A New Chapter Begins

A New Chapter Begins

I hear the Chicago Bulls Theme Song play through the thick walls of the First Interstate Bank Center. Suddenly, I hear hundreds of voices all scream in unison.

Hmm…I wonder who just got elected

I don’t know what name was just announced since my ears can’t quite pick up the words, but I do know the 2019-2020 Oregon FFA Vice President is sprinting full speed towards the room I’m sitting in. A minute later, through my tears, I see my teammate Riley Davis bust through the door to the room I’m in. Screaming and tackling Riley, only one thought is in my head.

It’s going to be a great year

That thought was one that went through my head four more times over the course of the next half hour. Deidre, Keegan, Olivia, and finally Ellie eventually made it to the room. (Side note: the holding room for State Officer-elects is a decently long distance from the main stage, and we all sympathize with Deidre’s joke that the hardest part of running for State Office is literally the run at the end)

As we all finally sat down at a table together, the 2019-2020 State Officer Team was assembled. At the moment, though we didn’t know each other all that well, what we did know was that we were excited to better an organization whose impact on each of our lives cannot be overstated.

Deidre comes from a town so far away from civilization that she has to drive more than six hours to arrive at most state FFA events and almost four hours to the nearest airport. Ellie is a master sheep showman, when I can count the number of sheep I’ve physically touched on one hand. Olivia is incredibly organized and constantly turns items in early, while my room is rarely in order and my work is often turned in the day it’s due. Keegan is a world traveler, having spent significant time in Australia on a sheep farm where he learned they say “Fat Income” about almost everything. Riley is batman. Well, maybe not actually, but he is a spray paint art and card trick master.

We are all very different

Though it is tempting for any of us as leaders to wish we were surrounded by a team exactly like us, I am confident that these differences between us will be our strength this coming year. We will bring our unique perspectives, backgrounds, and values together with one mission that we will accomplish at all costs: Continue a legacy by impacting as many lives as possible.

During state convention, I made a remark about this new chapter, saying “A page is turning for Oregon FFA. Right now, we have the opportunity of a new chapter and a blank page, and the pen is in our hand.” During state convention, Oregon FFA asked us to join them for this wild ride on an adventure. In response, we are filled with joy as a state officer team while we call shotgun and buckle up for the adventure ahead. We have just begun to join in with Oregon FFA members as we collectively begin work on writing a truly amazing story for ourselves this coming year. Even now in our first days as state officers, the potential we see humbles us, fills us with gratitude, and excites us beyond belief.

With eager anticipation,

Josiah Cruikshank
Oregon FFA State President685464


A Compliment Worth Earning

A Compliment Worth Earning

Classroom visits to the agriculture education programs in our state always bring me new perspectives. Upon entering the Rainer Ag room and seeing the quote they had on their wall I was immediately taken back to a conversation I had with a gentleman at the Oregon State Fair.

This man approached me because of the FFA jacket I was wearing, saying it was a classic symbol of the few kids in my generation who understand agriculture and hard work that are left. This made me proud to be wearing the jacket, but the compliment about understanding agriculture and hard work was too easily given by the man and too easily accepted by me.

As agriculturalists in this national organization we worry a lot about what the general public assumes about us. We worry about constantly adapting to an everchanging world, fitting the picky market demands, and making sure that we are up to par in the values society wants everyone to fit. We spend so much effort and time trying to prove to the general public that we are keeping up with the times. Yet, keeping up with the times in a time where understanding agriculture and the value of hard work is quickly fading costs us preserving the assumption that us FFA members understand just that. In trying to maintain our presence in the world, sadly, we lose our purpose, our foundation, the identity that once fostered hard work, grit, leadership, and the true American Agriculturalist.

Has hard work, grit, leadership, and the true American Agriculturalist character been lost? Not yet. But in order earn this man’s complimentary assumption about kids who wear the FFA jacket we must understand one thing, we cannot stand behind the reputation of the FFA jacket, we must maintain the reputation of the FFA jacket that so many before us built up.

Though we can agree that in order to progress and keep up with the world that there is always work to be done in the FFA, we cannot forget about the actual work it takes to earn and uphold the most complimentary assumption, that we truly understand agriculture and hard work.

