State Officer Blog

The better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years

It was a blessing to have the opportunity to serve as a national delegate for Florida at the 87th National FFA Convention almost two months ago. I have seen where this organization has come from and where it is today, but to be a part of the process that will help this organization continue to grow and thrive was absolutely amazing! While at convention I got to interact with many other state officers from across the nation, but the three that really stood out were; Jovon Townsend (Delaware), Hunter Morton (South Dakota), and DeShawn Blanding (South Dakota). Yes, all three of them are African-American, but what really stood out to me was how much they respected their culture and where they came from.

✔️ Don’t forget where you come from
When I was with those three other individuals I was reminded of struggles and efforts that were put forth for us to be in that blue corduroy jacket. There was a time when woman were not allowed in this organization. There was time when there was a separate organization for African-Americans in agriculture. It’s extremely important that we never forget where we came from so that we can continue moving forward. Think back to where you used to be before you zipped up the blue jacket… Think back to before you took that first Ag class… How can we move forward if don’t know where we have been?

✔️ Your past does not determine your success in the future
It’s important to reflect on where we used to be, but it’s also vital to remember that our past does not determine how successful we are. Learn from the mistakes that you made in the past and keep moving forward. You are not defined by how much money you make, where you live, what you drive, what you wear, or how you look… But what we are defined by is the content of our character. Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do something simply because of where you come from. You can be successful, not only in this organization, but in the game of life.

✔️Everything comes full circle
We are vastly approaching the 50th anniversary of when The NFA and the FFA merged together. I think it’s funny how everything seems to comes full circle for me. It was the delegates in 1965 that decided that it was time for a change in this organization, those delegates decided that no matter the color of ones skin or where they come from we all share a common passion for agriculture. It was the delegates in 1969 that decided that woman should be allowed to join. Without these changes over half of my state officer team would not be in the blue corduroy jacket. I’m extremely grateful that everything came full circle, allowing me to participate in that same delegate process so that I can exert an influence in trying to make great changes in this organization and in the lives of others.

✔️ It’s not about making history
When I was elected I was constantly being asked how it felt to be one of two African-American state officers ever in Florida, and how it felt to be the first African-American state Vice President in Florida. It felt good, however I stressed to them that for me IT WAS NOT ABOUT MAKING HISTORY, IT’S ABOUT MAKING A DIFFERENCE. I don’t care about getting my name called and put on a big screen, I don’t care about the recognition, I don’t care about getting a fancy award. I care about the members, I want to make a difference in the lives of those members! I challenge you to not dwell on making history, but focus on making a difference in the lives of others.

We should never forget the last line of the first paragraph of the FFA creed that says,

“The better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.”

Be blessed,
Jacobi Bedenfield, Area I State Vice President

Listen to Your Parents

I really consider myself blessed to be part of a family that has taught me so many lessons growing up. There is one man in my life that I have to give a big thanks to, my dad. To me, my dad is my rock and someone who instilled their love for animals, hard work, and agriculture. To my dad, I am his crazy daughter who doesn’t take no for an answer, and has ludicrous ideas that I make him help me with. I mean, what are dads for if you can’t make them help you with a wooden cutout of a cow? There are a couple of things my dad always said to me that I have never given a second thought, until this year. So I would like to share some of my dad’s many lectures/lessons or sayings to me. (Disclaimer: My dad speaks Spanish so I am translating these)

“Okay Superwoman, Go, and Save the World.”

This saying arose shortly after the beginning of my senior year. I found myself spending less and less time at home as I raced off in the mornings to an officer meeting and didn’t get home until nine because I had an alumni meeting, a heifer to take care of, and a tennis game. As I would jet off, I would kiss my parents goodbye and apologize for leaving in a rush. Then, my dad would say “okay superwoman, go, and save the world” This added so much meaning to everything I did. I didn’t realize that every action that I took that day would have an effect on my future or help someone out.

“Angie, don’t date until you are married.”

