Choteau and Fairfield graduates Caroline Roeder and Emily Evans, respectively, have joined an elite group as Future Farmers of America state officers
The 2019 graduates will start college at Montana State University in Bozeman on Aug. 26. During the next two semesters, the women’s time will not be filled with just attending classes and studying. Roeder is serving as the state FFA president and Evans as the state secretary, and the two will be travelling extensively in their roles as leaders to many of the 97 chapters and connecting with the almost 5,000 FFA members.
Since 1929 there have only been 32 students from Augusta, Choteau and Fairfield who have served as a state FFA officer. This is the first-time state officers have been selected in the same year from Choteau and Fairfield and the first time an FFA member from Choteau has been the state president.
Roeder, 19, is the daughter of Brent and Tracie Roeder who live on a farm between Fort Shaw and Fairfield. She and her brother Ben both attended and graduated from Choteau High School.
“My grandfathers participated in FFA during their time in high school as did my mother, father and brother,” Roeder said. “My father judged nationally in meats with his team taking third place coming out of the competitive state of Texas.”
Roeder’s dad served as his chapter’s president, her mother as Creed Speaker during the one year she participated in FFA at her Wyoming school and her brother judged nationally in meats and agronomy, taking first-place state individual in 2015 along with many other awards. Roeder is the first person in her family to become a state officer.
At MSU she will be an agriculture business and economics major with a range science minor and will be on track for prelaw.
Roeder participated in FFA her four years of high school, serving as reporter, first vice president and president. “I received quite a few awards, but the ones I am most proud of receiving are the State Star Greenhand, first place each for state individual sweepstakes, prepared public speaker, state agronomy individual and team, 12th place national agronomy individual and fifth place state mechanics individual,” Roeder said. She also received her State Degree in 2019 and a national Supervised Agricultural Experience grant in 2018.
Milford Wearley was her FFA adviser throughout high school.
“I participated in almost every event in the state and went to a number of national conferences/conventions while in high school,” Roeder said. Her favorite events include the FFA National Convention, the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., being tagged to Teach Ag Day, the GOLD Conference and Conrad Crop and Mechanics. “Of course, State Convention and John Deere Ag Expo are included as well in my favorites,” she added.
Emily Evans, 18, daughter of Rodney and Brenda Evans, lives outside of Fort Shaw. She and her older sister graduated from Fairfield High School.
Emily is a first-generation FFA member. She will be working toward a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and immunology while at MSU before going to Washington State University to obtain a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.
She also participated in four years of FFA in high school, with Brian Bedord as her adviser. She served as the chapter secretary and president. She received her degrees and other individual and team awards at district and state in employment skills, farm and agribusiness management, extemporaneous speaking, chapter scholarship, environmental and natural resources, ag sales and services, KMON, parliamentary procedure, environmental and natural resources and creed speaking.
Roeder and Evans explained that FFA members may run for a state office as a high school senior or a college freshman.
The process begins with an application in early February. “The only absolute requirements to run are earning the State FFA Degree, submitting the application for office and going through the interview process at state convention,” Evans said. “However, it is very beneficial to be as active and present as possible throughout your time in FFA.”
At spring state convention, candidates go through three interviews at a minimum in front of a panel of nine nominating committee members. The interview process also includes a test and a writing project.
The candidate slate is announced at the last general session of convention.
“In my mind, one of the main roles of a state officer is to be a role model for the members,” Roeder said. “Just as I once looked up to state officers, I know there are young members that look up to me today.”
The overarching purpose of a state FFA officer is to facilitate member success, Evans said. “We do this through direct interaction with members, and meetings with stakeholders, industry professionals, educators and media. We serve primarily as a connection between those individuals and our organization,” Evans added.
Roeder said, “We attend as many events across the state as possible including camps, tours, chapter banquets, contests, workshops and conferences. We are also ‘the face of Montana FFA’ this year, speaking with donors and supporters, completing interviews, chairing conferences and conventions and meeting with important figures.”
The state officers work as a team. As president, Roeder opens and closes all sessions at state events and tends to do a few more interviews due to the title of the office. As secretary, Evans keeps meeting minutes, handles correspondence, keeps a list of members and a record of degrees awarded.
The newly elected state officers have already been busy. Early this spring they attended chapter banquets locally and all state contests not held at the state convention.
