Dakota Farmer

FFA helped prepare former officer for career

1995-96 sentinel Carrie Vugteveen advises youth not to fear trying new things.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

June 4, 2021

3 Min Read
Prairie grassland and sagebrush
CAREER READINESS: Carrie Vugteveen says her experiences as a part of the South Dakota FFA officer team helped prepare her for her career in mass media and communications. Danielrao /Getty Images

Editor’s note: This is part seven of an eight-part series on catching up with the South Dakota state FFA officer team 25 years after their retiring addresses.

Each year, the state FFA organization elects a slate of officers to lead youth for a year. This team spends the year visiting FFA chapters across the state. Here, we get caught up with Carrie Vugteveen, who served as sentinel of the 1995-96 state officer team.

Name and office: Carrie Vugteveen, sentinel

High school: Florence High

Parents: Steve and Nancy Solum

FFA involvement: I took part in both local and regional career development events and was active in my local chapter. I also had a very memorable experience being part of the National FFA choir for several years.

When did you set your sights on attaining a state office? I remember a school visit from one of the previous years’ state FFA officers. Their leadership message resonated with me. My FFA advisor, Jim Chilson, was also very encouraging. He supported my efforts to serve on the state level, and so I decided to go for it!

Did someone inspire you to spread your wings in FFA? Did someone see the leadership potential in you? I feel as though many of my high school teachers were encouraging. Again, my FFA advisor, Jim Chilson, believed in my abilities, which I will always be thankful for. My parents were also very supportive.

Immediate post-high school plan: I attended South Dakota State University and majored in both mass communications and political science. Eventually, I was able to earn my Master of Science degree in journalism and mass communications from SDSU as well.

Carrie Vugteveen

FFA MEMORIES: Carrie Vugteveen says that some of her favorite FFA memories were connecting with other students on leadership and career readiness.

Career: My first professional position out of college was serving as the producer and host of the “Today’s Ag” television program. This program was produced by the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service. I stayed in that role for about seven years and then became the director of communications for Sioux Valley Energy, headquartered in Colman, S.D. During my nearly 15 years at Sioux Valley Energy, my role has evolved, and now I serve as the vice president of public relations at the electric co-op.

How has FFA experience aided you in your career, adult life? I believe that FFA provided me training and opportunities in leadership development, which has been extremely important in my career. Networking was also one area that FFA helped me to excel in. Many of the connections I made through FFA all those years ago are still professional connections today.

Would you be where you are today without FFA? I truly believe that my involvement in FFA helped prepare me for my very first professional position with the “Today’s Ag” show. That led to the career I have today, and I am grateful.

Favorite FFA memory: There are so many great memories it is hard to choose just one. Traveling together to high schools throughout the state with my fellow state officers is probably one of my favorite memories not only because we had a lot of fun, but because we were able to talk to FFA members about leadership, career development and agriculture.

Advice to a current FFA member, or a student trying to decide on an organization: Go for it! You absolutely can do whatever you set your mind to. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to try something new.

Spouse, children: Husband Paul Vugteveen and children Maci, 20; Jackson, 18; Jacob, 14; and stepchildren Kaden, 20 and Kiran, 16

For past stories in the series, see:

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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