National FFA Officer from Okla., Ridge Hughbanks Encourages Members to Meet Ag Industry's CallMon, 06 May 2019 12:28:54 CDT
Alva’s Ridge Hughbanks is the second Oklahoman in the last two years to serve as a National FFA Officer, coming in behind Owasso’s Piper Merritt. Now at six months into his term as an officer, Hughbanks, who serves as the current Central Region Vice President for the National FFA Organization, is past the first phase of national office during which extensive planning is done in preparation for the following six months. Already, he has visited several states to attend their State FFA Conventions. This past week, he returned home to join his fellow Oklahoma FFA members at their 93rd Annual State FFA Convention in Oklahoma City. During his visit, he took a moment to speak with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays to offer a glimpse into his year as a National Officer so far and what that experience has meant to him. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“It’s been everything I could have hoped for and more. The first couple of months were spent getting to know the team, developing our personal missions and what we want to talk about in our keynotes, what message we want to instill in members and what workshops we want to do for the skills we want to send members with to their home chapters,” he recounted. “From there, it’s just been putting all that training into action.”
With “convention season” already underway, Hughbanks says he has and will be doing a lot more travelling these next few months but adds that he has been most excited for his visit home - however short it might be.
“I tell ya, you can go a lot of places but there’s no place like coming home. I’m happy to be back for a little bit,” he remarked. “Oklahoma is the fourth of nine conventions I’ll attend. I’m about to start my ‘East Coast Tour’ soon. But excited for a lot more interaction on this back half with students.”
As a National Officer, Hughbanks says he has become very passionate about advocating for agricultural education. According to him, there is a tremendous need and demand for agricultural educators currently. At the same time, there is also a significant shortage of professionals to fill these roles. For instance, Hughbanks says that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently called for the implementation of an ag-ed program in every school in the state. However, with no higher education institute within the state that offers training in this vocation, New York has had to source its workforce from other states. He points out, though, that even states with much denser rural populations like Oklahoma, do not have enough ag instructors to fill current vacancies. Hughbanks says this is an issue the National FFA Organization is actively trying to address by heavily recruiting members to continue their pursuits in ag-ed, but as instructors rather than students.
In addition, Hughbanks has discovered his unique role within the National Officer Team. As the only team member that comes from a community of fewer than 5,000, he has found that he can effectively relate with FFA members who, like him, come from small rural communities with tradition roots in the agricultural industry. Upon discovering this, Hughbanks says he learned he could appeal to these students and inspire them to look beyond their circumstances and set their goals high. It is something he says he has become particularly proud of in his time as a National Officer.
“Those students can see themselves, the traditional rural America upbringing and realize, ‘there’s still a place for me in this organization - there are ways I can still succeed, excel and eventually find my way into higher positions no matter where I come from,’” he said. “That has just been so rewarding for me. I’m very thankful to have students in the organization that have that servant heart and that want to see others excel.”
That after all, he says, is what the FFA is all about, at least for him. At the core of it all, Hughbanks believes that keeping true to the organization’s principles and having a servant’s heart is the key to the FFA’s and the individual’s success.
“It’s rooted in agriculture. It’s finding your identity, living your message and when necessary, using your words. It’s youth development that’s going to shape the future of this world and this country because everything begins and ends with agriculture,” he said. “It’s about creating a public that sees that and instigates that change - knowing they’re going to have individuals around them to support that.”
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