“This summer has been packed with trainings facilitated by National FFA staff, attending Alumni Leadership Camp, participating in the Agriculture Opportunities Tour of Western Montana sponsored by the State FFA Foundation, going to Washington, D.C., for State Officer Summit, attending the State Fair FFA contests and then most recently the West Coast Agriculture Commodity Tour,” Roeder said. “The State Officer Summit is a unique event in that we learn about advocacy and then apply that knowledge as we meet with our legislators.”
In September, the state officers will travel to all eight districts (half of the officers to the east and half to the west) to conduct workshops for district leadership seminars. In October, they attend National Convention as state delegates and some as competitors.
They also attend the John Deere Ag Expo, travel across the state for chapter visits, host the “Growing Our Leaders” development conference and oversee the state convention in the spring.
“The state officers have spent about 30 days together this summer on official business traveling for a variety of events and completing trainings,” Roeder said. “During the school year we will meet at least once a week for a team meeting and perhaps more for various projects and events. When we travel the rest of year for events, we rarely travel alone. Basically, we spend a lot of our time during our state officer year together.”
Evans said, “We will all be attending Montana State University, which is a rather rare occurrence. That means time spent together daily in class, at the Association and Foundation offices, in planning meetings and many adventures.”
One of Roeder’s main reasons for running for state office was to give back to the organization that has given her so much. “Sometimes I try to imagine what my high school experience would have been like without FFA and I find it virtually impossible because FFA influenced almost every moment of the past four years,” she said. “It helped uncover my passion for rangeland conservation through agronomy, range and prepared public speaking career development events and contests.”
“This has influenced the direction of my education as I strive to become an agriculture-focused attorney,” Roeder said. “These contests have given me skills such as attention to detail, public speaking practice and critical thinking practice.
“FFA taught me accept what you cannot change, to find what your talents are and then pursue their development, and lastly, what you put in in FFA (and life) is generally what you get out. FFA, very similar to life, is hard work but worth the effort.”
“I was painfully shy when I attended the Alumni Leadership Camp between by freshman and sophomore years in high school,” Evans said. “The state president that year helped give me enough courage to even participate in a rap battle on stage and has helped me grow ever since. At that point, I did not know what state office was all about, but I knew I wanted to be that individual for other young members, and that was what I envisioned the role of a state officer to be.”
“Though I came to learn that the role encompasses far more, that ideal has been and will continue to be my main focus during my year of service.”
For Evans, FFA altered her perspective on agriculture, the people and the world around her. It also influenced her career path choice. “FFA showed me the value of veterinary medicine in the agriculture industry and the fact that the veterinary profession is not solely about saving animal lives, but rather, it is about changing human lives as well,” she said.
Both women say FFA has impacted their lives in other big ways.
“FFA gave me a network of incredible friends and acquaintances across the state and nation,” Roeder said. “FFA gave me a home and the encouragement I needed when I felt high school was too much for me. Because of this, I kept moving forward, growing, learning and challenging myself when I wanted to quit. That taught me that you can make it through hard times if you have a good attitude and seek good support.”
Evans said, “Because of FFA, I went from turning beet red when attention turned to me, to confidently stepping up to a microphone, even with no preparation. … I have gone from asking the questions to answering them, and I have grown from hiding among my friends at my first DLS to facilitating the workshops there as a state officer this fall.”
Both state officers encourage those in high school to participate in FFA.
“The base of the FFA emblem is a cross section of corn: our symbol for unity; FFA truly does bring people together,” Evans said. “One of the most valuable things FFA ever did for me was allow me to create a nationwide network of peers, industry professionals, legislators and other individuals who recognize the blue jacket, all of whom have played an integral role in my life or will in the future. The people you will experience through FFA, dedicated to investing in agriculture across our country and the futures of the people who live there, are an inspiration.”
Roeder said, “First, just try it and try all the different contests and events. You won’t really know if you like it unless you immerse yourself in it. Secondly, don’t let your FFA experience be dictated by your friends or your relationship with your adviser. If you want to do it, you can do it in FFA. Sometimes we feel limited in our home chapters, but you can find the leader in yourself and make positive differences in your own life and in others. Lastly, what you put in is what you get out, so work to build relationships, skills and knowledge.”
Evans said, “Just like anything in life, give it a shot. Though you may only wear the blue corduroy for four years, that jacket prepares you for all the years to come after you hang it up.”
Roeder said, “It truly is my privilege to serve Montana FFA in the coming year, and I am thrilled to represent the Glacier District with Emily. I would not be in this position with out my home community, so thank you.”