Nine years after first entering college, Emily Watson is moving closer to her long-awaited goal of becoming an agriculture teacher.
After wrapping up this semester, the UW-River Falls senior will embark on a fall semester of student teaching and then, if all goes well, land a position as an agricultural educator soon thereafter.
“I’ve waited a while for this, but it’s all worth it because it’s something I’m passionate about,” she said.
“If you talk to FFA students, myself included, we kind of found our home in our FFA chapters and our ag departments with those teachers who gave great advice. To be able to provide an environment like that for students is really important to me. I want to get students excited about agriculture like I am, because it means a lot.”
Watson, 26, who was raised near Elkhorn in Walworth County, received the Outstanding Young Member Award at the Wisconsin FFA Alumni’s 39th Annual Convention earlier this month in Stevens Point.
Her appreciation for FFA and agriculture has remained steadfast over the years.
After graduating from Elkhorn Area High School in 2010, Watson enrolled at UW-Platteville but opted to leave after two years. In 2012 she was elected State FFA vice president, and during her year in that role she spent several weeks working closely with students in classrooms.
“I already knew I liked ag education, but that’s where I truly fell in love with it,” she said.
Determined to pursue a career as an ag teacher, Watson started working at Best Buy to raise money for college. She returned to college in 2016, enrolling at UW-River Falls, and is on track to graduate in January 2020.
David Kruse, the agricultural sciences instructor/FFA adviser at Elkhorn Area High School, said Watson has the tools to succeed.
“As a future agricultural educator, Emily is going to bring with her, first and foremost, a deep interest in the agriculture industry along with the skills and instinct to share agriculture’s message with others,” Kruse said.
“I have always known Emily to be the type of person that would invite others in to learn about agriculture, agricultural education and FFA. As a freshman in high school, she was already an advocate for agricultural education when recruiting other students, and her advocacy has only continued and improved in her post-secondary journey.
“I have enjoyed and taken pride in the moments I have seen Emily continue her involvement with the Wisconsin FFA, either at Wisconsin FFA State Conventions or providing training to current agricultural educators during her work with the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.”
Watson’s interest in agriculture originated on her parents’ hobby farm near Elkhorn, where they raised several Brown Swiss dairy cattle. She showed cattle during her years in the local 4-H group.
As a high school freshman, Watson joined the Elkhorn FFA chapter and embraced the opportunities it provided.
“I enjoyed being able to travel, especially to leadership sessions and conventions,” said Watson, noting one of her most memorable trips was a weeklong leadership development conference in Washington, D.C.
“And I also liked that we could judge dairy cattle and learn more about them in the classroom. I learned a lot through FFA and my ag teacher (Kruse).”
In addition to attending UW-River Falls full time, Watson has worked full time at Best Buy for the past five years. She said the managerial skills she has developed will benefit her agricultural students when it comes to preparing them for the workforce in whatever field they choose.
“There are so many facets and areas of agriculture that students can get involved in,” Watson said. “It’s Wisconsin, but it’s not just dairy farming. It’s whatever you want your career to be in agriculture, whatever you’re passionate about. Agriculture needs people with that passion.
“I want to show students all of those opportunities they have and hopefully help them find something that they want to do and are passionate about in life.”
Watson encourages people to contribute in whatever ways they can, big or small.
“As young alumni members, we need to remember it’s the little things that matter,” she said. “Just being there, available and willing to help makes all the difference.
“There are so many people who have worn the FFA jacket, and if all those people did one little thing — even if it’s not their home chapter, but a chapter close to them — it would make such a big impact. Doing the little things is important to supporting our FFA chapters and our ag teachers and our FFA students.”