>I’m Home!

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By Wyatt DeJong, Central Region Vice President

After being on the road, I love coming home to a house filled with the scent of freshly baked bread. I love seeing my family and giving them bear hugs. I love laying down in my own bed. While I wasn’t able to experience all of those things when I went home to attend the South Dakota FFA Convention, it was certainly great to see family and friends I grew up with.

The convention started on Sunday April 10, 2011, in the evening. The opening session brought excitement and celebration as proficiency winners were recognized and the energy of seeing nearly 1,800 blue jackets filled the air. The now retired officer team, Maria, Brittany, Kiley, Spencer, Dani and Hannah, went on to give their best in showcasing the talent and achievements of South Dakota FFA members.

One of the highlights of convention is finding out who the two Student Ambassadors will be. Each year, South Dakota FFA elects two graduating seniors who will help the state officers with many events and do a lot of behind-the-scenes-work that impact FFA each year. They are ambassadors for FFA and agriculture throughout the year. This year, two amazing people were elected to this position: Austin and Paige!

Throughout the week, it was fun getting to mingle with the candidates who worked hard to showcase their unique talents. Each night, the candidates stayed with each other until 1 to 3 a.m. (depending on the night) and got to know each other and discover how important it is to truly open up and meet people. Each person that we encounter has something very special and unique about them. These are the things that we should and need to search out and learn from others.

Discovering just how amazing each of the candidates are made me think of a quote that I love…

“Be the ‘you’ that you were created to be, if you are not then something wonderful is lost.”

Each one of us has something great inside of us. Sometimes we most certainly don’t feel like we do and sometimes it feels like other people want to stomp it out of us. My only advice is to KEEP SHINING!

That is exactly what the candidates did, as well as the many people who I met that week. By the last session, it was finally time to hear the names of the teammates for the next year. This time brings so much joy for some, hurt for others and hope for the future. At the end of the day, it is not IF you serve, it is WHERE you serve. For Paul, Jamie, Amanda, Megan, Olivia and Connor, they are going to rock out this next year as they give a year of service to the South Dakota FFA Association, ag ed and agriculture.

http://a4.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/207600_167491573305816_100001349247234_334727_5376799_n.jpgOverall, this week was full of wonderful times where I was able to catch up with friends, visit with teachers, meet more people, and spend a little bit of time with family. For me, those are the things that are even better than the smell of fresh bread or lying in my own bed. People make a difference because people are incredible…especially if they let themselves SHINE!

>It Begins with IDAHO!

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By Wyatt DeJong, Central Region Vice President

“It Begins with YOU!” was the theme of this year’s Idaho State Leadership Conference (SLC). It was certainly an amazing time, and what made it even more special to me was the fact that Idaho was my first state convention this year. When I arrived in Twin Falls, I quickly began to realize just how excited everyone was and how relaxed they were at the same time. So many hours, days, weeks and months had been poured into the creation of this event and it was now time to highlight the success of members and celebrate the value of FFA, agricultural education and agriculture.

The conference was held April 6-9. From the moment the lights went down for the opening session to the tap of the last gavel, this SLC was jam packed with professionalism, excitement, celebrations and fun–all while having the attitude of service. One thing that really impressed me was the involvement of the districts/regions in Idaho. I was able to meet with several of the district officers from the South Magic Valley District while they were setting up their district display that highlighted the officers, schools and agriculture within the district. Tanner and his fellow teammates worked hard to showcase the hard work that they had done and the agricultural products that came from their district. They even showed how trout production is a big part of where they are from by bringing their small fish named Rupert. Each district does their best with their own displays and then the winning district officer team will go on to be in charge of designing the state display at the national FFA convention.