That isn’t even possible. How are you supposed to get married before you ever date? Although my dad wasn’t being literal with this saying he wanted me to take something out of it. Now while for the longest time I just thought he didn’t want to see his daughter date, I now know what he really wanted. See, this saying would always come after a day of working with him. He never wanted me to have to depend on someone else in life. He would make me go work with him on the ranch breaking horses, fixing fences, and mow the yard whenever I had the time. He didn’t want me to be afraid of work, or for me to think that I needed to depend on someone else’s work to live. He always finished it up with something like “You settle yourself first before you settle down with a life partner”

“You do what you want.”

This one in particular is my favorite because it came from me joking around with my dad all the time. I would always respond “I’ll do what I want” to whatever my dad use to say. Whether it was to walk the dogs or come to the table for supper. I always ended up doing it anyways, because you should always listen to your parents, but I wanted him to know that I did it because I wanted to and not because he told me. This resulted in him turning the tables on me whenever I would ask for favors of him. However, when I got elected this past June he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said “You’ll Do What You Want.” I realized that I started my swine SAE even though my dad thought it was a bad idea, and I hosted a pageant even though I didn’t get a lot of support, and I decided to run for state office because I did what I wanted.

If there is something I have really learned in life, it is this: listen to your parents. Yup, that’s right. It may not always seem like it, but they do know what they are talking about. I value all the lessons my dad has said to me over the years because I keep them with me every day. I believe in learning from your mistakes, but I also believe in learning from other’s mistakes. So take time and next time your parents lecture you, listen to them.


Forever blue,

Angie Patino
Area VI State Vice President


Out of all the months in the year, October would have to be my favorite. This may have initially been the case because it is my birth month, but as I’ve grown older it has proven to be my favorite for much greater reasons than simply marking another year of my life. October is the month that we start to have cooler weather, which is always welcomed with wide-open arms from all of us Floridians after the hot summers we always endure. The end of the month is my favorite though, for one simple reason… Halloween.

I don’t know if you can call Halloween a holiday, but it is a day worth celebrating. Personally, I don’t care how the tradition got started, or the darkness it represents. I enjoy this day because it allows me, for one day, to become someone or something that I will never be in real life. For one day I can be anything I want to be. I can be a superstar, a princess, a witch, a pirate, or even a pumpkin.

The funny this is though, we put on costumes, or personas, everyday of the year, not just on October 31st. We do so to hind our demons, or to hind our true selves in fear that we will be judged. One thing I’ve learned though, is that being judged isn’t a negative thing. When people judge us, they notice that we are different from them. They may not initially understand this, or appreciate it. That doesn’t matter though, what matters is how you handle it when they judge you. Stand tall and proud of whom you are, because you are unique and bring something to this world that nobody else can. In that moment that you are being judged for being yourself, you may influence someone, and that person may even be the person that’s judging you. For me, I know I’m different and trust me when I say I embrace that everyday and every moment that I can, why shouldn’t I? Maybe the one moment that I try to fit in, there’s someone watching me that misses the opportunity to grow because I wasn’t being true to myself.

I say we reserve October 31st to be anything or anyone we want to be, and the other 364 days of the year we will just be ourselves, no costumes or personas, just the beautifully unique people that we all are.

Shine on and don’t forget you’re awesome,

Jana Caracciolo
Area III State Vice President

To Practice Brotherhood

Brotherhood is defined as the belief that all people should act with warmth and equality toward one another, regardless of differences in race, creed, nationality, etc. As FFA members, we are all united by the blue corduroy jacket. We are united regardless of what state or chapter we are from. We all share a passion for agriculture and agriculture education. However, we are united to a much larger group of people. This is a group of people that share the same interests and values as us. This group of people feeds the world, and without them we wouldn’t have the luxuries that we have grown accustomed to. This group of people is rarely thanked for the countless hours, immeasurable amounts of sweat and tears, and all the hard work they put in day in and day out. These individuals are known as the American farmer.

