By Elizabeth Wyss
In the FFA world, Marlena Long is what one might call a jack-of-all-trades.
She was president of the Paris FFA chapter and the Area 4 FFA Association. She’s competed nationally in Career Development events, including Meats Evaluation, Agricultural Sales, and this fall, Poultry Evaluation.
Long placed in the top six in the state in the Extemporaneous Public Speaking Leadership Development Event and was named the 2019 Missouri State FFA Star in Agribusiness.
Long’s impressive FFA resume is a testament to her love of a challenge, which led to her multifaceted and now award-winning Supervised Agricultural Experience program.
“I didn’t want to just take my cows and my pigs and put them in my record books; that was just too easy,” Long says. “I don’t do easy.”
Expanding her business
Long's SAE project quickly evolved from "easy" pig showing to selling freezer beef from her herd of cattle, showing other breeders’ pigs as a marketing service, helping her local crop protection service with research plots, and selling wood chips to livestock show families across northeast Missouri.
“It's been crazy to balance everything,” she says, “but it's really nice that my ag teachers are very willing to help me with anything.”
Long’s ag teachers, Josh Bondy and Jaelyn Peckman, knew she “didn’t do easy” and played a role in helping her expand her business.
MEDICAL FIELD: While Marlena Long spent her high school years learning how to artificially inseminate hogs, she will spend much of her college career study medicine for human health.
“I expected to just use the wood chips myself and sell to a few local show families,” Long explains, “and then we went down to the state fair and my ag teachers had told a bunch of other ag teachers about it. All of a sudden, I was selling trailer loads two hours away and having them just direct ship there. It's nice to have that FFA support."
Long’s ag teachers knew she was up for the challenge.
“Marlena goes above and beyond the call of duty to accomplish any task,” Peckman says. “It is a blessing to work with someone so hardworking and driven.”
Every aspect of Long’s SAE has developed her sales and business skills, but it was the behind-the-scenes work that encouraged her future career: medicine.
Looking to the future
“Medical school is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was 7 years old,” Long says. When she was young, Long’s grandfather was being treated for cancer. Seeing his treatments sparked her initial interest in medicine, but as she grew up, she learned more about medical sciences through working with her pigs.
“People laugh at me when I say this,” Long says, “but I love baby pigs and I love delivering baby pigs. That’s my favorite part of anything that I do on the farm. So, I've thought a lot about becoming an OBGYN after medical school.”
Long completed her associate degree during high school and will attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City this fall as a part of a six-year accelerated medical school program. After becoming a doctor, Long hopes to gain big-city hospital experience before moving back to a rural area.
DIVERSIFIED WORK: Planting soybean plots in the spring was another aspect of Marlena Long’s FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience program. It helped her earn top honors at the Missouri State FFA Convention this past April.
“I can't see myself living anywhere other than a farm,” she says. “I want to be a doctor and show pigs on the side.”
Long’s tenacity has been tested and developed through her time in FFA, and even though she isn’t going into agricultural sales in her career, Long knows her FFA and SAE experience will help her as she moves on to medical school.
"FFA has not only helped me learn skills to succeed in the future but has given me a network of support that will always be there for me,” she adds, “no matter what.”