As members began to arrive, I quickly saw how much of an impact that the 2009-2010 team has had on the members and the state this past year. Travis, Amanda, Rachael, Sidnee, Stacie and Joe all have such a desire to give to others and to do it with a smile and professional demeanor. Each one of them totally rocked out their own retiring address and left me thinking about how I can do more and be more for others and agriculture.

http://a8.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/206127_109943195755777_105619869521443_104781_7534996_n.jpgThroughout the week, I was able to meet with the great individuals who ran for state office, and I know that each one will make an impact this year. For six of them, they are about to begin quite a journey as state officers. Jake, Anna, Erin, Nate, Cara and Tierra are going to be rather outstanding if I do say so myself! I wish them the best as they go through this year and devote 365 days to Idaho FFA.

The Idaho SLC wrapped up, and all of the props were put away. As we walked out the doors, everyone began looking over all of the successes that was had over the past few days and the past year. My plane did not leave until the next morning so I was able to go around and check out the beauty of Idaho and see Perrine Bridge, Shoshone Falls, the Balanced Rock and even an alligator farm! Idaho is filled with natural beauty and it was amazing to see those things but it was the members and other people that I met that I will always remember. It Begins with Idaho!

>Celebrating Earth Day: Sustainably Feeding a Growing Global Population

>By Jeff Simmons, Elanco

According to the World Wildlife Fund Living Earth Index, we’re already at 1.3 times our Earth’s carrying capacity. And our population is predicted to grow by several billion in the next 40 years. Already 1 in 6, or more than a billion people globally, suffer from malnutrition and hunger. Every day we add another 200,000 mouths to feed to our planet. As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s important to consider how we’ll feed this growing global population while protecting the resources that sustain us so future generations can feed themselves.

Whether you’re an FFA member growing up on a farm like I did, or a concerned environmentalist in a large city, I believe we can all agree on the need for safe, affordable, abundant food. But how do we produce it in a sustainable way? Jason Clay at World Wildlife Fund has said, “To feed 9 billion people and maintain the planet, we must freeze the footprint of food.”

I believe there are two key ingredients to making sustainable production of safe, affordable, abundant food a global reality–technology and choice. Technology, as defined by the World Health Organization, includes:

  • Practices–doing it better by the way you do it, whether it’s how you raise the animal or grow the plant.
  • Products–new, innovative tools industry is delivering to our food producers daily.
  • Genetics–improving the genetic code of the plant or animal we’re producing.

Why technology? Technology creates efficiency, which helps keep production costs and ultimately food costs lower, and food affordability is critical to addressing hunger, especially considering nearly half of our global population lives on less than $2 a day. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service recently reported that in the past 60 years, agriculture output has increased 2.5 times, while holding inputs essentially steady.

For example, today one cow produces the same amount of milk it took five cows to produce in 1944, which means we need far fewer cows to meet the global demand for milk. Because of this improved efficiency, modern production of every gallon of milk requires 65 percent less water and 90 percent less land than it did in 1944. Meanwhile the industry is producing 76 percent less manure for each gallon of milk sold, contributing to a carbon footprint for a gallon of milk that is 63 percent smaller than it was in 1944. And the story is the same for beef and other animal protein production. We have a track record of using technology in many industries to enhance efficiency.

That brings us to choice, which is a consumer right. Whether it’s the Chinese consumer that wants to diversify her diet from grains to include animal sourced protein as her affluence grows, or it’s the American consumer who wants to choose locally grown or artisanal products, consumers have the right to a broad variety of food choices. We can’t allow a small fringe to impose their social agenda on the entire food system to limit use of safe production practices or products, which would ultimately decrease consumer choice. Technology helps allow these choices.

As spring descends on the heartland of our country, new calves frolic in fresh green pastures and planters roll across rich farm ground. Farmers and ranchers are the original stewards of our Earth, and I believe no one is better suited than our industry to achieve the goal of sustainably feeding a population of 9 billion. As FFA members you are the leaders and visionaries of tomorrow who will be tasked with solutions to this challenge. I encourage you to think about new and different ways to enhance the efficiency of food production. You are also a powerful voice! Speak out for agriculture and help spread this message.

Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco, recently authored a white paper on this topic. To view the paper and accompanying video or share it with your social networks, click here