As many of you know, last week our team had the opportunity to travel to Iowa to learn about production agriculture and what it takes to feed the world. We traveled all over the state of Iowa going on various tours of different family owned and ran businesses. One of our first stops was to Stine Seed Company. At Stine Seed they devote their careers to being the leading innovators in corn and soybean hybridization to create new plants that will increase yields and survive better in the field. We learned about the process every new hybrid must go through before it can be released on the market, and got to take a look at the 20,000 acre test plot where they test new hybrids. Next, we went to Kinze Manufacturing where we learned the history of starting in a small garage to taking the journey to be one of the leading innovators in grain cart and row planter manufacturing. We had the opportunity to visit Brenneman Pork, where we learned about large scale swine production and had the opportunity to assist in the sows giving birth to a litter of piglets. When we traveled to JBS packing facility, we learned how the pigs are processed and had the unique opportunity to see every step of the process. Finally, we wrapped our trip up with a tour of Mr. Dennis Geinger’s farm where he farms 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans, hogs, and cattle. We also got to have a little play time and drive the large machinery, which was a first for many of us. Throughout all of our experiences though, I began to realize one very important aspect. No matter where we went or what we did, we were greeted with open arms. It didn’t matter that we were from Florida. It didn’t matter that many of us did not have experience in production agriculture. The only thing that mattered was that we all have a passion for advocating for agriculture and standing up for the American farmer and that we wanted to learn. Nothing else was important. And through our passion and willingness to learn, we were united with people that we will likely never see again. We share a brotherhood with people that live thousands of miles away.

I challenge each of you that read this to take a stand now. Become more involved with local producers, ask them questions and learn from them, and finally help them spread the message of how important the American farmer is.

Forever blue,

Austin Polk
Area II State Vice President

Dream. Believe. Act.

Every morning when I walk outside and look at the sky, I can’t help but think of the president’s opening ceremonies part where it says “the rising sun is a token of a new era in agriculture.” The rising sun helps us realize that there are more opportunities to come; in this organization and in our lives, and it helps us realize that no matter what we are going through, joy comes in the morning.

Think back with me to the summer of 2013 at the 85th Florida FFA State Convention – my very first state FFA convention! I remember seeing the state officers on stage during the first session. I remember how they all looked so poise and distinguished. I distinctly remember how I could see the joy in their eyes every single second they stood on that stage, and I said to myself, “I could see myself up there one day.” I had a dream, but I didn’t act on it until it was almost too late! I didn’t decide to run for state office until one month before screening at the State Leadership Summit! It was by the grace of God that I was able to pull it together, become a candidate, and get elected to serve with six other individuals on July 4, 2014. I had a dream, I believed in myself, and I acted on my dream to make it a reality. I encourage all of you to do the same. At the National Leadership Conference For State Officers in July, a North Carolina state officer shared this quote: “You don’t own success… you rent it, and it’s a payment that you have to put in every single day.”

“You don’t own success… you rent it, and it’s a payment that you have to put in every single day.”

One thing that I know for sure is that time truly does fly when you’re having fun! It seems like it was just yesterday that we were elected to serve as state officers, when in all reality we have already past the one month mark! Within our short month of state office so far we have traveled to Orlando, Gainesville, Haines City, and even Fort Myers, Florida for the Citrus Expo! My favorite events so far would definitely have to be the two camps that we had the opportunity to be a part of. Both Florida Outdoor Adventures and Florida Leadership Adventures were great experiences for all of us. I love getting to spend quality time with members at camps and conferences because it gives me the opportunity to see where they came from and how they plan to progress and keep moving forward as they grow as leaders is this association. I have learned so much already from the members, past state officers, national officers, advisors, and even my own teammates. I have enjoyed every single second of my state office year so far and I look forward to the rest of this year as we continue learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, and living to serve!

I was recently asked by a middle school student why I joined the FFA, so here is my answer…

The reason I am in FFA is because I believe that I was put on this Earth for three reasons: To lead, serve, and give people hope. Just like all of you, I have gifts that should be used to help others. I am an officer simply because it is my calling. The members have needs, advisors have desires, and this association needs leaders. I saw the needs of this association and knew that I could help!

