By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, MN Crystal Jones of Howard Lake isn’t planning to become a farmer, but as the outgoing FFA state treasurer, she still credits the FFA program with molding her into the person she is today.
“Through FFA, I was able to identify what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” she said. “Many would believe that because of FFA, I would want to pursue a career in agriculture, but in fact, FFA has allowed me to find my passion for service.”
Jones is finishing up her freshman year at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, majoring in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance (LCD).
“I have learned and shared that FFA is about more than agriculture; it is also about leadership,” said Jones, who recently completed her one-year term as an FFA state officer.
“Because of FFA, I see the world in a different way than I ever thought I would,” she said.
Jones gave her last speech as Minnesota State FFA treasurer during the 81st annual Minnesota FFA convention April 25-27.
Her experience with FFA began as a freshman at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School.
“I remember all the amazing times I had in high school, spending time with my best friends and, of course, being able to laugh at something Winnie [FFA advisor James Weninger] did or said nearly every day,” Jones said.
From 2000 to early 2010, the Jones family lived on a hobby farm, which gave Jones a little taste of farm life. Her parents, Wesley and Lori, owned a variety of animals, including a horse, a goat, rabbits, chickens, dogs, cats, and ducks.
But, it was through FFA that Jones gained a greater appreciation for the agriculture industry as a whole.
“Not growing up on a farm, I had no idea how huge agriculture is,” she said. “I am amazed at the dedication farmers have for their land and animals, because without a healthy crop, or healthy livestock, the livelihood of agriculturalists is at risk. They appreciate the land they use and love the work they do.”
After Jones graduated from HLWW, she wanted to continue her involvement in FFA, so she ran for state office. She describes it as the most “nerve-racking” experience of her life.
“There were 15 extremely qualified candidates that I ran with, including two of my best friends,” she said. After a variety of tough one-on-one and group interviews, as well as an FFA and agriculture knowledge test, Jones was selected as one of six state officers.
“This year has really given me the opportunity to see the FFA as a bigger picture,” Jones said. “I have witnessed the huge amounts of work that FFA advisors put in every day for their students, and it is very inspiring.”
For Jones, one of the best parts of her year was being able to motivate high school FFA members.
“From being able to stand in front of a hundred people and give a flawless speech, to being able to identify every tree species found in Minnesota, these students are learning about their world and themselves every day,” she said.
Jones’ service as a state FFA officer may be over, but she plans to remember the values she’s learned long into the future.
“It has shown me that I can make a positive difference in other people’s lives and be OK with standing up for what I believe in, even if I am standing alone,” she said.
To learn more about FFA, go to www.ffa.org.