The National FFA Convention started this week, so I thought this week would be a great time to highlight the association and youth in ag. The idea came to me late, so I wasn’t able to plan for an interview with @nationalffa. But, I knew there are plenty of aggies out there who are FFA alumni, so I knew the resource pool is deep.
But one person, Celeste Laurent, stuck out in my mind. First, I knew she was a student Western Kentucky University, so the youth part matched what I was looking for. Second, I’ve followed her for a while on Twitter and have picked up on her commitment to advocating for agriculture, particularly at WKU. Third, she said she’s missing her first FFA Convention in six years, so she could discuss her experiences with FFA and in Indianapolis. And fourth, I knew she followed #onthefarm, because she’s tweeted from class that she’s following the interviews instead of the professor!
So Celeste and I talked about her ag background, her experience in FFA, the best parts of FFA Week and what she thinks about the future of agriculture from a young adult perspective.
She was another great interview. A couple things stood out for me:
Ag is in good hands. Every FFAer I’ve met has been polite, well-spoken and passionate about promoting agriculture. It was only an hour-long Twitter interview, but Celeste exhibited these characteristics.
FFAers have their stuff together. Celeste and her friends have taken upon themselves to become subject matter experts in things they’re passionate about. You’ll see that below with Celeste’s commitment to bring awareness about H1N1.
Like Mike Ver Steeg from last week, Celeste had a couple one-liners that should be standard messages to insert into conversations. Maybe I’m new to seeing these messages, and they’ve been around for a while, but I think they are a must-have for aggies.
OK, enough blabbering. Here’s this week’s #onthefarm interview with Celeste. As always, let me know if there’s something I can do to make this better.
Oh, one more thing: Ag pubs: Check out her blog at www.celestelaurent.com. She’s wants to be a journalist!
n_web: It’s National FFA week, and I figured FFA would be a bit busy . . . so I decided to tap Celeste, who’s been to FFA 6 times. We can get her perspective on FFA week and what the assoc. has meant to her. Also to talk about being an colleg ag student. Celeste is a student at Western Kentucky U. You can learn more about her at her Web site: http://celestelaurent.com/ . OK Celeste, are you ready to get started?
celestelaurent: Ready to go!
n_web: Q1: I gave a short intro, but tell us a bit more about your background. Take a few tweets.
celestelaurent: I grew up on a family owned beef cattle operation in West KY. My 4 siblings & I show pigs & started raising our own in 2006. I always loved the livestock industry & through FFA’s speaking contests & workshops I was able to share that love with others. I served as chapter president, regional president, and ran for state office in 2007 & was blessed to be elected State Secretary. Life after FFA was learning to tell ag’s story w/o a blue jacket at WKU. I now double major in animal science & journalism.
n_web: Q2: Tell me a bit about FFA, high-level stuff first. Good background for our non-aggie friends.
celestelaurent: FFA is largest youth leadership org in the world with over 500,000 members from all 50 states, the Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico. FFA centers on ag education in the classroom, the SAE (Supervised Ag Experience or “project”) and FFA competition/involvement. Not all FFA members are farm kids. Many are interested in veterinary medicine, floriculture, landscaping, biotechnology, etc…
n_web: Q3: That’s something I just found out this yr. Can you talk about the rural/suburban/urban makeup of FFA? What things can a rural chapter and an urban chapter have in common?
celestelaurent: Rural chapters focus on adding to the farm background most kids already have through communication, leadership, service. Suburban chpts find common ground btw farm kids & urban kids. They allow students to teach each other by sharing experiences. Urban chpts focus on ag in urban areas (greenhouses, floriculture, meat science) & how they can fit into the industry from a city. No matter the location all FFA chapters focus on developing premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through ag ed
n_web: Q4: What drew you to be an FFAer? What made you stay active in the association?
celestelaurent: My mom was a state officer in Louisiana so she convinced me to pay my dues. I had a great ag teacher who kept me motivated. My ag teacher “informed” me that I would be competing in a speaking contest & attending national convention as a freshman. The opening session of that @nationallffa convention was inspiring. I set 3 goals that day: 1) Represent KY on the national stage 2) get my American Degree 3) run for state office Proud to say I achieved all 3 of them!
