Dakota Farmer

FFA 'will groom you more than you can imagine'

Organization becomes bond among business and social circles for Jon Petersen, 1995-96 FFA secretary.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

June 3, 2021

3 Min Read
Truck on highway with mountains in background
ADVANCEMENT: Jon Petersen founded his own trucking company after working in other agriculture banking and management careers. Thomas Winz/Getty images

Editor’s note: This is part five 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 Jon Petersen, who served as secretary of the 1995-96 state officer team.

Name: Jon Petersen, secretary

High school: De Smet High

Parents: Roger and Dianne Petersen

FFA involvement: Parliamentary Procedure team; land and cattle judging, etc.; multiple state leadership awards; officer positions junior and senior years

When did you set your sights on attaining a state office? Freshman year after attending the National FFA Convention

Did someone inspire you to spread your wings in FFA? Did someone see the leadership potential in you? High School ag adviser Dave Vanderwal

Immediate post-high school plan: English major with plans to pursue Juris Doctorate

LOOKING BACK: Jon Petersen who served as the secretary of South Dakota FFA from1995-96

Jon Petersen served as the secretary of South Dakota FFA in 1995-96, and says that his time in FFA equipped him for much more than he imagined.

Career: Business degree from Augustana College, with dual minors in marketing and finance. Worked 15 years postgraduate with a large regional bank, moving into management before departing to explore other options. Spent four years working for a large grain and cattle operation near hometown of De Smet, S.D., before founding a trucking company from the ground up — specializing in local and regional hauling, with ties to the grain and ethanol industry, and having a large presence specific to the oil and gas industry.

How has FFA experience aided you in your career, adult life? The FFA is a common bond among several of those people in my closest business and social circles. We all go our own way within different career paths as we mature, have families and live our lives. But the FFA is a common denominator among us — no matter what your views, the current events in the media or political mainstream. We believe in the future of agriculture, and we believe we can be an influence in our homes and communities to make an impact for future generations.

Would you be where you are today without FFA? FFA gives you confidence in yourself, and that experience gave me the confidence to take that leap of faith to start my own trucking company.

Favorite FFA memory: The camaraderie of the team (as an officer team, as well as a team of individuals throughout the state and nation). It’s amazing how many of the people I work with today, have hired and have close ties to as friends and family, all have a common denominator of being members of their local FFA organization.

Advice to a current FFA member, or a student trying to decide on an organization: Be yourself. Choose what you want to do. Don’t judge the organization by generalizations or preconceived ideas about being a “farm kid,” etc. The organization will groom you for more than you can imagine; no matter where the road of life leads you — from public speaking and leadership enhancing, to preparing you mentally for the diverse culture and workforce ahead in your life.

Family: Sons Hudson and Griffin

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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