FFA National Convention


Kate Compton, Writer

Every year the National FFA organization (Future Farmers of America) holds a national conference that students from all over the United States attend. Students attend this convention because of their love and passion for agriculture and the FFA.
For those who aren’t aware, the FFA is an organization that is about serving others and it emphasizes leadership qualities. The FFA isn’t just for students who want to go back and work on the home farm.  It is an organization dedicated to members who aspire to be involved in careers such as scientists, business owners, and teachers.  It gives students a path to achievement through growth and leadership. It helps members to develop their own special talents and explore a wide range of career options involving agriculture.
At this yearly convention, students belonging to this organization are celebrated by their peers for all of their past accomplishments. This year, the conference consisted of concerts, guests, keynote speakers, and even included a live speech from our current president, Donald J. Trump.
This year the Nipomo High School Dairy Products Team had the opportunity to compete at Nationals to attempt to obtain the title “National Dairy Judging Team.” One of the students who is a member of this team is Kayla Zalesney, who has been on the Nipomo High School Dairy Team for four years and has participated in competitions with her fellow teammates. “This competition not only gave us so many different opportunities but made us closer as a team,’’ said Zalesney.
The Dairy Products Team competition is based on general knowledge of the dairy industry including identification of different cheese types and milk defects, a general knowledge test, team presentation, and individual lab practicals.  The competition was held over the span of two days. They competed against 43 other teams, and in the end the Nipomo High School’s Dairy Judging Team achieved 3rd in the nation.
For those of us who weren’t at Nationals to compete, we still attended many exciting events and activities throughout the week. When we arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana, we were able to explore the city with our friends, and we learned about agriculture in many ways.
 This convention taught us many different life lessons, such as not letting fear stop us from doing things we really want to do or achieve.  We also learned about many different agricultural companies, such as tractor manufacturer John Deere.
Later, during our time in Indianapolis, we met for the National Day of Service. We traveled to a little historic farm named Maple Lawn which is a non-profit facility that holds events and keeps true historical data. Here we helped the owners of Maple Lawn to restore their property. We divided up into several groups and helped paint the dairy room, clean the floors, move dirt, fix fences and rake the leaves.  We left the property  in better shape than it was when we arrived. This is the type of activity that FFA encourages.
After our experiences in Indianapolis ended, our chapter met with some other chapters from California. We then traveled to Maryland to visit the monuments and the historical city of Washington, DC.
We visited Mount Vernon and took a tour of George Washington’s house and the acreage. George Washington was one of the founding fathers of the United States and our first president who served from 1789-1797.  During the American Revolutionary War he led our troops to successes over the British.  On a curious note, one of the things he is best known for is his “wooden teeth,” which according to historians, were not really made of wood.  George Washington’s Mount Vernon home is a very historic 18th century home and site.  This house was built in 1753 and was loved by George Washington.  It now has 21 rooms and has grown from its original size.
On the site is a slave memorial, to honor those who worked and lived on Mt. Vernon, and the tombs where Martha and George are buried.  Washington supervised the construction of the home’s additions, even during the Revolutionary War.  There is also a four acre farm with a barn that was interesting.
After touring Washington’s home, we stopped and visited several other memorial sites, such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War memorial, the Martin Luther King memorial, and many more.
The Lincoln Memorial was built to honor our 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.  It is located in the National Mall in Washington, DC.  The site has pillars and a huge sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, seated in a chair.  On the wall are the words to two of his speeches…the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address.  This site has been the site used for many famous political speeches over the years, including Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” given in 1963.  Over 6 million people visit this historic park each year.
The Vietnam War Memorial is a two acre site that honors our veterans who served in the Vietnam War and who died in service because of this war.  It was completed in the early 1980s and is near the National Mall.  The memorial is made of black granite with 144 panels.  There are approximately 60,000 names on the wall.  It is a common practice for people who visit the wall to place a piece of paper over the name of someone they knew and rub a pencil over the name as a memento to the loved one who died.
There was not one moment that we were not busy visiting memorial sites or museums. I would strongly advise any students in their junior or senior class to apply to attend the National Conference…it’s a time you get to be with friends and experience and learn about places you have never been.