bring but if we are focused on who we are and how we can help others, we most certainly have the power to help make a change in our backyard or around the world!


Wyatt DeJong is the 2010-2011 National FFA Central Region Vice President. He is a member of the Winner High School FFA chapter in South Dakota. He currently attends South Dakota State University where he studies agricultural education and animal science.

Achieving Your Infinite Potential

The darkness of the morning began to disappear behind the warm rays of the sun peaking on the horizon. The sound of calf blowers began to echo in the morning silence. Aromas of “Zoom Bloom” and other aerosol fumes saturated the air.

The age was 8-years-old; the stature was 4’0”; the mass was 50 pounds; the title was Gila-Cliff Dwellers 4-H Club Cloverbud; and the name was Shannon.

Nervous and excited, I walked into the beef cattle barn at the Grant County Fairgrounds, and led my first show heifer to her feed bucket. Today was show day. On the way to the show ring, my mind was racing through all of the tips and tricks of showing heifers. However, the only thing I could remember was my dad’s favorite piece of advice, “Shannon, when you hear a rock whiz by your ear…You know to get that heifer’s head up!”

My father’s advice would prove to be more beneficial and useful than a possible headache if my arm got lazy. Instead, the simple words embodied the idea that to truly become the best we can be, often times, we need that “whizzing” reminder to encourage us to pay attention to how well we are living our lives. When we hold ourselves accountable for every action and continue to strive to do better, we build an infrastructure to achieve our infinite potential. However, the construction never stops. When we make the most out of our potential, we must continually search for ways to improve ourselves so we can better serve others.

When we hear the word achievement, what is the first thing that comes to mind… plaques on the wall, trophies in the case, ribbons on a nail, or titles on a piece of paper? More times than not, we think about a physical award that signifies our endeavors rather than recognizing invaluable personal growth that can be developed along the way.

During FFA Week, we as FFA members have had a unique opportunity to help others achieve their own infinite potential. Service activities this week have been endless! You may have hosted an agricultural or FFA awareness day, read to an Elementary student, coached a little league baseball team, picked up trash along the side of the highway, or volunteered at a soup kitchen. Consider how to continue modeling an example of service while striving each day to help someone else, and enjoy endless opportunities to utilize premier leadership, personal growth, and career success long after FFA Week is over.

Don’t wait for a “whizzing” reminder to be the best that you can be. Continue working toward making the most of your abilities by serving others. Each constructive step you take will be one more stride closer achieving your own infinite potential!


Shannon Norris is the 2010-2011 National FFA Western Region Vice President. She is a member of the Cliff FFA chapter in Cliff, New Mexico. She is currently attending New Mexico State University where she studies agricultural education and animal science.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Envisioning Our Potential

I have a dream... This phrase may have been made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but it something all of us have said at one point or another. My dreams and goals have always been about future careers, countries to visit or people to meet. However, one day my goals changed from the things I wanted to accomplish to the things that would help others. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina demolished the Gulf Coast. Since my parents are missionaries, they chose to go to the site of the damage and help with the cleanup effort in Slidell, Louisiana. My goals at the time changed. My new goal was to travel with my parents and help as many people as possible in the week and a half I was there.

Too often we set our goals and give ourselves tunnel vision. Our objective is the only thing we focus on and we lose sight of other goals and dreams that can be show themselves along the way. We must all invest in our potential to achieve more. Not only can we succeed in achieving our dreams, but we can also make a difference along the way. I chose to go to Slidell even though there were other things going on in my life. I had school to worry about, FFA events to prepare for, and other extracurricular activities going on. But, by allowing myself to reach my full potential I was able to make an impact in the lives of other people who genuinely needed it.

My goal was to help people. That’s what I envisioned doing. FFA members, during this FFA week and for the remainder of our lives let’s remember to envision our goals and dreams. Let’s remember that it doesn’t matter how big our goals are. We each have the potential inside of us to achieve our goals. The only questions left is do we have the courage to allow that potential to create big goals and dream and set out to make them milestones in our lives.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did have a dream. He dreamed of an America where all people were treated equally and respectfully. He had the courage to have a big dream. Furthermore, he had the courage to make that dream come true. Envision the potential of your dreams and goals and have the courage to make them happen.

