Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesotan elected to national FFA office October 24, 2011

MY NIECE HILLARY KLETSCHER e-mailed me with exciting news from the Future Farmers of America national convention. Not news about her personally, but about Minnesota.

For the first time in 26 years, a Minnesota FFA Association member has been elected to office in the National FFA Organization. Jason Troendle, a May 2010 graduate of St. Charles High School and current Bethel University student, was elected secretary at the just-concluded national convention in Indianapolis.

And get this—this past Minnesota FFA president and now the current national secretary, is not even from a farm.

The 1973 - 1974 Wabasso High School FFA chapter consisted of mostly male students. I am among the few females featured in this yearbook photo. I'm seated in the second row, third girl on the right.

Current Minnesota FFA President Hillary Kletscher of Vesta.

When I was a member of the Wabasso High School FFA Chapter in southwestern Minnesota in the early 1970s, I think all of us were farm kids. I was, in fact, the first female to join the WHS chapter back when the organization was mostly male dominated. Things have changed in the past 30 – 40 years. And that’s a good thing.

You don’t need to be from the farm or planning a career in agriculture to be involved in this ag-focused organization. The new national secretary is majoring in economics and environmental studies.

My niece grew up on a farm, although family has not farmed the land but rented it out for the past several years. Hillary’s not planning to become a farmer either. She’s studying biological systems engineering at Iowa State University.

According to the Minnesota FFA website, “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of young people by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success!”

I’ve seen firsthand how Hillary has benefited from FFA membership. She’s risen through the organization from WHS chapter president and then a regional officer to become Minnesota’s current state FFA president, a position she will hold until next May. She’s a well-spoken, driven, talented, successful 18-year-old.

Currently Hillary’s juggling her college studies with her FFA responsibilities. Last week she attended the national FFA convention as a Minnesota delegate. She’s also traveled throughout Minnesota, speaking, leading workshops, meeting with high school students and doing more than I could possibly list here.

She’s gone to Washington D.C. and, in January, will travel to China for a leadership conference.

Can you imagine Hillary’s resume and networking by the time she completes her term as Minnesota FFA president and upon her graduation from college in several years?

Can you imagine Jason’s resume and networking by the time he completes college and his term as national FFA secretary next October?

But certainly, beyond those individual benefits are the benefits to agriculture through the positive voices, work, commitment and leadership of these young people, our future.

WERE YOU/ARE YOU a FFA member? How did you benefit from membership? Tell me about your involvement.

You can also connect with current and past FFA members and others interested in agriculture through FFA Connect! Click here for more information.

© Text copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Hillary Kletscher photo by Matt Addington Photography

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Differences & bridges

I WANT TO SHARE two items with you today. Both are different, yet alike, because they’re about differences. Differences between cultures and differences between states.

Humbird Cheese, a popular tourist stop at Tomah, Wisconsin.

Let’s start with the humorous of the two, a little story from my second daughter, who lives in eastern Wisconsin.

Along with a photo, she sent this text message: “They teach them early in wi.”

I studied what appeared to be a child’s drawing of a hefty hunk of cheese and a mouse, along with words too miniscule to decipher on my cell phone screen.

M: “It was a drawing with a haiku in a surgery dept waiting rm. Can u read the haiku or is it too small?”

Me: “I can’t read it.”

M: “It says ‘I love to eat cheese. Swiss Colby pepperjack too. I’m almost a mouse.’ By devon age 9.”

Honestly, don’t you just have to laugh at the subject of this haiku. Of all “the things I love,” this 9-year-old Wisconsinite wrote about cheese?

Would a Minnesota child ever choose to write a cheese haiku?

Wisconsin, I love your cheese, really I do. And I love how your kids love your cheese.

Numerous cultures were represented during the International Festival held in September at Central Park in Faribault. Here singers perform the Mexican national anthem in the band shell.

NOW TO THE OTHER  STORY about differences, written by sports reporter Brendan Burnett-Kurie and published Sunday on the front page of The Faribault Daily News. Here’s the headline for that top-notch feature, which should be required reading in every Faribault (maybe even Minnesota) classroom and home:

“The beautiful team…How the Cannon Valley soccer team bridged cultural gaps and came together around the game they love.”

I tipped Brendan off to this story after my good friend Mike Young told me about the soccer team at Cannon Valley Lutheran High School in Morristown. Mike serves as the school’s volunteer development director. Yes, you read that correctly. Volunteer.

But back to Brendan’s story. He wrote about the school’s recently-rejuvenated soccer team which includes a melting pot of students—of different ethnic backgrounds, different sizes, different ages and from different schools. (CVLHS, with less than 20 students, couldn’t field a team solely from within.)

It’s one of those feel-good stories that make you smile. These boys became a team and became friends. Differences didn’t matter to them. Not differences in their skin colors, their heights, their ages, their shoe sizes, their anything.

Brendan writes: “One day during practice they all took off their shoes and flipped over the tongues, comparing the sizes. Little fourth-grader Yianko Borrego had size 4 feet. The largest were size 13.”

These boys can all teach us a thing or a hundred about acceptance.

FYI: To read Brendan’s outstanding feature, click here.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling