The Minnesota FFA Convention is coming April 19-23, virtually.
This year’s event uses interactive digital, video and in-person experiences to bring the convention to FFA students in their own school districts.
With access to technology unheard of one year ago, the state officer team is offering a virtual event that goes beyond watching a computer screen.
“In an ideal world, we would all be together, but we made the decision a month or two ago that we were still not going to be in a place to reliably plan a safe in-person convention,” said Ms. Juleah Tolosky, FFA executive director, in a recent phone interview. “So our focus shifted to doing a virtual event again this year, but instead of just passively participating like last year, there will be significantly more opportunities to interact virtually and in the classroom, as well.”
State FFA officers and leaders are hoping to connect Minnesota’s 11,000-plus FFA members by serving as the center of a “spider web” of sorts that brings everyone together.
A “Convention in the Classroom Guide” has been sent to all FFA chapters to make the 2021 Convention worthwhile for participation during the school day.
This year’s events include election of the 2021-22 state officer team, recognition of top award winners, remarks from the current officer team, and lots of individual and classroom activities.
Each day begins with a 35-minute session hosted by the state officers. There will be opening ceremonies, as well as retiring addresses.
Daily themes will be announced and are designed to “take the theme off the screen and into the classroom.”
Activities will range from doing some homecoming-type carnival games that recognize, celebrate and connect with others – to statewide quiz bowls that offer great prizes.
“Being connected is a part of social development and overall health. The state officers wanted to build an experience where all students are valued and feel like there is something to bring joy, even if we can’t all be together,” Tolosky said. “Over the last year, we learned that has to be just as much of a priority as earning awards.”
Another day will be dedicated to a community service project. Later in the week, a day is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing local communities.
“We are encouraging FFA members to take time for takeout – order lunch from a local business and celebrate them,” she added.
These are just some of the activities designed to help chapters get involved in the convention.
“If a chapter can really dig into their planning guide, with their chapter officers and advisors, it’s very possible they will have more students getting more out of this convention without ever leaving their school – than if they would have come to the convention in St. Paul,” she said. “Because there is something intentional for them to do – every single person, every single day.”
Following is the 2021 Minnesota FFA Convention schedule (more information is available at mnffa.org):
Sunday, April 18 (Pre-Convention)
Students will hear from a national FFA officer and learn about Convention activities.
Monday, April 19
Opening session features a retiring address entitled “The Uffda Zone” from State Treasurer Elaina Knott, Thief River Falls FFA.
• Animal Systems SAE
• State FFA Degrees by region
• Models of Innovation
• Region Highlights
• CDE and LDE Finalists (Part 1)
• Naming 2021 State Star in Agriscience
Tuesday, April 20
Opening session features “The Beauty of the Process” by State Sentinel Laney Swiers, Mahnomen FFA.
• Agribusiness/Social Systems SAE
• Power, Structural and Technical Systems
• Hall of Fame Inductees
• National Chapter Award and Top Ten Chapters
• CDE and LDE Finalists (Part 2)
• Naming 2021 State Star in Agribusiness
• Talent Show
Wednesday, April 21
Opening session features “I Just Want to Go Home” by State Reporter Anna Euerle, Litchfield FFA.
• Environmental and Natural Resources Systems SAE
• Ag Literacy
• New Chapter Charters
• FFA Advisor and Teach Ag
• New Region Presidents
• CDE and LDE Finalists (Part 3)
• Naming the 2021 State Star in Production Placement
• Agricultural Issues Career Development event
Thursday, April 22
Opening session features “All of Us and Each of Us” by State Vice-President Emilee Xayanourom, Mountain Lake FFA.
• Food Products and Processing systems SAE
• Land of Service
• Honorary Degrees
• Alumni and Supporters Invitation
• CDE and LDE Finalists (Part 4)
• Watch the Creed and Prepared Public Speaking competition
• Naming of 2021 Star Farmer
Friday, April 23
Opening session features “From Passion to Purpose” by State President Ben Olander, Staples-Motley FFA, as well as afternoon announcement of the 2021-22 State Officer Team.
• Plant Systems SAE
• Nominating Committee
• State Officer Candidate Introductions
• State Officer and Region President Recognition
• CDE and LDE Finalists (Part 5)
• State Officer Thank you
NOTE: Additional technical competitions will take place the week after the convention.
“Our goal is to be accessible and useful beyond the convention itself, so that people can really ingest it in their own time,” Tolosky said.
Worth joining in
The state officers chose the theme of “Worth It!” to describe the year FFA’ers and their families have collectively gone through.
Much has been accomplished in past years at the convention, as FFA’ers have traveled to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, competed at a very high level, and participated in exciting concert-like venues.
This year, most of those experiences won’t occur because of COVID-19 pandemic physical distancing requirements.
“The officers have really had to reinvent and redefine everything that they do, with the mindset that the effort is meaningful,” Tolosky said. “The time they have put in is worth it.”
Students have learned that it is worth it to try new things that aren’t flashy, or don’t involve going on stage. It’s worth putting in the work, even when there isn’t the same level of recognition.
Tolosky has heard from people who say they feel bad for students who aren’t going to walk across the stage to get their state degree. They feel bad for the state officer team that was never in a large group setting the entire year. They are going to retire in a group of 50 people, when in a normal year that number would be 5,000 people.
It forces FFA members, and really everyone to ask, “What is worth it about this?” And the answer is, “A lot!”
“Have we been missing the value of things because we have focused on the sparkle and the presentation piece of it? That doesn’t necessarily add to the value,” she said. “The value is always there, so I think that the concept of ‘Worth It!’ is something we are hoping to provide for students this year. We can take as much value from this convention as we could any other year – as long as we remember, it is worth it.”
For more information, be sure to visit mnffa.org!