James Flatt is the 2010-2011 National FFA Southern Region Vice President. He is a member of the Wilson Central FFA Chapter in Lebanon, Tennessee.He currently attends Tennessee Technological University where he studies agricultural business.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My FFA Jacket, My Life

As I pull into the gravel driveway leading down to my house, I tune out the music blaring from the radio and start to reflect over my life.

When I get to the end of the rocky path, I put my car in park and shut off the engine. I pull my tired body out of the car and trudge towards the back door of my log cabin home. All seems at peace in the darkness of my back yard. I could faintly hear the distant sounds of my sheep beading down in the straw, and the normal howls of the coon dogs were not present. The world was at rest.

I walked through the quiet, dim lighted, house towards the stairs to begin my ascent up to my room. While I climbed the carpeted staircase, I begin unzipping my Blue Corduroy FFA Jacket; as I do the thought enters my mind that the past day of my life, at the State FFA Convention, was the last time I would ever wear this jacket that had played such an important role in making me who I am.

Suddenly, the stories that I have heard from FFA members before me, were becoming reality. My eyes swelled up with tears. When I got to my room I stood in front of my full length mirror, and commenced to remove my jacket, the same way as I had many times before. All at once tears began to fall down my cheeks. I laid my meaningful jacket on my bed; and stared at it, observing every aspect.

As I smooth my jacket out with my hands; I flip open the sides and inside lay more than 30 pins representing my accomplishments. As I read the engraving on each shiny, quarter sized pin, I see many titles that I would have once never imagined would be there; multimedia, talent contest winner, showmanship, star green hand, and many more. The most bizarre to my mind, however, is Public Speaking.

As a freshman I would have never stood up in front of a group of people to talk; much less, would I have voluntarily stood up to talk in front of people! But now, I have no problem with doing that, or more, and according to the Agriculture teachers of the Barren River Region I must be pretty good at it, especially, to deserve to be the winner of the Sheep Impromptu Speech competition. Even though every one of these pins was awarded to me to show my accomplishments, I know that these skills will forever play a role in my life.

I gently close the side, and continue smoothing my jacket out, so that it now lies flat so I can see the front. When I look at it as a whole, the thing that stands out against all the blue, as bright as the rising sun, is the gold! Because of the FFA, I have set standards for my life; I believe that these standards I have set for myself are the best I could make. This making them my golden standards! Just like the gold on the jacket, my standards stand out.

As I reminisce over my many years in FFA, I think back to when I set my first goal. At FFA camp, five years ago, I sat in my spot on the cool grass ground and I wrote my life goals, my career goals, and my FFA goals on a little slip of light yellow paper. The words I wrote on that paper would never mean anything to someone else, but for me they were the start of the standards I would continue to set for myself. Today, my standards are so much higher than the first standards I set; but without those, my standards would never be as golden as they are today!

As I run my fingers over the golden thread I read the cursive name, stitched into the fabric, lying beneath them. It’s my name, my identity in this world. Who I will always be no matter where I go, or what I do. By saying a name someone knows who you are, and what you stand for in this big world of people.

There are more than 500,000 FFA members in the United States. At the National FFA Convention each October, one-third of those members meet in Indianapolis, Indiana at the same time. Every single one of us was wearing the same thing: a black skirt or black pants, and a blue corduroy jacket. Even though we all dressed similar we were all individuals, some showing weaknesses others showed as strengths, but all working together as a team. Ours names are a lasting sign of each of our individuality. My name will forever be a reminder that I am the only person like me.
I can lead myself, or others, to do what has to be done to complete any task. I am not a follower, I am a leader!

I pick up my jacket, and turn it over. At the top, in gold, is the name of my state, "Kentucky." At the bottom of my jacket in gold letters there is written the name "Barren River Region." This name means so much to me. It's where I’m from, the friends I’ve made are from, and the family that loves me is from. But, there is one thing that this name means that has nothing to do with anyone but myself. That is the courage to push myself outside my comfort zone, so that I may reach my dreams, and the hard work and dedication of running for a regional officer. That name means the courage to endeavor something I might have never achieved.

