NEW ULM - A local agricultural businessman who grew up in western Minnesota talked about the value of FFA Monday at the 77th Annual New Ulm FFA Chapter Parent-Member Banquet at New Ulm High School.
Jim Thomas, owner of Upper Midwest Management, said FFA was only for boys when he became a Greenhand at Appleton High School in 1955.
"It's great to see women involved in FFA leadership now," Thomas said. "FFA presented an opportunity for me to gain leadership and confidence in the future and learn from mistakes. It showed me I controlled my own destiny, good or bad, teaching me valuable skills for later in life."
Thomas said he learned that life wasn't always roses, There are ups and downs, hopefully more ups than downs.
"Remember to thank those that support you, your parents, advisors, teachers and friends," Thomas said. "I encourage young people to get involved in FFA. The experience you gain is unbelievable. Be honest, a good listener, and don't be afraid to think outside the box."
As a businessman, he considered himself fortunate to learn something new everywhere he went on foreign agricultural tours in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Tanzania and the Ukraine.
"The Ukraine is a vast, virtually untapped place with black, fertile soil but a former government that kept farmers far behind," Thomas said. "They've got equipment we used in the 1940s. Crime is so bad, a farmer may be lucky to get out of his field without being robbed."
Thomas said Germany was the opposite in some ways with small, but intensely productive farms. He said Tanzania was very arid and unproductive with little money to be made. Australia had a very limited amount of water and very hard soil.
"There are more sheep than people in New Zealand," Thomas said. "Lots of rabbits live in huts underneath homes, providing warmth."
New Ulm High School FFA Advisor Jeff Nelson thanked his officers for their many hours of dedicated work. "Nothing good comes without hard work," Nelson said.
New Ulm FFA Chapter Awards: Star Farmer MacKenze Vogel, Star in Placement Jacob Gieseke, Outstanding Freshman Mariah Vogel, Outstanding Sophomore Matt Struss, Outstanding Junior Allison Bastian, Leadership Gieseke, Committee Chairperson Whitney Wiethoff, Service MacKenze Vogel, Mechanics Kenny Griebel, Fruit Sales Bastian, Gieseke and MacKenze Vogel, Best Records Matt, Megan Strus, Attitude Jacob Gieseke.
Showmanship-Beef Matt Struss, Dairy George Hartley, Matt, Megan Struss. Swine Bastian.
Bastian was Grand Champion Showperson, Crop Show Champion Sample and Champion Soybeans. Liz Guggisberg and Travis Guggisberg were corn silage co-champs. Other top crop show persons were Liz Guggisberg, Travis Guggisberg, Mark Tauer, Kelsey Miller and Kirsten Koehler.
Bastian won the Region 7 Prepared Public Speaking award. Gieseke and Mackenze Vogel won state degrees. Bastian, Kiersten Koehler and Megan Struss went to the 2013 Washington Leadership Conference. State Leadership Chapter Leaders were Bastian, Austin Brandes, Bridget Forst, Koehler, Ashley Kohn, Granger Lehman, Alex Portner, Megan Struss and Mark Tauer.
Tim and Jill Miller of Hanska won the Monsanto America's Farmers Grow Communities Award. Because Brown County was a USDA-designated drought disaster area, the Millers were able to direct $5,000 to their favorite, local non-profit organizations - the NUHS FFA and Hanska Fire Department.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).