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2009 FFA Nationals

Jesup FFA Attends National Convention in Indianapolis

 Wednesday, October 21st marked the beginning of the largest youth gathering in the United States: the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. For nine members of the Jesup FFA chapter, it meant the experience of a lifetime.  Jesup FFA members joined other chapters from the Northeast Iowa district Wednesday morning for the eight-hour bus ride to Indianapolis, where more than 50,000 other FFA members were already beginning to gather.  Members from Jesup who attended were Chelsea Bearbower, Justin Frahm, Luke Gosse, Leah Kayser, Kristen Orth, Steven Orth, Allie Renner, Lauren Riensche, and Katelyn Wellman.

The old saying “half the fun is getting there” holds true for the bus ride to the convention. On the way there, FFA members toured the John Deere Pavilion in Moline, Illinois. The pavilion contained a wide variety of the company’s finest tractors and machinery and provided history and information on each one of them. The bus also stopped in Peoria, Illinois to tour the Luthy Botanical Gardens. The gardens contained a large range of domestic and exotic plants.

After eight hours, the chapters arrived just in time for the first general session of the convention. After opening with a stunning laser show, the session was filled with motivational and amusing speeches from the National FFA Vice President Riley Branch and Mike Rowe, host of the hit television show Dirty Jobs. The national FFA band and choir also made their debut performances. After the general session, the Jesup members had the privilege to go to a member-exclusive Toby Keith concert.

Thursday morning, members woke up early and spent the majority of the day at the convention’s career fair, where agricultural businesses, colleges, and vendors alike were set up under one roof to talk and meet with the 50,000-plus FFA members in attendance. The Jesup chapter also attended the national talent show, where members across the nation showed their stuff, in which performances included everything from lasso tricks to yodeling. The day ended with a general session where Hugh Grant, the president of the Monsanto Seed Company, spoke about “Feeding the World With Less.”

The final day of Nationals began with a trip to Fair Oaks Dairy, one of the largest dairy operations in the country. There, members had the opportunity to see the business’s milking equipment, which included a large carousel that cows rode around while being milked. Much to their delight, the members also had the chance to try the Fair Oaks Dairy brand cheeses and ice cream afterwards.

Shortly after, the chapters returned to the convention hall for a final visit to the career fair and to attend the last general session. At this session, the keynote speaker was Josh Sundquist, a one-legged cross country skier for the U.S. in the Paralympics. Those who also attended the Iowa FFA Convention remembered his motivational and hilarious stories and had the privilege to hear some brand new tales as well.

After a long overnight bus ride, the Jesup FFA returned tired yet happy, eager to share their stories with their families and friends. When asked about her experience, Jesup Chapter President Lauren Riensche exclaimed, “Every time I walked into that stadium, or slipped into a restaurant, or even walked down the street, I saw blue jackets, blue jackets, and more blue jackets! It gives me a great feeling to know that I am part of something so large that has changed so many people’s lives for the better.”

            This year’s National FFA Convention proved to be a rewarding and pleasurable experience for not only those of the Jesup FFA, but also for all the members across the country who took part in this, the largest  youth gathering in the country!