Through running for a regional officer I earned the privilege to wear my region on my jacket. On the day of the election, I remember standing all alone, with my hot sweaty palms clutching on to a paper clip, in front of all those delegates who I knew were judging me; but from that I learned, you will never succeed if you never try. I believe in being more than what’s expected, and by being a regional officer, and proudly representing the Barren River Region of the Kentucky FFA Association, those expectations where exceeded and it also advanced me one step closer to my dream of being a state FFA officer!

Throughout my life, there have been so many abrupt changes, and somehow God has found a way to hold me together. When I look at the FFA jacket, there may be gold embellishments, and awards. There may be titles, and emblems, but there will only be one thing that stays the same no matter what you add or take away. That one thing will always be the blue corduroy jacket, which holds everything together. Just like that jacket holds all those “things” together.

I carefully place a white plastic hanger inside the jacket, and zip it up. I hold it up in front of me as I carry it to the closet. I continue thinking of all the memories made while I was wearing that jacket. The friends, the laughs, the crying, the trips, and the people I helped. Who would have known a jacket could change a life? For me, and the countless other FFA members who zipped up a blue corduroy FFA Jacket, we will forever understand the impact that one article of clothing can have.

When I get to my closet I push all the clothes to the front of the rail, and I place the jacket in the back of my closet. I turn off the light and shut the door. I walk away to start a new chapter of my life, with my invisible FFA jacket still zipped up tight.


Chelsea Daugherty is a senior FFA member and president of the Butler County FFA chapter in Morgantown, KY. FFA is a driving force in her life. After graduation this spring she intends to further develop her communication skills while attending Murray State University and majoring in Agriculture Communications and Public Relations.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

George Washington and Infinite Potential

Even 211 years after his death, the remembrance of his impeccable leadership qualities continues to resonate throughout history. His esteemed character, founded in trustworthiness, a diligent work ethic, common sense, and a genuine devotion to servant leadership, continues to captivate millions. America will never forget the man who stood firm against all odds to defend the cause of freedom, the founding father who had the remarkable ability to lead by example, a visionary who dreamed of sovereignty for a new nation.

On February 22, 1732, the man that would come to be known for his ability to put his potential to work to create positive change and leave a lasting impact was welcomed into this world. On this Tuesday, February 22, 2011, FFA members from Alaska to Puerto Rico and from Maine to Hawaii gather not only to celebrate National FFA Week but also to commemorate the life and legacy of the man pictured on the station marker of the treasurer. His name: George Washington. His quality: infinite potential.

Potential—we’ve all heard this word, but what does it really mean? And, how did George Washington utilize his potential as a leader? Potential is the ability to make something happen. Initiating a change, delivering an impact, accomplishing a goal—all of these things begin with potential. Possessing potential is having the capacity to act. As a visionary, soldier, farmer, and the first President of the United States, Washington demonstrated to us that confidently and passionately putting potential to use through action is not optional if we expect to attain greatness. In the absence of action, potential alone is valueless. In order to utilize our potential, we must take action.

Among my fondest memories of times spent by my father’s side are those in which we have shared deep, meaningful conversations corning life, happiness, and the value of hard work and conviction. Dad always says, “Son, you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. As long as you believe in yourself and work hard, nothing is impossible.” My father’s simple words of wisdom have not once let me down. By his example, he has shown me that, through hard work, determination, and belief, we can each achieve things beyond our wildest imaginations.

Like Washington’s dream of one day establishing an independent nation, each of us has a dream. For some, maybe that dream is helping to feed the world by becoming a farmer, rancher, or other leader in the agriculture industry. Perhaps that dream is living to serve others as a parent, doctor, teacher, coach, or engineer. Or maybe, right now, that dream involves zipping a blue corduroy jacket to the top alongside over 523,000 other FFA members to help make a positive difference in our local communities or wearing a uniform as a soldier in a position of service to our great nation. Whatever those dreams look like for us, our potential to set goals, take action, and bring our dreams to life has no limits. FFA members, our potential is infinite.

Dream, act, achieve! Decide today where your infinite potential will take you!

Landan Schaffert is the 2010-2011 National FFA Secretary. He is a member of the Otis FFA Chapter in Colorado. He currently attends Colorado School of Mines where he majors in electrical engineering.

