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FFA: Building a legacy

Prairie Post: Members shine at state convention and throughout the year.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

May 24, 2024

3 Min Read
Five Minnesaota FFA members holding their FFA degrees
CARRYING ON A LEGACY: Worthington FFA members Evan Hansberger (left), Wesley Widboom, Vince Vander Kooi, Lance Gordon and Caleb Barber each earned their state FFA degrees, following in the footsteps of each of their fathers as they also earned state degrees in their FFA experience.Courtesy of Minnesota FFA Association

Minnesota FFA is nearing its centennial as the state was granted a charter from the National FFA in 1929, and the legacy that has been growing ever since was on full display at this year’s — the 95th — state convention.

In a previous article, I wrote that history was made as the Grand Rapids FFA Chapter boasts placing three of its members on the state officer team for 2024-25. Over the years, state officer teams have made history, from the first female state officer to the first female state president, to a number of times a chapter has had two members on the team of six. But this is the first time that three from one chapter take seats on the same officer team.

Grand Rapids seniors Emma Braford, vice president; Kaiya Grossman, secretary; and Victoria Gunderson, sentinel join Lauren Stoel, president, from Murray County Central; Cole Sundeen, treasurer, from Rockford; and Natalie Clemenson, reporter, from Zumbrota-Mazeppa, on the officer team.

Living legacy

Not sure if history was made with the showing of five young men from the Worthington FFA Chapter, but they deserve mention for their accomplishments.

Wesley Widboom, Lance Gordon, Evan Hansberger, Vince Vander Kooi and Caleb Barber each earned their state FFA degrees this year, five of the 395 that were awarded. That alone is a great accomplishment — but what makes it more interesting is that they are merely living up to a legacy.

A few years ago (being kind to the elder statesmen here) the fathers of the Worthington five also earned their state degrees: Matt Widboom, Bill Gordon, Tim Hansberger, Joe Vander Kooi and Jeff Barber apparently passed on the FFA legacy to their sons. That legacy exemplifies the theme for this year’s FFA Convention — Achieve. What It Takes.

Threepeat team

Doing what it takes is on display during the state FFA convention, as hundreds of FFA members and their chapters took home hardware to indicate their hard work and dedication. What a group of Maple River FFA members accomplished is rare — not unique, as it has been done before — but their feat is noteworthy nonetheless.

Repeats and threepeats are phrases that get thrown around in the sporting world as high school, college and professional sports teams that build dynasties claim multiple championships in a row. FFA rules prohibit the building of such runs of success, as once an individual or a team wins a contest, they cannot compete in the same category again.

The Maple River team of Bri Burkhardt, Martha Price, Brooke Reuter and Natalie Wenner make up the top crops team at this year’s state convention. That completes an unorthodox threepeat for these four, as they also made up the 2023 state landscape top team after taking top honors as the championship floral team in 2022.

Rather than being satisfied with one state championship, these four stuck together to live out this year’s convention theme: Achieve. And they did what it took to claim their prize.

Each of these four are seniors, so there will be no fourpeat. The work they put in and the success they achieved will no doubt inspire and drive those who follow them in the chapter.

By winning state, they now have an opportunity to compete at the national level. So their inspiring work isn’t over.

Comments? Send email to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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