As FFA members it is our duty to stand up for agriculturalists, work hard to understand their way of life and advocate for it. We can come to understand their way of life by living it. Look for opportunities within and outside of our classrooms that give us a chance to experience life as an agriculturalist. And last, be aware of, understand, and engage yourself in the values and beliefs that your FFA jacket represents such as what we find in The FFA Creed. Read it, study it, LIVE it. The FFA Creed is pure corn gold. (;

After getting to know this man, he left me with a quote, the same quote I noticed in vinyl on the wall as I walked into Rainer’s Ag classroom. It is from Thomas Jefferson and reads,

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.”

After pondering these words I can tell you that “real wealth”, is wealth that comes from an honest day of hard work, that “good morals” come from anything but our world, and that happiness is the feeling that comes from earning something. FFA members, let’s uphold earn one of the best compliments, that we understand agriculture and hard work.


Sundee Speelmon

Hope, Joy & Community

Hope, Joy & Community

Hope, joy, and community. These are three values that South Africa upholds. As we traveled throughout South Africa, I couldn’t help but observe in awe at all the sights we saw and the people we met. Throughout all these experiences, hope, joy, and community were evident.


One of the strongest lessons of hope was experienced at Robben Island prison when we saw the cell Nelson Mandela was held in for 18 years. Mandela was arrested as a “political prisoner” because he rebelled against an unjust government. As I looked at the cell, all I could think was “What would drive a man to be willing to sleep on a concrete floor, live almost completely alone, and perform manual labor for 18 years?” The answer came from our tour guide who actually was a past political prisoner like Mandela. He explained that fellow political prisoners decided to use the chance of all being together in prison to discuss how to make South Africa racially equal. They deemed the prison as a school and did everything they could to learn.

Being sentenced to prison for unfair reasons would be a hard experience. It would be easy to give up hope. However, Mandela and other political prisoners knew better. They had hope that one day they would be released, and had the wisdom to understand their country would need their leadership when that day came. By having hope, they were able to end racial segregation.



Often in our lives we become so obsessed with all the things that go wrong, we forget to be grateful for all the things that go right. I learned what it means to find joy in all situations when we visited the township of Kayamandi. Kayamandi is a shanty town which means most of the people residing there live in poverty. Many people live in homes constructed out of metal sheets and wood scraps. When it rains in Kayamandi the road conditions near homes cause flooding. Imagining all this, a pretty desolate and sad place comes to mind. However, Kayamandi is quite the opposite. Upon arriving in town, we were greeted with warm smiles and open arms. Walking down the streets, you could hear music playing and children laughing. We met our tour guide’s family, and as we sat in her home made of metal sheets, all I could feel I was an immense sense of love. The people of Kayamandi know something that we often forget: you don’t find the happy life, you make it. And the only thing you really need to have a happy life is love. By expressing love and gratitude, the people of Kayamandi taught us to find joy no matter the circumstances.




When we landed in South Africa and walked to the baggage claim area, I already knew we were in a special place. There was a welcoming atmosphere and a sense of community that was excitingly unfamiliar. Strangers would greet you and wave as you walked by. Having a conversation with a stranger is normal in South Africa, and I think there is a lot we can learn from that.

We even further experienced community visiting a high school with an agriculture program. Immediately students at the school were very open to conversations with us. They were casual enough to ask us about American traditions like prom, yet honest enough to share their thoughts on issues currently facing South Africa. By the end of our visit, it felt like we had made lots of new friends. By constantly expressing genuine interest in others and building a welcoming culture, South Africa has become more than just a country, it has become a community of beautifully genuine people.


South Africa is a country that embodies love. You can sense it walking down the city streets, feel it in the welcoming attitudes of people you meet, and see love’s influence on their culture. As we try to build lives that are led with love, let us all support our communities, have hope for a brighter future, and most of all find joy in the every part of the journey.

With gratitude,


The Joyful Journey


There are some things in life that we only experience once. The 98 days we got to spend traveling the whole state of Oregon, and more, were times we will never get to replicate. These last couple of months have taught us to truly enjoy the journey we are on, and the places it will take us. As our journey comes to a close, we wanted to share some of the last moments of our tour through a little twist on a holiday story.


It twas the night before our last class visit when all through the Willamette Valley

not a State Officer was sleeping not even a little;

Our official dress was hung high in the back of our trucks with care

In hopes that we could make a difference in Oregon FFA come March at the Deschutes County Fair;

The members were all nestled in their beds

While visions of fun and exciting workshops played through their heads;

And Mackenzie dressed in her favorite Christmas sweater, and Sundee answering all her Snapchats,

Had all the streaks been answered they could finally hit the sack,


When at our great homestays the animals arose such a happy clatter,

Devin and Dylan sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.

