National FFA Officer Team Tours Kentucky

Posted on Feb 22, 2018

National FFA Officer Team Tours Kentucky

To say the National FFA Officer Team stays busy is a gross understatement as these individuals comb the country attending state meetings, leadership events, and school chapter gatherings, not to mention their international travel and trips to our nation’s capital.

Having any one of these officers visit a local school or FFA chapter would be rated as one of the greatest honors that chapter could ask for. Having the entire officer team visit would be a very rare opportunity.

Gracie Furnish leads a workshop with students at Locust Trace Agri-Science Center in Fayette County.

But that is just what happened for several local chapters and schools around Kentucky as this year’s National Officer Team toured the state recently, meeting countless members and leading numerous workshops.

These six officers include: Breanna Holbert, President from California; Erica Baier, Secretary from Iowa; Piper Merritt, Central Region Vice President from Oklahoma; Ian Bennett, Southern Region Vice President from Georgia; Bryce Cluff, Western Region Vice President from Arizona; and Gracie Furnish, Eastern Region Vice President from Kentucky.

During their tour, the team visited students in Jefferson, Carroll, Jessamine, Boyle, Taylor, Larue, and Warren Counties, as well as Locust Trace Agri-Science Center in Fayette County.

Kentucky FFA State Advisor Brandon Davis said having this whole team in the state at one time is something that doesn’t happen often, anywhere.

“To be able to have all six of these leaders, who are from all across the country, with our members and ag-ed students sharing their experiences, through workshops and keynote addresses is a huge opportunity,” he said. “It allows the students who get to meet these national officers to see the possibilities there are within agricultural education and FFA. It is just wonderful to have this high quality leadership visiting some of our schools in Kentucky.”

Davis added that with having a former state FFA officer on the national team gives students here a sense of inspiration to set high goals and expectations for themselves.

He also pointed out that because of the diversity of schools, students and chapters the National Officer Team saw while in Kentucky, it gave them an opportunity to hone their skills in preparation of meeting with other members across the country throughout the year.

Bryce Chuff addresses students at Locust Trace Agri-Science Center in Fayette County.

“When these national officers get to interact with members, it’s a shot in the arm for them. They get re-energized about what their job is to represent these hundreds of thousands of members and provide that guidance, support and motivation for whatever the future holds for those members and themselves,” he said.

Gracie Furnish, of Harrison County saw many familiar faces during the tour having served as a Kentucky state officer last year. She said it especially exciting to be at a school like Locust Trace with such a diverse group of students.

“It was so good to see this place where so many students can come together to learn about agriculture and to grow as people and to grow as leaders. Being an agriculture education major, it has been super cool for me because I love getting to see the classrooms and see how different programs work. It has been an amazing opportunity,” she said. “In changing what some students think ag education and FFA is all about, it starts with us to tell the story of what we do and why we do it, and to show them there is a place for everyone in FFA.”

Whitney Evans, a sophomore student and Locust Trace FFA officer was excited to meet the national officers saying it was an honor to have them in her school.

“Since I became involved in FFA, I found it was like a home; a second family and the National Officer Team members are people I look up to in the sense of leadership,” she said. “I love how they are so diverse coming from all over the United States and for them to be at our school is such a big, big honor.”

The National FFA Officers (left to right) Piper Merritt (Central Region Vice President), Gracie Furnish (Eastern Region Vice President), Breanna Holbert (President), Erica Baier (Secretary), Bryce Cluff (Western Region Vice President), and Ian Bennett (Southern Region Vice President)

Daniel Bustle, an agriculture teacher at Locust Trace echoed those sentiments. He said having all of the officer team visit the school at one time is a once in a lifetime experience.

“This was a really unique opportunity not only for our students but also for me as an ag teacher,” he said. “We have a unique school and it speaks well to get all the officers here to highlight what we are doing here in Fayette County.”

He added that by having the officer team at Locust Trace, he hopes the students there get a better idea of the reach FFA has throughout the entire country.



Quotes from the National FFA Officers

Erica Baier:One of the best things about visiting multiple schools throughout this year is seeing that every single one of us has something really unique to offer. In my workshops, we talk about the strengths we have to offer and seeing the gifts these students have come to life has been a learning experience for me in how to use my own strengths even more.”

Ian Bennett:The more we are out on the road visiting the students, it’s more of a reality to us that people are much more willing to share personal stories with us because we put a lot of effort into a welcoming and friendly environment. But at the same time, as a national officer, when coming to these schools, we see that students are excited to be a part of this organization. We get to meet these students on a local level, and be with them where they are. That gives us a great opportunity just to really understand them a little better.

Bryce Cluff: “Being in Kentucky we saw so much diversity as far as the state goes and with agriculture and how beautiful it is. After a trip to Washington, D.C. we all split up and go our own way to different regions of the country. I know we are all very excited to meet FFA members where they live and see the diversity within our organization.”

Breanna Holbert:It is such a different journey being a national officer and a beautiful opportunity to see agriculture education and agriculture in general in such different and unique aspects. It’s an opportunity for us to be the eyes for thousands, upon thousands of members; to see these different versions of agriculture education. We get to see different schools like the ones in Kentucky where students learn more about agriculture while other there are other schools in other states that are more suburban and focus on other things. It’s cool that only the six of us see that, but also that it’s our responsibility to share that story.”  

Piper Merritt: "What I would take from my experience as a national officer is the renewed hope in agriculture in the United States because the students who we are spending time with and the students we get to invest in, truly are the future leaders. But they are already leaders of today in so many ways. This year we have the opportunity to invest in them and help grow alongside them. To see that from our perspective, and seeing what seeds we’ve planted once this year is over, I think that is something we, as officers are all looking forward to."