Ryan Matthews from Highland County is the editor of the Oct. 8, 2018 Growing our Generation, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Hello everyone, I am Ryan Matthews! It is such a huge honor to be this month’s featured editor. I am originally from Leesburg, Ohio but quickly moved and grew up in a suburb outside of Dallas, then eventually moved back to Highland County in the fall of my 8th grade year. Still being the new kid and trying to branch out, I decided to sign up for “Intro to Ag.” Within weeks, I realized I was right where I needed to be. Although I had never grown up on a farm or had agriculture as a past, it quickly became my future. Pushing forward, I decided to try everything agriculture and organizations such as FFA/4-H had to offer and began to realize my goal in this industry was to be a voice for agriculture and help pay it forward to the next generation.
In the spring of 2016, I was elected as a state vice president at large for the Ohio FFA and then re-elected as state president in the spring of 2017. Currently, I am a student at The Ohio State University studying agricultural communication and political science as well as pursuing national FFA office here in a few weeks at the 91st National FFA Convention.
Check out out my retiring address given at the fifth and final session of the 90th Ohio FFA State Convention.
Through my time in the FFA, I got very exposed to the Ohio Farm Bureau and the many events they have for students and their young ag professional members. First was the Ohio Legislative Leadership Conference, an event put on by Ohio Farm Bureau where high school FFA members come to the Ohio state capital learn how to advocate and meet with some of their own legislators. Then this past summer, I had the privilege of being an ambassador for the Ohio Farm Bureau at the Ohio State Fair, getting to interact with all types of fairgoers and getting to represent the OFB. Lastly, a few weeks ago I was able to attend the Young Ag Professionals D.C. lobbying trip where I got to interact with other young ag professionals and AgriPOWER members as we prepared to advocate for agriculture. I truly look forward to all the opportunities that lie ahead in my journey being a young ag professional member.
Now for those not familiar, national FFA officers are students who have the amazing ability to travel the country and get to interact with the 669,000 FFA members. They spend their time speaking at conventions, meeting with stakeholders, facilitating workshops and eventually putting on the biggest student conference in the nation, National FFA Convention (67,000 members and guests attend in 2017). Each year six amazing individuals are elected to serve. A national president, national secretary, and four region vice presidents (west, east, central and southern). Ohio, located in the eastern region, has the most amount of national officers with 33. So how are they chosen? This is a question that many people may not know the answer to. See, while those 67,000 members and guests enjoy the national convention every year, there are almost 50 individuals behind the scenes running to be the next national officer team. Getting there the Friday before, they go through a week of rigorous interviews. There is a writing exercise, a personal interview round, a stand and deliver speech, nine one-on-one interviews, a media round, a facilitation round and then finishing up with a conclusion interview. The top six are chosen by what’s called the nominating committee, a group of nine students tasked to create and report the next national officer team.
Watch this video to see the 2017-2018 national FFA officer team get elected!
The biggest mission of the Ohio and American Farm Bureau is to be an advocate for farmers — always focusing on policy and bringing it to our state and national legislators. They also have realized that the voice the legislators want to hear sometimes is the voices of people directly affected by their legislative choices. So two times a year, the Ohio Farm Bureau sends agriculturists young and old to speak face to face with the legislators. This includes the Young Ag Professionals D.C. Trip, where over 30 young ag professionals and AgriPOWER members spend a few days in D.C., which I was so humbled to go on this past September. We first learned a lot about current hot topics in ag, things like trade, water conservation and the farm bill. Then after two days of learning and traveling the capital, we went to our legislators and had our voices heard to make sure that all of over lives and careers are represented and that they are reminded ag is Ohio’s No. 1 industry. Through this experience, we were also able to visit the Chile Embassy, see the monuments and tour the White House, bringing the amazing advocate experience and some great fun together for an unforgettable week.
“This jacket is always special to me it’s always worn with pride. It’s not just the blue and gold you see it’s something I will never hide. Even when I’m laughed at, pointed or made fun of. The pride with this jacket is a feeling I will never hide.” – Tyson Huckaby
The blue jacket is a staple of the National FFA Organization, representing a link between the past, present and the future. It shows tradition but is a tool to step into a very diverse future. Students wear it with pride because truly everyone has a place in their blue jacket. Yet when/where did this jacket come from? Well in 1933, the Fredericktown FFA Chapter of Fredericktown, Ohio showcased these snazzy blue jackets for the first time at national convection where everyone fell in love with them and they quickly were adopted as the official dress for FFA members.
Now 85 years later, the creator of the jacket and Fredericktown ag teacher, Dr. Gus Linter had no idea his jacket would be worn by 669,000 students nationwide and become such an important part of this student organization. To celebrate the journey it has taken thus far and home of the FFA jacket itself, a historical marker was placed in Fredericktown to showcase its history. However, this marker wasn’t just revealed by anybody, it was revealed by the last two living 1933 Fredericktown band members some of the first to put on that blue corduroy jacket. This moment truly showed that anybody can make an impact in their organization and that one symbol can help bring the past, present and future together.