To the potential members, I would advise you to not focus on the awards or the titles but just focus on one thing: serving others and being a role model for others to follow. Don’t try to do everything, just be the best you can be in what you do. Members – think about the reason that you joined FFA, advisors think about why you are involved with the FFA, and other stakeholders think about why you support the FFA. If you believe in the future of agriculture, then don’t just say it. Show it!

God bless,
Jacobi Bedenfield
Area I State Vice President

Selfless Leadership

I still remember my first encounter with a Florida FFA State Officer team. The year was 2008 and I was attending the 80th Florida FFA State Convention as a sixth grader. I remember being completely captivated with the entire first general session. As I watched the team perform reflections and opening ceremonies, I remember thinking, “That is what I want to do. State officers must have it made! They spend their entire year enjoying the spotlight and the praises of thousands.”

Now that I am 42 days in to office I realize that my job as a state officer is so much bigger than those four days of convention and a jacket that has “State President” embroidered on the front of it.  And I say this as a warning and to give guidance to those of you who will one day desire to serve in a Florida Association jacket, because your year of service is truly a year of service, and is not about you.

Recently our state officer team attended two Florida FFA Leadership camps, as well as the Citrus Expo. During all three events our team worked diligently at all times doing jobs that many would not enjoy. During one occasion at the Florida Leadership Adventures camp our team helped perform a relay race that included slime, canoe races, and very messy slip-n-slide. The race went well, the kids had a great time, and I was completely covered in slime. And I knew at that point I had just enough time to go back to the room, take a shower and a nap before the banquet that night. Then I looked around me. The LTC was a mess and I knew that as someone who saw the problem that it was my responsibility to help fix it. So I began hauling chairs, folding giant tarps, picking up canoes, cleaning off residual slime from the walls, collecting random shoes laying around the stations, and the list goes on and on.

But I can’t say I did all this with a smile. I was infuriated. I spent the next two hours cleaning up the entire LTC and fixing messes that I did not make when I could have been taking a hot shower. That day I had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted everyone to know how selfless I was because I just cleaned up his or her mess. I thought in my mind that I deserve a round of applause because I fixed a problem that I could have just ignored. Surely, the servant leadership award should go to Brandon McKee.

I finished the job, took a shower, and prepared for the banquet that night. I waited to be thanked for my efforts, but no one noticed what I had done. I stewed in my anger for a moment, but then I remember a line that I learned from this past state officer team.

[blockquote size=”full” align=”left” byline=””]“True leadership is untitled.”[/blockquote]

Yes, I did a job that most would not have enjoyed doing. And yes, for the vast majority of Florida’s 17,000+ FFA members, they will never know half the work that a state officer will put into this year to serve them. But I have come to realize that leadership that is truly selfless does not need a limelight to perform. My heart that day may not have been in the right place, but I am so thankful for that experience because I needed to be taught a lesson about selflessness.

As an FFA member this next year you have countless opportunities to have a moment where you can shine bright with your leadership. But I hope you realize that the work you will put in this next year that will go unseen is even more valuable to your year of service in your chapter.  Take a lesson from me: you can do all the right things, but if you do them for a pat on the back and for recognition then your service may be hindered. Selfish leadership is impure, but selfless leadership is pure and withstands any accusation or criticism.

I hope I continue to grow and have these experiences because I will be the first to admit that there is plenty of room in my life for growth. I challenge you today to go lead untitled. Serve your family, your chapter, and your friends, despite the praises you may or may not receive. True leadership is untitled, and selfless leadership is pure in heart. Do something good for someone else without them knowing it today!

Brandon McKee
State President

 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  – Mathew 6:19-21

Be Inspired.

I will never forget that moment, in Tama County, Iowa. I stood there under the barn listening to the rain on the tin roof and watched the corn and the soybeans soak it all up. My mind began to reflect back on all that the state officer team and I had experienced in the past week on our Iowa Pork Tour.

I thought back to our first day of the tour. We came in as empty books, waiting for our pages to be filled with knowledge of the pork industry. We definitely had a full book by the end of our trainings that day; from learning of the efficiency of the pork industry to practicing how to communicate their message.