Monday, February 21, 2011


To some, she was the best card player in town. To others, she was a mother, sister, daughter and friend. Some considered her a book worm, nanny, jam maker and animal lover. During her lifetime she served under a plethora of titles, but to me, she was simply Grandmother Hopie.

My great grandmother Hopie, instead of focusing on all of the titles given to or passed down to her, chose to simply live her life untitled. She set fancy and unique titles aside to selflessly serve all those she encountered. She invited others into her home, made food for church dinners and for those in need, gave of her resources, took her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren fishing, called friends and family nearly every day, smiled at everyone she came across and although she never knew it, the number of lives my great grandmother Hopie positively effected was countless.

Each of us has the capacity to serve in a similar manner and to live our lives untitled. Regardless of whom we are, where we come from, what we have done or where we are headed and no matter of the titles we hold or the awards we have won, each of us are responsible to serve with humility and reach out to our fellow members, teachers, advisors, those in need and each person we encounter. Our organization has the potential to reach more persons, do more good and change more lives than we could have ever imagined. Our potential is infinite!

As we begin National FFA Week, be aware of the potential we possess to serve and to reach out. Help in a soup kitchen, read a book to a young child, buy a friend’s lunch, write your agricultural education teacher or FFA advisor a handwritten thank you note, open the door for someone, let a stranger cut you in line, shake someone’s hand firmly, sit by the student who usually sits alone in class, e-mail an old friend, smile at everyone you encounter and then tell them all about FFA and the impact it has had on your life.

When we serve others, live our lives untitled, obtain humility and reach out to others, we are able to tap into that Infinite Potential that will ultimately change the lives around us and in return change our own.

Good luck, serve wholly, live untitled, realize our Infinite Potential and Happy National FFA Week!
~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Riley Pagett is 2010-2011 National FFA President. He is a member of the Woodward FFA Chapter in Woodward, Oklahoma. He is studying agricultural communications and religion at Oklahoma State University.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Joys of Japan...and Tofu

Well, the adventures continue here in Japan. Yesterday we were up with the sunrise, on a bus and off to Nikko, Japan. While in Nikko yesterday we visited a Tofu plant. Yes, we did sample several different kinds. No, they weren’t all that bad. We had fried tofu, baked tofu, soft tofu, hard tofu, tofu protein and something that tasted just like a sugar cookie (that was my favorite). We also got to make our own. So, if you are interested in a class science project, here is one just for the agricultural chefs out there:

Items needed:

Plain soy milk
Liquid magnesium
Measuring beaker
Measuring spoon
Measuring spoon
Paper cup
Paper bowl

How to make:

Measure 100 cc’s of soymilk in beaker. Pour the milk into the paper cup. Measure 2 cc’s of the magnesium in the small measuring spoon. Pour into the soymilk in the cup. Stir exactly 30 times, and then place the cup in the microwave for one minute. Take out of the microwave and pour into the paper bowl. Now, you have tofu.

It was really fun to make this, and then eat what we made. We then toured the rest of the facility and listened to how they make tofu on a very large scale (which I might add isn’t too different that how we made our tofu. It’s just more mechanized and efficient.)

After we left the tofu plant we continued on into the City of Nikko and visited a Shinto/Buddhist Temple. They were doing work on this temple which had been there for a really long time. It was neat to watch the detail they were putting into the painting of this temple.

From there we traveled out of the city and up a winding road into the mountains where we saw an enormous lake, more than 550 feet deep, that had been formed by a lava flow. There was ice all over the place, and of course we all about fell.

Next, was probably one of the neatest things we experienced:

We went to see a waterfall. Now this was no ordinary waterfall, simply because the only way to get down to it was to ride in an elevator to the bottom of the mountain and then take stairs out to the observation deck. It was just one of those sites that make us appreciate the world around us and it was good to take a deep breath of mountain air.

From there we headed to the Ryokan Hotel and enjoyed an authentic Japanese hotel experience. It made for a great night of relaxation and fellowship between all of us.

Today, we again woke up very early, enjoyed an authentic Japanese breakfast and then boarded the bus and headed back to Tokyo where we had our first high school visit. One of the things here that never ceases to amaze me is that Japanese hospitality. We were showed around the high school farm where they teach there students about horticulture, food science, environmental science and much more. We then headed inside and were able to learn some games that the students had prepared for us. We also were able to interact and participate in the games with them. It made for a great way to spend the afternoon.

