Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Girls can drive tractors too March 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:05 AM

NEARLY 40 YEARS AGO, I broke gender barriers and became the first girl to join the Wabasso High School Future Farmers of America Chapter.

No one made a big deal about this achievement, not even me. But now when I think back, my decision to enroll in animal and plant science classes, thus becoming an FFA member, opened the door for WHS girls to join a once exclusively-male organization.

By my senior year, nearly a dozen girls had become FFA members.

Although I came from a dairy farm, I never intended to become a farmer. I took the agricultural science classes as an alternative to biology, a decision I later regretted. My regrets came on the day of an animal science field trip to a local locker. There we watched the butcher kill and butcher a hog.

I remember one of my classmates, John, teasing me relentlessly about possibly fainting during the butchering process. I never fainted; John did.

That’s my most memorable memory of FFA.

I did nothing else stellar that I can recall, except win an award. A senior yearbook photo shows me holding a plaque, which I think is the Chapter Farmer Scholarship Award. Unfortunately, the academic honor came only with the plaque and no money, which likely explains why I really don’t remember it all that well.

But that was 1974 and this is today.

Nearly four decades later, I am proud to say that my niece, Hillary Kletscher, presides as president of the Wabasso FFA and is a regional FFA director. She’s done well in soil judging and has also attended state and national FFA conventions. I’m sure she’s done lots more of which I am unaware.

Recently, Hillary garnered a national FFA honor for her chapter when the T-shirt she created for the National FFA T-shirt Contest was selected for production and sale in 2010 and 2011. The design beat out hundreds of others to finish in the top 12 and then, finally, in the top six after online voting.

Wabasso High School's winning T-shirt design, front and back.

The process in creating Wabasso’s winning T-shirt began last spring when students were talking about getting their driver’s license. “Adam Schroepfer (a Wabasso FFAer) brought up the point that he had been driving his tractor since he was little and didn’t need a license and he should just drive that to school. So wa-lah, the theme,” says Hillary.

And wa-lah, now the Wabasso FFA Chapter will receive 50 percent of the profits from their T-shirt sales during the first year of sales.

So here’s to you, Hillary, and to all the other Wabasso High School girls, past and present, who proved that girls can drive tractors too.

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For information about purchasing Wabasso’s winning T-shirt and to view the other top designs, log on to www.ffa.org.

Text © Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

T-shirt graphic courtesy of Hillary Kletscher