n_web: Awesome! Speaking of . . . Q5: I hear there’s this FFA convention happening this week in Indianapolis? What’s that all about? :)
celestelaurent: The greatest week of the year! lol National convention allows members from across the country to meet & compete on national level. Career show is packed w/awesome ag companies, FFA sponsors, & colleges. Great chance 4 members to network within industry. The sessions are amazing! National officers inspire & speakers motivate. So sad I’m missing Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs this yr! If ur in Indy this week u can’t help but be inspired by the blanket of blue jackets downtown Looks like the future of ag 2me!
n_web: Q6: What was the best part of the convention for you? Most rewarding? And what can they do to make it better?
celestelaurent: I LOVE listening to the National Officers retiring addresses. Even if I’ve never met them I’m still touched by their words. Most rewarding: carrying the KY flag into a session. For that 10 minutes I was the face of KY FFA to thousands of ppl! National Convention is so awesome I don’t know what would make it better….that’s a tough one!
n_web: Wow. I’m impressed by every FFAer that I’ve met (incl. you via Twitter). All of you are honored to be a part of the association.
celestelaurent: It is an honor. Every time u zip up ur FFA jacket u maybe the only face of ag someone ever sees…that’s a lot of responsibility!
n_web: Q7: Let’s talk about life after FFA: you mentioned earlier you have to promote ag w/o the blue jacket. How do you do that at WKU?
celestelaurent: It took some getting used to! I was so accustomed to being “State Secretary Celeste” that I forgot how to be just plain Celeste! I really dove into my journalism studies. In FFA I gave a speech to 1000 ppl max. Through writing I can touch so many more! I also got really involved in the WKU Block & Bridle Club. It focuses on the same things as FFA but specifically for animal ag. I am also still active in the KY FFA Alumni. I volunteer at the State Convention as the public relations intern.
n_web: Wow, you’re still pretty darn active.
n_web: Q8: As a student you may have a fresh perspective: what’s your sense of the future of ag? What are the “kids” saying nowadays?
celestelaurent: We know its up to agriculturalists to create ag’s future. If we “just farm” we won’t have any control, we have to advocate too! Each of my friends has a soap box: for me its “Call it H1N1″ for my roommate its “EAT BEEF” & for another its defend. So many more students want to be ag lobbyists. Its great to see they realize the need for ag’s voice in the political realm
n_web: Interesting. So you each take a topic area and decide to become the most knowledgable about that? I guess you share that info 2?
celestelaurent: Each stays up to date on the topics we’re interested in. I dk as much about BEEF as Molly so she handles the e coli q’s. Even prof’s email me w/”they’re not calling it H1N1, what do we do?” lol When a campus reporter needs a source I know who 2go to.
n_web: That’s great. Sounds like you’ve got a nice idea there. It’s all about making yourself available to answer ag questions, right?
celestelaurent: Exactly! Ive learned during the H1N1 stuff that few reporters know who 2call for ag source. No wonder many don’t get whole story!
n_web: Q9 from @lemonthyme5, Tuscola, IL FFA Chapter: “What are her plans for the future? I love to hear of student aspirations!”
celestelaurent: I hope to write for an ag publication. I’m not picky lol I love animal ag & I love keeping youth involved in ag. So long as I’m helping one of those two groups I’ll be happy!
n_web: Well, I hope there are a few ag trade pubs out there following this . . . maybe you’ll land another internship through Twitter :) OK, final Q: is there anything else you’d like to add? Something I missed that you’d like to say?
celestelaurent: Don’t be afraid to talk 2 journalists If u see a reporter at an ag event go talk to them. Chances are they’ll appreciate the help
n_web: Thanks a ton for joining me bright and early for this. Great insight into FFA and what’s happening with ag youth. I wish we had more time to chat! Best wishes with school and promoting ag! Folks, it sounds like we have a great agvocate here!
celestelaurent: I’ve enjoyed it! Hope the followers did too. Make sure to follow @nationalffa and @ffaeditor for continued convention tweets. Thanks, I’ve really enjoyed visiting. Thanks a lot to @lemonthyme5 for submitting a question!
celestelaurent: Gotta head to class, wonder what my journalism classmates will think when I tell them had a “twitter-view” this morning lol
n_web: Well that was a fun one. Hope those following enjoyed it.