That knowledge was very useful as we entered the Pioneer seed company and Kinze tractors. As we walked through Pioneers labs and saw where they were developing new seeds, it was crazy to think that we just walked by a product that could be in the fields twelve to fifteen years from now. Then as we walked through the assembly lines at Kinze’s manufacturing plant, we were fascinated with the amount of thought that goes into each step in order to produce the top-notch equipment that farmers need. To see the dedication and commitment to perfection at these two facilities was unreal. It was very reassuring to see that farmers have support groups like Pioneer and Kinze, that work tirelessly to make the farmer’s job just a tad bit easier.

My thoughts then led me back to one of the most impactful tours of the week; Brenneman Pork. You know that when a tour starts off with pork burgers, it is going to be good. Like the burgers, everything else at Mr. Brenneman’s farm was nothing but the best. I could see why he put so much thought into every aspect of his farm after hearing his story. Mr. Brenneman started from nothing. He built his farm up, only to have it torn back down to the point of almost losing it. After taking a second job and working tirelessly to support his family and what was left of his farm, the hard work paid off and he built his farm up to the 600,000 pigs per year that it is at today. “I really hope you have some hard times, cause that’s when you find out who you really are,” said Mr. Brenneman. Those words stuck in my head as I toured his farm and saw the sweat and tears that he put into these pigs. From the ventilation system that he invented in the barns, to the safety precautions that he had all visitors go through; you could really tell how much he cared about the well being of his pigs. Aside from getting to see the baby pigs, perhaps the most eye-opening aspects of that particular tour was getting to see the gestation stalls. In one of the barns, we were able to witness the difference in pig’s behaviors between the ones in the stalls and the ones in the open housing. In the gestation stalls, they had some happy pigs; they got to eat as much as they wanted without having to share or get interrupted. However, the pigs in the open housing were, well… acting like pigs. All you could hear was the sound of the pigs squealing and fighting over food. Although I could not hear anything in that part of the barn, I could for sure smell something. The smell was bad at first, but then I learned that they use all of the pig feces to spray and fertilize the corn, that later comes back to the pigs; so I would say that it was a pretty good smell. This is where the efficiency comes in that I mentioned earlier. Everything about Mr. Brenneman’s farm was impressive, and it is an experience that I will reflect on long past that moment under the barn.

Perhaps the thing we love about the pork industry the most, is getting to eat it; however, that process does not come easy. The JBS processing plant broke that process down for us and let us witness it from start to finish. From the time that the pigs were put to sleep, to the time the cuts of meat were separated, to the time they were put in the freezer; the employees at JBS were committed to doing their individual jobs so that the big picture could come together. Despite having seen the process behind it, we still enjoyed our sausage and bacon pizza to complete the tour. Like I said, eating the pork is what we love the most.

The other highlight of our tour was getting to travel to Mr. Geinger’s farm in Tama County. On his farm we were able to learn more about soybean and corn yields by climbing a hundred feet up in the air on the grain bins. Just kidding, we learned by driving the tractors and combine through the field. All jokes aside, we were taught how to calculate the yields by taking samples from his field and putting our math skills to the test. Mr. Geinger also raises pigs, which we were able to look at. Then the rain spoiled our fun and brought us into that barn where I watched the corn and soybeans grow.

After I pondered back on all of those experiences, I realized how much I take agriculture and the farmers behind it for granted. The effort that they put in every single day should never be overlooked or forgotten. Farmers are truly the wheels that keep our great nation and our world turning.

You remember how I said that we had a full book of knowledge after the trainings on the first day? Well I was wrong. Getting to witness the issues, triumphs, discouragements, and joys first-hand gained us a whole new book full of knowledge on the pork industry and on American agriculture. “Every day I don’t learn something, is a bad day,” wise words from Mr. Brenneman. Well the state officer team and I learned something every day on this tour, so I think Mr. Brenneman would agree when I say, it was a very good week, and I know the other state officers would agree when I say that it is one that we will NEVER forget.