So far it has been a wonderful and inspiring trip. We have been having a great time and learning a lot about the Japanese culture. Tomorrow we are headed to our host family experience and our next high school visit. Look for more blogs soon.

Submitted By,

James Flatt
National FFA Southern Region Vice President

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shannon reflects on her time in Japan

***This week, the National FFA Officers will be blogging from Japan where they're learning about Japanese culture and touring agricultural businesses." ***

Throughout our time in Japan we have witnessed many different elements of Japanese culture. One phrase we learned from a traditional Japanese tea ceremony was to cherish the importance of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility within relationships. Today, day three of our international experience in Japan, we developed a better understanding for the definition and meaning of the word, awareness.

We started off the day by visiting Toyota Motor Company. We met with the Project General Manager and the Project Manager for the Overseas External Affairs Division. For one hour, we discussed Toyota`s history, locations, strategies, sales, and philanthropic contributions to the community. Toyota Motor Company began in 1937. Twenty years later, the Toyota Motor Sales USA began. Prior to the start of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda labeled one key value as, "Respect the spirit of research and creativity, and always strive to stay ahead of the times." Keeping key values such as this in mind, Toyota has grown to be one of the most well-known companies in the world. The American branch of Toyota is a silver sponsor of the National FFA Foundation.

For lunch, we traveled to Saitama Farm and had the privilege of experiencing traditional Japanese cuisine. However, before we could enjoy our meal, we first had to help prepare it. At the top of the menu was "Mochi-Tsuki", a traditional rice cake. "Mochi-Tsuki" is made by pounding sticky rice grains with a large wooden mallet until thick dough is made. After all of the National FFA Officers and staff took their best swing and the right consistency was met, the rice dough was grouped into little balls, coated with different spices and flavors and served with Miso soup, pickled vegetables, and Japanese oranges. After lunch, we toured the farm’s organic vegetable fields, which included everything from lemon fruit trees to tea bushes and from greenhouse radishes to broccoli.

Tomorrow we leave Tokyo and head for Nikko, Japan, where we will visit Taishi-Food, Inc. and then stay in a Ryokan (traditional Japanese-style hotel) tomorrow night. From global influence at Toyota to local contribution at Saitama Farms, Japan has been full of exciting adventures that have been blessings in themselves. Today, we certainly broadened our perspective and increased our appreciation for Japanese agriculture. As we bring the day to a close, we encourage one thought, “How can we, as American agriculturists, promote agricultural awareness in our hometowns?”

On behalf of the 2010-2011 National FFA Officer Team, I hope you all have a great day!! Thanks for reading!


Let the Learning Begin!

***This week the National FFA Officer will be blogging from Japan, where they are learning about Japanese culture and international agriculture.***

The adventures in Japan are officially off and running! I must say that all of the national FFA officer team is fully excited and amazed to be here. Already we have experienced some great cultural differences and have learned some history as well as taking a look at some of the more modern lifestyles. Of all that we have seen up to date, we are amazed at the variety and dynamics of the people in Tokyo.

When we first landed in Tokyo, we were greeted with a warm welcome and were taken to our hotel before enjoying our first meal in Japan. One of the first things that was noticed, was how clean the streets were and how busy it was while still being quiet and orderly. We enjoyed our meal (well most of us enjoyed it) and we were then looking forward to our beds after a 14 hour flight. The next day would bring a full day excitement and questions.

Breakfast came the next morning and we were blessed to have a large variety of choices that included American style food as well. With our appetites satisfied, we took off to see what we would discover. Our first stop was the Meiji Shrine. This was surrounded by a large park-like area full of lush, green trees. It park was absolutely beautiful and we enjoyed looking at the over 360 different tree varieties. We then entered the shrine area, after washing our hands and rinsing our mouths, to watch two different weddings that were taking place and to enjoy seeing the many people that were just visiting as well. This area, like many other areas, we learned had a multitude of symbolic messages. We have already seen that the traditional Japanese culture does everything with purpose and meaning.

