By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN The Minnesota FFA Alumni Association inducted 11 new members into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame April 29, including Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA advisor Jim Weninger.
Weninger joined the ranks of the 150 members who have been inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame the past seven years, including the 75 inaugural members in 2004.
“It’s a really nice honor,” Weninger said, noting former HLWW FFA student and former state FFA officer Crystal Jones nominated him. “She was very influential in helping the program grow and succeed.”
Weninger always gives credit for the success of the HLWW FFA program to the students and supportive communities and administration at HLWW.
“I really didn’t expect it,” he said of the nomination. “I’d rather see kids get recognition here. To me, the greatest benefit I see from this program is kids (who come up through the program) are succeeding in their careers no matter what they choose.”
He uses Jones, who will be graduating from the University of Minnesota with a criminal justice degree and may continue her education, as an example.
“The maturation of these kids as they grow up through the program you can see how much this program does for them,” Weninger said.
He noted that students do get things from other classes, but the agriculture program is unique in that it has so many facets that allow students to find their niche.
“That’s what it’s all about kids to have an interest, pursue that interest, and develop that interest to a greater extent and gain knowledge along the way,” Weninger said.
It has also helped that students began succeeding more and winning more competitions throughout the years.
“Success breeds success. Kids see those successes, and it leads to more kids wanting to be involved and putting in the time to succeed,” Weninger said. “Their success is the success of our program that’s huge.”
Never one to take personal credit for the program’s success, Weninger also credits other agriculture teachers with helping him succeed, noting that for 10 years, fellow HLWW agriculture teacher Seena Glessing was his competition when she was the agriculture teacher at Dassel-Cokato High School.
“It was always friendly competition, but it allows us to get better,” Weninger said.
He also noted Kevin Dahlman helps with DC’s FFA program, coaching the parliamentary procedure team, but is willing to bounce around ideas with Weninger to make both teams more successful.
“Most (agriculture teachers) are willing to share their ideas and abilities, and that benefits kids,” Weninger said. “And that is what it is all about what’s good for kids.”
He added that it is really nice to have another agriculture teacher at HLWW, giving them the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other.
“We have different personalities, and it helps attract a larger section of the school population,” Weninger said.
An agriculture program’s success is also dependent on the support of the school’s administration. “We have had phenomenal support for our program that enables and allows us to do the things we see as important for the program,” Weninger said.
He noted that HLWW High School Principal Jason Mix was at the awards ceremony for the recent FFA state convention.
“That’s huge for kids to see their principal at the ceremony,” he added.
The FFA alumni at HLWW are also involved in, and supportive of, the FFA program, doing things such as donating money for projects and animals for career development events to help students get started.
“Throughout the years, they have made a huge difference in the lives of these kids,” Weninger said.
And the students make a huge difference in their communities through service projects that are an integral part of the HLWW FFA program.
Throughout the years, the program has been involved in countless service projects, and continues to help people within the communities of Howard Lake, Waverly, and Winsted.
This year, the school garden will provide a basket of fresh vegetables to 21 families every week for 14 weeks through the community supported agriculture program, Weninger noted.
“So our image is out there, and the school, community, and state see us as a positive program and support us in our goals,” Weninger added.
Students have been willing to work in the community, and take on community projects without hesitation.
Weninger lives between Maple Lake and Buffalo with his wife, Lisa, and his three children, Maddie, 14; Abby, 16; and Logan, 11. His daughters attend HLWW, and his son attends Maple Lake schools, where Lisa is a teacher.
Other 2013 inductees to the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame include James Bartels of New Ulm, Al Brudlie of Lewisville, Bob Christensen (deceased) of Sleepy Eye, Lowell Gunderson of Ada, Kristin Harner of Northfield, Kent Janssen of Sherburn, Cliff Mitchell of Albany, Lisa Moorhouse of Forest Lake, Natasha Mortenson of Morris, and Steve Olson of Buffalo.
“The Hall of Fame is an excellent opportunity to honor the men and women who, over the years, have demonstrated leadership and commitment not only to FFA, but also to Minnesota’s agricultural industry,” said Shawna Conrad, president of the Minnesota FFA Association.