God Bless,

Gordon Yoder
Area 1 State Vice President

Leadership: Iceberg Style!

Over the past seven years as an FFA member, the word “leadership” has become a very familiar word. However, what does leadership mean?  Webster dictionary states that leadership is “the ability to lead.” It might just be me but the literal definition still leaves me wondering what the true meaning of leadership is. I have found through my experience that leadership is a culmination of ideas and traits. We learn about leadership in different ways including communication, teamwork, time-management, goal setting, and service.

I can remember going through chapter officer interviews during middle and high school. I could guarantee that the question, what does leadership mean to you, would always be asked.  In middle school, I might have said that leadership was leading a group. In high school, I came to a more sophisticated answer; leadership is when you can lead a group by example. Yes, I thought I was clever. If you do everything right, be on time, make goals, be a good speaker, and be positive than you must be a great leader. Not entirely. Recently, I have discovered a new way to understand the concept of leadership.

One book that was given to every state officer in the United States was Habitudes by Dr. Tim Elmore. In this particular leadership book the author delivers twelve images that form leadership habits and attitudes, aka Habitudes. The very first image is one that has really stuck with me, a simple picture of an iceberg. There is more to an iceberg than you can see; in fact, most of the iceberg is actually underneath the water. Dr. Elmore compares our personal leadership to that of an iceberg. He explains that leadership is made of both skill and character. Actually, leadership is made of 10% skill and 90% character. Our leadership is much like the image of an iceberg. The 10% of skill is what people see above the water, skills such as public speaking or organization.

Yet, the 90% character is underneath the water. Your character is the combination of four factors.

  • Self-discipline, the ability to do what’s right even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Core values, principles you live by that enable you to take a morale stand
  • Sense of identity, a realistic self-image based on your gifts and personality
  • Emotional security, the capacity to be emotionally stable and consistent

Our leadership is composed much like that of an iceberg.  Leadership consists of 10% skill, above the water, and 90% character, below the water. As you may have imagined it is what’s below the surface that sinks the ship. I challenge you to evaluate your personal leadership. The core of our personal leadership is character or what we do when no one else is watching. So I ask, what does your character look like? Do you do what is right even though it may not be the easiest thing to do?

Until Next Time,

Brett Wasden
Area IV State Vice President

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State Officer Blog: A New Beginning

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to the inaugural posting of the Florida FFA State Officer Blog! Through this blog, the State Officer team will keep you updated on what is happening in Florida FFA, what the team is staying busy with throughout the year, and the occasional story or tidbit of information that we feel like sharing. All seven of us will try to contribute once a month, so make sure you keep an eye out for our postings!

To start this blog off, we thought it would be best to start off with the basics. A fundamental part of the FFA is the simple phrase, “Living to Serve.” Those three words cap off our motto and have been a vital cornerstone of what each FFA member should remember throughout their years in the blue corduroy. The 2013-2014 Florida FFA State Officer team has selected the phrase “Living to Serve” as our theme for the year.

It’s hard to wrap our minds around how important such a simple phrase really is. As FFA members, how often do we remember to truly serve our community? To serve our chapter? To serve those around us? Quite frankly, not often enough. The potential to serve lies within everyone. Being a servant leader does not necessarily mean donating your time and money to a charity, it is exactly what you make it.

One of our favorite parts about service is that it is not a ‘one size fits all’ concept. There are thousands of ways to serve. Whether it’s coordinating a food drive or simply going out of your way to make someone else’s day better, service is as unique as the person performing the task. If you look at the design of the “Living to Serve” logo, you will notice the “Serve” is written in script. It is meant to represent a signature. As everyone’s signatures vary based on their lives, the way we serve others is based on so many different external factors.

Throughout this year, we as State Officers are striving to inform each of Florida’s nearly 17,000 members on how important it is to lead a life of service. Throughout the year and the rest of your life, remember that we as Florida FFA members are “Living to Serve.”

Signing Off,

Florida FFA State Officer Team

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