The understanding of how actions and images have purpose and meaning was made evident through our participation in a traditional Tea Ceremony later that day. Our Tea Ceremony instructor was a very sweet lady named Ukiko. She told and demonstrated each action of the Tea Ceremony for us as well as explaining the purpose of the various physical images. We learned that the main characteristics of the Tea Ceremony were four key ideas: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. We all participated in this ceremony and saw how much quiet time with others is beneficial to the Japanese culture. Ukiko told us what each object meant after we were done. For example, there was a decoration of willow leaves that symbolized eternal prosperity while being soft yet still strong and full of life. Each image truly has purpose and each action has meaning as well. The Tea Ceremony was a neat learned experience for all of us to understand the value of quiet time with others and the demonstration of the four characteristics.

Trying to understand the Japanese culture and see where value is placed has been a challenge as well as very rewarding for all of us. We continue to see the value in broadening our own perspective to understand others. Yet, really there is no difference in seeking to understand a different culture and seeking to understand individuals in our family, group of friends, or even strangers. We have to know how to listen, be observant, and truly focus on how we view the situation to widen our perspective and seek that understanding. We are very much looking forward to the new adventures that we will have and will continue to update on our experiences. Wishing you all the best from over in Japan,

Wyatt DeJong on behalf of the 2010-2011 National FFA Officer Team

“One Chance. One Encounter.”

***This week the National FFA Officer will be blogging from Japan, where they are learning about Japanese culture and international agriculture.***

Our first day in Japan was definitely jam packed with culturing and new
experiences. My favorite was the Tea Ceremony with our soft-spoken friend,
Ukiko. One of the final steps to the tea ceremony was to pass around the dishes
and utensils used to make the tea. As she sent them around for us all to admire,
she explained the meaning behind each one. “The tea scoop I chose for today’s
ceremony has very special meaning for all of us. I chose it because I hope it
is how you will see your time in Japan…“One chance. One encounter.” ”

“One chance. One encounter.” At that moment, our time in Japan became so much
more real to me. Here we are in this beautiful country, so rich in tradition and
culture, with such amazing people. And we will only be able to have this
experience once. This exact moment and the moments to come for the rest of the
week will never be replicated. I felt an overwhelming appreciation for this
experience and the people we were able to share it with.

Day 2. My appreciation for our time in Japan only grew as we had some truly
amazing experiences. The day began with a journey to the Embassy of the United
States of America, Office of Agricultural Affairs. Here we met with
Agricultural Minister-Counselor, Geoffrey Wiggin; Deputy Chief of Mission, James
Zumwalt; Agricultural Attaches, Jennifer Clever and Stephen Wixom; and APHIS
Senior Attache, Kelly Preston. While at the Embassy we were able to see the
American perspective of agriculture and trade relations with Japan. We learned
that in many ways Japanese and American agriculture are similar…concerns of the
increasing age of the average farmer, consumer satisfaction and education, and
an interest in global agriculture.

As the day continued we headed to Mitsui & Co., LTD. At Mitsui we enjoyed
presentations by their young staff members that taught us about the different
sections of their company: Oilseeds & Oils Division, Retail Business Division,
and Agri-Food Business and Strategic Planning Department were just a couple.
These presentations allowed us to see the Japanese perspective on agriculture.
We also saw a video on sushi making and then we headed to a reception to eat the
real deal. At the reception we got to try out our Japanese speaking skills when
we introduced ourselves… “Hajimemashite. Watashi wa Tiffany Rogers des…” And
even though we may have stumbled through a few words, they were so excited that
we were even trying. During the reception we were able to spend time with more
of Mitsui’s young staff members. They recommended what sushi we should eat,
told us Japanese jokes, taught us more phrases in Japanese, and even led us in a
chorus of “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”! It was great to be able to spend
time at Mitsui and thank them for their partnership and sponsorship of our time
here. This trip marks 32 years of Mitsui sponsoring the National FFA Officer
team visit to Japan…and for that we wish to extend the warmest thank you!

The people we were able to meet and the experiences we were able to have on day
2 of our trip to Japan just made it all the more real that our time here really
holds true to that lesson in the Tea Ceremony… “One chance. One encounter.”

-Tiffany Rogers on behalf of the 2010-2011 National FFA Officer Team