Dakota Farmer

FFA helped state officer grow as a person

Suzie Behlings: “Through FFA, I learned to be part of a team and to communicate more effectively, while setting high goals for myself.”

Kevin Schulz, Editor

June 4, 2021

3 Min Read
Dirt road in Midwest
SKILLS TO USE: 1995-96 state reporter Suzie Behlings says that without her time in FFA, she wouldn’t have been able to get to where she is today. Jody Wiele/Getty Images

Editor’s note: This is the final story 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 Suzie Behlings, who served as reporter of the 1995-96 state officer team.

Name and office: Suzie (Lutter) Behlings, reporter

High school: Wessington Springs High

Parents: Kerry and Janet Lutter

FFA involvement: Leadership positions as state reporter, district president, chapter president, chapter reporter and FFA ambassador

Career development events: Prepared public speaking, extemporaneous speaking, job interview, parliamentary procedure, agricultural sales, farm management and crops judging

Suzie Behlings

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Suzie Behlings says everyone should join FFA, as there is an option to fit any interest.

When did you set your sights on attaining a state office? I don’t think it was a specific moment, but rather a culmination of experiences as I became more involved, attended leadership camps and state and national conventions, and took on other leadership roles. Eventually it felt like the next step and an opportunity to give back to an organization that I had learned so much from.

Did someone inspire you to spread your wings in FFA? Did someone see the leadership potential in you? My FFA advisor, Craig Shryock, had a great way of challenging students to do more. He motivated me to continue to take on new challenges and continue to grow through FFA.

Immediate post high school plan: Following high school I attended South Dakota State University and graduated with an agricultural business degree, international option and Spanish.

Career: After graduating from SDSU, I joined Citi as a management associate. I then attended the Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis and completed a master’s degree in human resources and industrial relations. I went on to work in human resources and project management at Citi.

How has FFA experience aided you in your career, adult life? FFA helped me develop leadership skills and confidence that have helped me to be successful in my career, as well as other facets of my life. Through FFA, I learned to be part of a team and to communicate more effectively, while setting high goals for myself. Most of all, I met so many amazing people that inspired me and continue to inspire me today.

Would you be where you are today without FFA? Every experience shapes us as individuals, and FFA was definitely a big part of that for me. Through FFA, I had opportunities to travel, try new things, meet new people and be part of some really amazing teams. FFA provided unique experiences to help me learn and grow as a person, while introducing me to people who have been key influences in my life.

Favorite FFA memory: Being part of the state FFA officer team was definitely the highlight of my FFA career. Our team really bonded from the beginning, and some of the best times were spent driving across South Dakota, preparing for leadership camps, visiting every FFA chapter in South Dakota and hanging out as a team. I wouldn’t trade that year for anything.

Advice to a current FFA member, or a student trying to decide on an organization: FFA offers something for everyone, so don’t be afraid to jump in and find your niche.

Spouse, children: Husband Eric and children Quentin, 17, and Gavin, 15

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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