MADISON — Last year’s Wisconsin FFA Convention included a special moment for one daughter and her mother as the first “Teach Ag Signing Day Event” was held during the 89th annual convention.
An FFA adviser recalled that as the young woman stood in line, waiting to sign her letter of intent to one of the top agriculture schools in the state, tears streamed down the face of her proud mother. Her daughter had seen dozens of students at her high school sign letters of intent to colleges for their athletic abilities, but had never dreamed of having her own proud moment, signing her own letter of commitment in front of a large, cheering audience.
The mother said it was the best thing that had happened to her daughter, just one of nine students from across the state that had been accepted to study agriculture education at UW-Platteville or UW-River Falls.
At this year’s 90th Wisconsin FFA Convention, 24 students beamed as they sat down with college administrators to sign paperwork committing themselves to study agricultural education, their families, fellow FFA members and advisers cheering from the audience.
“That’s my sister!” a sibling exclaimed as Cassidy Van Buren of Waupun FFA signed her documentation, with her mother looking on from over her shoulder.
Van Buren knew she wanted to be a teacher from a young age, but had envisioned teaching kindergarten and early childhood. But that changed when she joined FFA in seventh grade.
“Once I joined, I knew right away that teaching agriculture was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.
She has been accepted into the agriculture education program at UW-River Falls; once she graduates, she hopes to teach others about agriculture, bringing a special focus to the importance of giving back to the community as her own FFA chapter does.
“FFA and agriculture happen with everyone, and you need the whole community,” she said. “It’s important to give back.”
Abbygail Hayes of Columbus FFA also joined the organization in seventh grade. Growing up on an organic dairy farm, her siblings had also been involved.
While in high school, she enjoyed teaching others about agriculture through FFA, often educating her classmates on topics they knew little about.
“I have a passion for that and would like to continue,” Hayes said.
She held multiple roles in her school’s FFA chapter, including vice president and secretary. She is now going on to study agriculture education at UW-Platteville.
“Serving in those roles made me come out of my shell and realize I wanted to teach people rather than be taught,” she said.
Trinity Radcliffe of Mayville FFA is another student who signed documentation last week; she has been accepted into UW-River Falls. She joined FFA when she was a freshman.
“I always liked being on the farm and as I came to know FFA, I realized there was more to agriculture than just the farm.
“It’s important that youth know that,” she said.
Her mother said she was surprised when Radcliffe told her family she wanted to study agriculture education, but surprised in a good way as it came as no surprise that their daughter wanted to inspire others in the next generation.
“We’re very proud and excited for her future,” Radcliffe’s mother said.
Jordyn Steinhoff of Tomah FFA said she attended the National FFA Convention last year and it opened her eyes to the possibility of studying agriculture education.
“The National Convention was eye-opening to me. I knew I wanted to teach and inspire people,” Steinhoff said.
She plans to study at UW-River Falls and has a special interest in animal science.
“A lot of people don’t know where their food comes from,” she said. “Ag is broad, and you don’t have to be a farmer to be in FFA. I think people should know that.”
“Children are our future and without them, agriculture would be done,” added Madelynn Green of Stanley-Boyd FFA. “There wouldn’t be a future without them.”
Adam Straussburg of Pulaski FFA was one of the only men at the signing event, pursuing a degree in agricultural education at UW-River Falls. He was inspired to join FFA because his father was an FFA member and told him it was a great experience.
He knew his sophomore year of high school that he wanted to be an ag teacher.
“I want to teach and encourage kids to come out of their shells and become the leaders of tomorrow,” Straussburg said.
Serving as president the past two years has had a big impact on him as well.
“I’ve enjoyed being able to see underclassmen work on their projects and get them involved in the organization as well,” he said.