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National FFA advisor goes home

Travis Park, National FFA advisor and chairman of the National FFA board, returned to his home chapter in Indiana to address their 2024 spring banquet.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

April 17, 2024

2 Min Read
Travis Park and an Indian Creek FFA student on a stage
BACK HOME AGAIN: More than three decades after graduating from Indian Creek High School in Trafalgar, Ind., Travis Park returned as the keynote speaker for the annual Indian Creek FFA awards program. True to form, he involved a baker’s dozen Indian Creek FFA students in his presentation. Tom J. Bechman

Who says you can’t go home again? Travis Park did, if only for one memorable evening.

Park lives in Raleigh, N.C., where he leads the agricultural education program at North Carolina State University. He also serves as National FFA advisor and chairman of the National FFA board of directors.

But Park got his start on a grain and livestock farm outside Trafalgar, Ind. He attended Indian Creek High School, where he was a proud FFA member and his dad, Joe Park, was the advisor. Park’s time in Indian Creek FFA launched his FFA career. He served as National FFA president in 1992-93.

Return to his roots

On April 13, Park was back at Indian Creek High School as the keynote speaker for the annual Indian Creek FFA awards program. He spoke in the new Performing Arts Center, but he recognized numerous people in the crowd, calling them by name and recounting memories. And he drove home three pieces of advice to Indian Creek FFA members.

“To succeed, you must first show up,” Park said. “Show up, get involved, and do your best.

“Second, think about a duck swimming on your farm pond. He may look unruffled on the surface, but he is paddling furiously underneath the water. That is what leaders do. They appear in control, but behind the scenes, they’re working hard and ‘paddling furiously.’

“Third, no matter what you’re doing, ‘Do anything like you would do everything.’ Give it your best effort.”

Drive the point home

Park cemented his message with this story from his Indian Creek FFA days. “One of our FFA members whom I admired, Brian White, was a great leader, but also a very good trombone player. He entered the district talent contest three years in a row, and came in second every year, to the same classical pianist at another school.

“Did he quit? No, leaders don’t quit. Instead, he changed tactics. He recruited a few fellow Indian Creek FFA members who played instruments very well. Then he talked some not-so-musically talented members into forming a ‘Hee-Haw’ group to accompany the real band.

“I have very little musical talent — right, Mom?”

Park’s mom, Betty Lou, responded from the audience: “That’s right, Travis, you don’t!”

“Thanks, Mom. But I took my shoes off and acted like I was playing the jug very well. Other members played a washboard and other unique instruments. We wrote our own version to ‘The Wanderer,’ recorded by Dion DiMucci in 1961.”

Park proceeded to sing a few stanzas of the Indian Creek FFA version: “The Farmerer.”

“The pianist didn’t win that year,” Park said, smiling. “We had the judges laughing. Brian and our guys not only won district, but state too, and competed at the National FFA Convention.”

Park left his home chapter audience with this message. “Brian showed up, he paddled furiously, and he did anything — even putting together a crazy band to back up his real band — like he did everything.”

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About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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