During the American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention, one of the workshops — Keeping it Real: Highlighting Agriculture Advocacy — spotlighted two speakers: Melissa Burns from the show Tough as Nails, and Will Sutton from The Titan Games on NBC. Both speakers had been successful with engaging and advocating for agriculture through their reality TV experiences.
Sutton, a fifth-year FFA advisor at Croatan High School in North Carolina, has been involved in agriculture and FFA his whole life. However, when the opportunity to be on The Titan Games became available, Sutton jumped at the chance. The Titan Games is a competition show that offers everyday people the opportunity to compete in epic head-to-head challenges designed to test the mind, body, and heart.
One day while he was working, Sutton saw an ad for The Titan Games on a video he was showing students. Although he didn’t click on it right away, it got him thinking, and he started to look into it.
Sutton said, “I am always looking for ways to engage my students and letting them know teachers are more than teachers. … You don’t have to be just a teacher. You can be an athlete and a teacher. You can go on reality TV and be a teacher as well.”
After applying, the waiting game began. Nine months later, the producers wanted to see him in person for an audition. After the audition, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson handpicked Sutton to be on the show. “That was really something,” Sutton said with a smile on his face.
After finishing as a runner up on the show, Sutton received national attention and an opportunity to represent agriculture and FFA in a bigger spectrum. Also known as the mullet man, Sutton receives a lot of questions from fans about FFA and what he does as an agriculture educator. Sutton said, “A lot of times they will come up to me and ask me about what I do and how I got into agriculture. It is just awesome to share in my passion about it and my love for seeing each other grow.”
Sutton also has a passion for educating students early on in their high school career and for teaching others about the facts of agriculture.
“Looking at the statistics for FFA members from 7 to 12 grade, there are 760,000 members in the FFA,” Sutton said. “If you look at it, there are 15 million high school students in the United States today. That is a lot of people that are not getting agriculture education and not being able to experience the facts about agriculture.
“I would say to just hold true to what you know and not engage in conflicts, but just to let them know the facts. Take them to a farm or somewhere where they can see how a farmer truly interacts.” Sutton continued, “We are the ones educated about it, we are the ones affected by it every single day. Let’s share our truth, what we know to be true.”
Lastly, Sutton appreciates the opportunity that The Titan Games gave him.
“This gave me a platform to make my voice heard a little bit more about agriculture and people listened to what I had to say about agriculture. My students are actually believing in what I am saying a little bit more, not that they ever doubted me, but sometimes they probably would go to sleep,” Sutton said with a laugh — one that anyone who deals with high school students could relate to.
For Sutton, being an ag educator was in his genes — his dad was an agriculture educator for 31 years and had a major impact on Sutton. Sutton’s dad became his mentor and motivator. With five years under his belt, Sutton has a long way to go to catch up to his dad, but is dedicated to his students and their futures in agriculture.
We love watching everyday individuals get the opportunity to do what they love and share their passion for agriculture. Whether that be Mr. Sutton the “country strong” fifth-year FFA advisor, Melissa Burns the Ohio row crop farmer, or potentially you — following your dreams while promoting agriculture.