"There is a lot of potential with this officer team. The sky is the limit," shared Tim Willette, who is one of the advisors to the Lanesboro FFA organization that is building their program through ambitious, knowledgeable and mature leadership.

What is most surprising about the team of seven officers is that six of them are sophomores; Treasurer Ashley Bue is the only senior. Despite their youth, the leadership team has already proven their experience, and is looking forward to becoming stronger leaders through helping FFA thrive in the school and the community.

The first Lanesboro FFA chapter started in 1951. That was when FFA was an acronym that stood for Future Farmers of America. However, the name was changed in 1988 to the National FFA Organization because many students involved have never lived on a farm or are not planning on becoming a farmer.

Willete estimates that less than five percent of Lanesboro FFA members live on a working farm. "It's not just cows and plows anymore," he stated. There are competition categories that focus on topics such as public speaking, floriculture and fish and wildlife, which have diversified the kind of people who get involved in FFA.

When Willette started as the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor in Lanesboro 10 years ago, he had 10 members and seven of those were seniors. The program has grown steadily since that time. Lanesboro's FFA chapter now has 42 members and the sophomore class, which has a larger enrollment than all the other 7 to 12 grades, has 11 involved. Approximately one-third of the class is in FFA and the same could be said for the entire school.

One of the goals of the officer team is to increase membership even more. They have already doubled the membership since last year, which proves their determination. They want to share the passion that they have for FFA with others and help other students realize they can have fun and learn in FFA, while also doing well in their Career Development Event (CDE) competitions.

They accomplish this through school outreach activities like Ag Day and Ag Olympics. Ag Day focuses on teaching elementary school students about farm animals and machinery. FFA students actually bring animals and machinery to the school not only to inform the students, but to show them why they are passionate about what they do in FFA.

"It's good to be able to show kids that these animals are well cared for and it helps them be more aware of where their food comes from," explained Secretary Kayla Leiding.

Besides making sure that the future of Lanesboro FFA is secure, the officers refine their own leadership skills by attending camps that develop networking and recruiting skills they will need to lead their chapter in the right direction.

It has already paid off. Two Lanesboro teams have already advanced to state competition after doing well in their regional competitions: General Livestock and Dairy Judging. The Dairy Judging team, which counts the president, vice president and secretary of the Lanesboro FFA as members, is one of this year's favorites to win at state, after placing second in state last year and taking first in a national competition in Harrisburg, Penn.

State CDE competitions are held in late April at the state convention on the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campuses. If any of their teams place first, they will advance to the national convention held next Oct. 30 in Louisville, Ky. Even if no teams advance, Lanesboro will still send representatives to the convention. All the officers have attended, and, according to them, it has helped broaden their horizons and understanding of FFA.

Being able to attend these events is only possible through support FFA members have received from their families and local community members. "There are a lot of alumni in the area who want to see the FFA strong," said Willette.

Through their annual fruit sales fundraiser, the FFA raises necessary funds to pay for chapter fees, competition fees, and travel expenses. This past year, they raised $10,000 from that one fundraiser.

"We are very lucky that people understand what we are doing and why," commented Vice President Haely Leiding. "We wouldn't have a chapter without them."

The FFA also holds an annual corn drive that raises money that is then donated to Camp Courage.

Lanesboro school teachers have also been very supportive of the FFA's activities, allowing FFA teams to participate in competitions during the school week. In response, the FFA holds a teacher brunch as a thank you.

Willette has seen the benefits FFA has given to its members. "These kids are more structured and organized. They are going because they really want to be there."

Haely said she has gained skills in responsibility, time management, and leadership, in addition to knowledge she says will be useful in her future profession.

Willette has been impressed with the up and coming officer team and with the work they have already done, the success they've already achieved, and the community support that keeps pouring in, it is unlikely that FFA in Lanesboro will do anything but keep becoming an organization both students and community can proud of.