The 93rd National FFA Convention & Expo took place the week of Oct. 26 online. While FFA members had to adjust to some changes, they were still able to interact with each other in many ways. And, of course, they were still able to participate in some traditions — including the announcement of the 2020-21 National FFA Officer Team.
While there were no confetti cannons nor a sea of blue to congratulate them, the six new National FFA officers were able to be surrounded by friends and family members who have been on the journey with them from the very beginning.
In remarks made the day after their election to AGDAILY, here’s what the new national officers had to say about their upcoming responsibilities:
Doster Harper — National President
Harper, an agriscience and environmental systems major at the University of Georgia, was elected the National FFA President. Harper said, “Last night was a surreal moment. I am incredibly overwhelmed with so much love and support right now. I am a firm believer that agriculture education and FFA bring out the best people. And I saw that last night with my friends and family there to congratulate me. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’ll never forget.”
When asked about how the pandemic will affect his term and why the motivation to run for office was still there, Harper said, “I think the most important reminder for me throughout all of this is why we do what we do has not changed, what we do and how we do it may have changed. But There are still 760,113 students out there in agriculture education and FFA who have earned the right to be served. These are some of the most incredible students in this country. Even though we may not be able serve them in the traditional way in the past, they still have earned the right to be served because there are some incredible students out there. I think I speak for all my teammates and myself when we say we are here to serve these students. And we are here to do that in whatever way we get to do that.”
Anna Mathis — National Secretary
Mathis, an agricultural communication major at the University of Arkansas, loves advocating for agriculture. “I love communicating about agriculture and I think that the national office and FFA is an incredible platform to continue to be able to do that.”
When asked about what she was looking forward to most Mathis said, “I would say the thing I am looking forward to most is finding creative ways to engage with our students. So obviously we’re not going to be able to travel as much as earlier years and we are going to have to find some ways to surmount some difficult challenges that come our way, but I think that having an open mind, being creative, and being flexible are keys to being able to overcome any challenge that comes at us.”
Mathis continued, “I was a state officer last year and that was when I was told that we weren’t going to have an in-person convention and that a lot of things were cancelled. So I know what members are feeling, and I feel that too. So being able to have that feeling, that perspective, and being able to serve them with that same mindset I think will be a powerful tool for our team moving forward.”
Paxton Dahmer — Central Region Vice President
Dahmer, an agricultural education and leadership major at the University of Missouri — Columbia, is looking forward to the opportunity to serve the members. “We have the opportunity to serve our members and we have the opportunity to serve them well in this odd year. So I am very excited about what this year might look like.”
Dahmer showed his appreciation for being surrounded by family and friends on Thursday night during the announcement. After thanking those around him, Dahmer is excited to get started serving FFA members. “I don’t want to waste any time getting to work with members. I want to take the time to reach out and enjoy a chapter visit as often as possible. That has always been one of my favorite things is getting to go meet people in a school. Obviously that looks very different this year, but the opportunity is still there and I am so excited to have that opportunity for another year,” Dahmer said.
Dahmer’s advice for current members is to reach out! “Throughout the first portion of my FFA career, I was always afraid to reach out to state officers or area officers, especially national officers. Looking back, I regret that. I don’t know why I had that barrier in my mind that I couldn’t reach out to them. We are elected to serve every member. As we go throughout our year, by all means don’t be a stranger — reach out. If we can help you through anything, if we can zoom into your chapter, if we can talk your through something. Take that opportunity because we want to hear from you. We want to have that opportunity to serve you to the best of our ability and that might start with an interaction of you reaching out.”
Miriam Hoffman — Eastern Region Vice President
Hoffman, an agribusiness economics major at Southern Illinois University, grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm and is very passionate about soil health. “I am really excited about all the innovations happening in agriculture right now and how FFA can be ahead of that innovation.”
I asked Hoffman what advice she would give to a first year FFA member that’s unsure of what they want to do in FFA. Hoffman said, “I was definitely that member myself, six years ago. My sister actually really encouraged me to join FFA. It was a little overwhelming at first because it can feel like there are so many different things to do.
“What I encourage every member to do is to try anything and everything. Even if it’s something that you don’t think you’d necessarily be interested in, try it anyways because you actually might love it. There have been things that I was terrified of — like public speaking — but my advisor really encouraged me to do it. Once I did it A LOT, I started to realize that I did like it. Sometimes it is pursuing those things that scare us the most is actually the most fulfilling. So, just get out there, try everything, and meet new people. It’s not the contest itself that is so fun, but it is the people you meet along the way,” Hoffman said.
David Lopez — Western Region Vice President
Lopez, an agricultural communications major at California Polytechnic State, said he is very excited to see what the future holds for the new officers. “Just getting to experience that alongside five other individuals on this virtual platform has been super interesting and super rewarding.”
When asked what were some of the obstacles he had to overcome in order to achieve this success Lopez said he took the time to get in the right mindset. “I think for me it was this idea of trying to get my mind in the right spot. I took a year off school, I endured hardship throughout the year, exhausted myself, but preparing for this process just really challenged me in so many ways that I didn’t even think possible.”
Lopez did a lot to prepare for this position. “It was a lot of commitment staying up at night, reading articles, getting this idea of what the FFA organization does for students. And just really getting the backbone as to what this program does for students. That just took a lot for me to just sit down and process that. But trying to showcase that to a nominating committee this past week was super rewarding. Even though you would walk out of a room thinking, ‘This was not my best performance yet,’ but it still enables you to walk away and be like ‘Okay, this is what I learned and this is who I am and how I am going to merge the two together.’ But it definitely took a lot of mental strength and because of this process I have grown so much, and I just look forward to growing more this year.”
Artha Jonassaint — Southern Region Vice President
Jonassaint, a government and global health major at Harvard, is from Florida and looking forward to this upcoming year. Jonassaint said, “I am so excited for the opportunity to serve and to have five new friends as we look to better this organization in the coming year.”
I asked Jonassaint what she is looking forward to most this year. Jonassaint said “I think for me one of the things I am looking forward to most in this role is being able to water the seeds that have been planted by National officers before and and by national FFA staff, as well as planting some of the seeds of our own.
Jonassaint continued, “When I think about all of the great things that have happened in the past year — I know, shocker, I am calling 2020 and the end of 2019 an awesome year, but I think there’s been so many great things. When we look at that Ag Ed For All initiative that has just been rolled out — those 56 points to making this place a more inclusive, a more diverse, a more equitable organization — it is exciting that we get to be the representation of that. That we can wheel those initiatives forward so that more students are excited and celebrated about this organization and the work that we do. It is exciting that we get to build upon the rich legacies that have been left for us to look at the playbook, but also to write a playbook for the next national officer team and the generations to come. That is one of the best parts of this work — it doesn’t end with us. It doesn’t end in 365 days, we get to keep building an impact and building a legacy. So having five other teammates to help me do that, is going to be incredible.”
I cannot wait to see where these six individuals take the National FFA Organization in the next year. The organization is good hands with these six working together as a team!
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