Sundee Speelmon is wrapping up a year as a state FFA officer, a position she said was fulfilling and exciting. (Submitted photo).
ADRIAN – Recent Adrian High School graduate Sundee Speelmon essentially looked in the mirror to find examples of what FFA does for the Oregon students who join.
She’s busy and getting busier preparing and organizing for the Oregon FFA Convention, which is at the end of March, because she’s an FFA state officer.
Speelmon ran against 24 FFA students from across the state last year for the six state officer slots. Candidates had to undergo a three-day interview process and evaluation by a 12-person committee.
As a state officer, she serves middle and high school students across the state by leading workshops in their schools, attending national and state FFA conferences, and after her year of service ends next month, she’ll study agriculture communications at the Utah State University.
“It’s been a crazy year,” Speelmon said. “Serving as a state officer is an incredibly exciting and fulfilling experience, and one that I will be forever grateful for.”
To get there, Speelmon spent her high school career building up her resume.
“But I did all that not with the intention to become a state officer,” she said. “I did it because I wanted to be a voice for agriculture and become a role model and be a good influence for others.”
Together with her five teammates, Speelmon traveled over 40,000 miles in Oregon in the past year to visit the 120 agricultural school programs that make up the Oregon FFA.
On top of that, the team traveled to New York, Washington D.C. and even to South Africa.
Last week, Speelmon was couch surfing in Scio to attend a leadership conference before traveling to Corvallis.
“I travel so much that every night, I’m with a different host family,” Speelmon said. “I’ve only had a chance to visit home once, which was during Christmas time.”
Speelmon’s travels started as soon as she was elected last March.
“I had to miss a lot of school,” said Speelmon. “From March to May of last year, I traveled to a lot of trainings. I just had to keep up with my teachers. My school was really supportive.”
Despite the demands and responsibilities that come with the state officer role, Speelmon still managed to graduate with a 4.0 GPA as the class valedictorian.
In every community she visits, Speelmon finds something unique, she said.
“I’ve collected a lot of lessons along the way,” Speelmon said. “They’ve given me a lot of motivation to travel and be away from home. I’ve learned that my influence can travel with others.”
Growing up in Adrian, Speelmon learned a lot about agriculture and FFA from her family.
“My dad owns and operates a feed lot and farm, and my mom helps manage that,” Speelmon said.
Although her upbringing on a farm got her started in FFA, it was the friendships she made with members from across the state that kept her involved.
“Whenever I would go to an FFA event, I would look forward to seeing friends from around the country,” Speelmon said. “I’ve developed so many friendships, from Puerto Rico to Alaska to Maine to California.”
With that, Speelmon said the FFA gave her a strong communications background.
“Through leadership development trainings, public speaking, extemporaneous speaking and job interviews, I gained a lot of communication skills and confidence,” Speelmon said. “I’ve also learned how to interact with different communication styles.”
When it comes to college, Speelmon said the FFA has played a large role in the college major she is choosing. She said her experiences has inspired her to change the way the public perceives people working in the agricultural industry, particularly producers in rural small towns across America.
“I think the general public doesn’t understand that we in agriculture care about our land and animals,” Speelmon said. “We are the best stewards of land because we live off the land. That is our livelihoods.”
Speelmon said one of the greatest challenges facing agriculture in the next five years is improving the consumer’s perception of modern agriculture.
She said consumer perceptions commonly reported by the media include animal welfare issues, environmental degradation, and dangers associated with genetically modified crops.
Speelmon said most negative perceptions are based on a distrust of technologies that improve agricultural efficiency.
“I would like to figure out how to deliver primary information to consumers who are quick to be scared and feel undermined by agriculturalists,” said Speelmon. “I hope I can be that person that the public can look at and trust.”
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