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Youth News

FFA Grow Like That! - Former Star Farmer of America Travis Schnaithman

Mon, 29 Apr 2013 13:02:02 CDT

FFA Grow Like That! - Former Star Farmer of America Travis Schnaithman
The theme of the 2013 Oklahoma FFA Convention to be held April 30th through May 1, 2013 is "FFA, Grow Like That!" There are thousands of former FFA members that serve as role models for current and future FFA students- and the Radio Oklahoma Ag Network and OklahomaFarmReport.Com are pleased to be working with the Oklahoma FFA Association to spotlight some of the tremendously successful men and women who wore the Blue and Gold Jacket of the FFA during their high school days- and have used that experience as a springboard to success in later life.

During April and May, the Radio Oklahoma Ag Network is producing a series of radio announcements spotlighting a half dozen of these high achievers. These announcements, sponsored by SandRidge Energy, will be heard on radio stations statewide and will also be available to listen to on our Radio Oklahoma Ag Network YouTube channel. The content from each announcement comes from an in depth interview that Farm Director Ron Hays has conducted with each of the highlighted achievers. (You can hear the full interview by clicking on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story.)

Our final profile of those former FFA members who have distinguished themselves following their FFA experiences is Travis Schnaithman. Schnaithman is a fifth-generation farmer on his family's farm in Garfield County near Garber. He was the Oklahoma Star Farmer in 2005, Oklahoma State FFA President in 2007, and was the Star Farmer of America in 2008. (He is pictured above, third from the left, with his fellow 2008 Star Award winners Derek Lowrey, Laura Bruner, and Jason Hanstedt.)

Schnaithman says he didn't even have to think about joining the FFA, it was just what his family and community did.

"Really, a lot of the mentors I looked up to in high school and junior high were FFA members. And, also, my grandpa was a former ag teacher, my dad was in FFA and it just seemed like the natural thing to do."

He said he hasn't been out of FFA that long, and he's still can't believe how much he got out of it.

"You don't even understand the full effect of it until you get out of high school and out of being a member." He said that the relationships developed during his time with FFA were important, but also, "learning how to communicate through the career-development events such as public speaking, livestock judging, so many of those helped give a young person confidence to get up in front of others."

He said the discipline of record-keeping and detailing his expenses and income as a young farmer were also extremely beneficial.   He got involved in many aspects of FFA, but most extensively in livestock showing and livestock evaluation, public speaking, farm and business management, some parliamentary procedure.

"I really benefited greatly because of the wide array of events and leadership activities, conferences, camps just really motivated me and gave me a source of ambition to really work toward."

Even though joining FFA seemed so natural to him, there was a lot of personal commitment and hard work involved on his road to becoming Star Farmer. Still, Schnaithman says, he gladly gives credit where credit is due.

"I had a lot of people behind me. I had a great ag teacher. A lot of people pushed me. My parents encouraged and supported me. And I feel like it was more than just an individual award, but more of a family, community, and chapter. I benefited from all those people."

He said communication, public speaking, and interviewing skills were the keys to his success in becoming the Star Farmer. Earning that award only propelled him further, Schnaithman says.

"There was a cash award and then a trip to Costa Rica. And I experienced agricultural diversity in other countries, and that was great. I met one of my closest friends from Ark City, Kansas, there and he's back farming full-time as well. He and I communicate on a constant basis at least weekly about different things we're doing and implementing. I met some really great friends through that process."

When Schnaithman went off to college at OSU, he said it wasn't at all clear to him that he would be returning to the farm, but, over time, his future became more and more clear.

"Well, going to college, I wasn't exactly sure that I wanted to come back and farm full time, but, growing up with my grandpa and my dad, learning to take more and more responsibility at a young age was just kind of a fire inside of me. As I went to college I wasn't sure about coming back to the farm, but I was in college, on the weekends, every chance that I could get, it was just that connection that brought me back home. I can remember driving home; you just couldn't wait to get back home.

Even while he was in college, Schnaithman said he was very connected and grounded to the farm with ongoing responsibilities that he could perform even while at school thanks to the technology of the cell phone.

There are so many benefits of being in FFA that it's almost impossible to identify them all at this point in his life, Schnaithman says. But, right now, he says he can boil it down to three things:

"I really feel like the most valuable thing I've gotten from FFA is the great network of friends and relationships that have been built. I feel like in any part of the state or any part of the country I can call somebody up and say, 'Hey, we're short on hay, who do you know that can helps us out?' Or even as far as dealing with little things like dealing with inputs, just the networking has been great.

"Also, the other thing I think is invaluable and is not taught in the classroom is the ability to communicate with people. And whether it's negotiating with landlords, getting someone-as a young farmer-to give you a chance, or to buy seed from you, those sort of communications perspectives are huge.

"And, lastly, just the record-keeping, the way it's taught me to really have a business mind."

Schnaithman says he's optimistic about the future, about the demand for agricultural products which is growing around the world. He says he sees so much potential in agriculture and the part that FFA can play in helping to educate the next generation of men and women for the farming and ranching industries.



Ron Hays talks with Travis Schnaitman about his career with FFA.
right-click to download mp3


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