Away to the kitchen they went like a flash,

To find that their host family had made breakfast alas.

The roads had no new-fallen snow

That gave Andrew and Holly a clear path to school with the roads below,

When, what to their eyes would appear,

But a school full of students, ready to take on the new year,


With a little hard work and a lot of fun, so much so, we would never quit,

That we knew it must be close to our last visit.

More crazy and faster than we thought they would go by,

We would never say this was goodbye.


There were so many fun and exciting things that we got to experience on tour this year, and it was all thanks to every member and chapter across the state. Whether it was playing tag on hay bales, going bowling, playing laser tag, or sitting around a campfire roasting some marshmallows, it was all amazing and worth it. There will always be fun times but it’s the times where we got to see who we were actually doing all this for that made this tour so much more memorable and exciting. We truly enjoyed our journey and everyone within it, until next time Happy Holidays from our family to yours.      





Thankful (adjective): Expressing gratitude or relief.

What are you thankful for? This past month we, as state officers, have traveled across the state, from Joseph to Grants Pass and from Hillsboro to Jordan Valley. We are fully submerged in what could be considered the biggest part of state office: leadership tour. From the beginning of September to the end of December, my team visits every school in Oregon that has an agriculture program. In pairs of two, we teach leadership workshops to all students enrolled in an ag class and travel all across the state. In total, we visit over 110 schools and interact with almost 15,000 students.

We are officially halfway through leadership tour and I’m constantly asking myself why? Why take a year off from college, why devote myself to a life on the road, why stay in a different bed every night? For the first half of leadership tour, these questions bothered me. I found myself questioning my decisions and felt myself stuck between what I have done in the past and what I will be doing in the future. But what about now?

After spending a week in Indianapolis surrounded by a sea of blue jackets totaling in over 65,000 I discovered my why. At National Convention this year, I served as a delegate for Oregon FFA. I was given a voice in representing Oregon on the national level, and for that I am thankful. Thankful for these life-changing opportunities, thankful to make connections with new individuals, and thankful to represent an association so dedicated and unified as Oregon FFA. National Convention has been the most enlightening week of State Office yet, opening my eyes to the opportunities I have before me.

Returning from National Convention, we were given a day to gather our bearings, switch over supplies and belongings as we got new tour partners, and travel across the state from Corvallis to Pendleton for yet another school visit. As you might imagine, this day was hectic. The Dylan before National Convention would have been stressed, on edge, and felt pressured for time. But I discovered my why. I took a year off college to meet new people, impact lives, and leave pieces of my heart in every town I visit. I am devoted to a life on the road to see parts of Oregon I was blind to before and sleep in a different bed every night simply for the adventure of it all. On this hectic day, I was on cloud nine.

I visit a new school every day both for the die-hard FFA members who are counting down the days for a state officer visit and for the agriculture students who have no idea who we are, who don’t think they belong in FFA. I visit a new school every day to help the outgoing student hone in on their skills and to help the introverted student in the back of the class volunteer an answer for the first time. I visit a new school every day to get feedback on my facilitation skills from seasoned teachers so I too can grow and improve.

Sometimes as state officers we get caught up on seeing change immediately. If we don’t see a student grow in the period of one leadership camp or one school visit, we feel as if we aren’t doing our job right. We feel as if we are losing sight of our why. And I’ll admit I’m no stranger to this feeling, I have been right there in the first part of leadership tour. But then I remember back to April. Past State Vice President Emma Rooker, dubbed my “mom” pulled me aside, handed me a package of sunflower seeds, and gave me some advice I will never forget.

“It’s all about planting seeds in gardens you won’t have to water yourself.”

She told me to trust in my abilities and the connections I am making. I won’t always see results immediately and it can be disheartening, but trust that the seeds I am planting are seeds that will cultivate into something amazing in the future. This simple five minute interaction has impacted my year of service greater than I could have ever imagined back in April. Whenever I find myself losing sight of my why, these are the words I fall back on.

So I ask again, what are you thankful for? I am thankful for the opportunity to serve, represent, and grow. I am thankful to serve on a team with five other dedicated souls who consistently push me to go the extra mile. I am thankful to represent Oregon agriculture and the FFA. I am thankful to grow every single day in the classroom and on the road.

Oregon FFA, find what you’re thankful for and capitalize on it. Spread gratitude, push limits, and grow exponentially as we close out 2018 and open a new year full of endless opportunities.

Forever Blue,

Dylan J. Westfall

Oregon FFA State Vice President