National FFA Week is upon us, and it’s a great time to celebrate the contributions that past members have made and current students are making. At Monsanto, we have hundreds of employees who are FFA alumni. This week, I spoke with four Monsanto employees about their FFA experiences and how the organization has had a lasting impact on their lives and careers.
Michele Grevie, who works at Monsanto’s Woodland facility and is an alumna of the Woodland High School FFA Chapter in Woodland, Calif., said she got involved in FFA because of her family’s ag background.
“Most of my family is involved in farming: my dad, brother and uncle all still farm,” Grevie said. “You always saw FFA-sponsored functions around school. And there were so many people in school involved in FFA. I wanted to learn what was so exciting and learn what my family thought was so exciting about farming.”
Cara Smith, who also works at the Woodland campus as a seed specialist and is an FFA alumnae of the Lompoc, Calif. Chapter, said a general ag class is what got her to join FFA.
“My family lived in the suburbs – no agriculture background whatsoever,” she said. “I took a general ag class as an elective in my freshman year, and FFA seemed like a fun club to join. I have to say now that I loved my experience, and it helped me focus on an ag career.”
For Brian McKillip, who works at the Monsanto Muscatine facility in Muscatine, Iowa, in the information technology department and is an alum of the Muscatine FFA Chapter, FFA has been a family affair. His son is a Muscatine Chapter alum, and his daughter is currently a member of the chapter. He said he is more involved now with FFA—because the organization offers his children more opportunities and Monsanto is heavily involved with the local chapter
“The FFA kids really step up to the plate,” McKillip said. “I’ve heard so many good compliments about the kids who are in FFA. I’m grateful that my children have chosen to be involved with the organization. Because of their experiences, my daughter wants to be either an ag teacher or practice ag law, and my son is studying Farm Management at Muscatine Community College.”
McKillip said the Muscatine Ag Learning Center, which Monsanto donated $250,000 to, is the hub of activity for the local FFA chapter and gives students a better opportunity to learn about agriculture.
“The Ag Learning Center is close to town and allows kids to ride their bicycles or take public transportation to it,” McKillip said. “Students used to have to drive an hour to raise livestock. Now there’s a place 10-15 minutes away to raise animals or study crops. My daughter spends at least 20 hours per week there.”
For Hillary Lee Chan, an alumna of the Delta Chapter in Clarksburg, Calif., and a crop specialist at Woodland, FFA provided the skills she needed in college and at Monsanto.
“I truly believe FFA gave me the foundation I needed to succeed in college and played a major role in getting me to where I am today,” she said. “The experience I gained, the skills I learned, the friends I made and the networks and relationships I formed through my involvement in FFA are priceless to me.”
Mark Reiman, an alum of the Butte, Neb. FFA Chapter and an agronomist at the Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Center, said FFA allowed him to explore new areas of ag and lead him to his current role at Monsanto.
“Prior to FFA, I hadn’t looked at agriculture outside of farming the land,” Reiman said. “But through FFA, you learn about agribusiness and ag sciences in contests, and you learn more about wide range of jobs in agriculture. FFA introduced me to agronomy, and I was about to pursue research around crops. That opened a new world to me and eventually, it led me to Monsanto.”
There was a common theme among these Monsanto employees too: the ag teachers who guided them.
“In FFA, I was definitely closer with my ag teachers, because it seemed as if they are more involved,” Grevie said. “They were there thorough thick and thin. They would go to field with us and help with chores. They put in a lot of extra work and time.”
“My ag teachers were very good mentors,” Smith said. “I learned a lot about team work and responsibility from them.”
Chan and Smith have similar advice for current FFA members: get involved.
“The only advice I can give to students currently involved in FFA is to get more involved,” Chan said. “There are endless possibilities within the FFA organization, and you will never know what you’re capable of until you try.”
“My advice for current FFAers is to get involved and have fun,” Smith said. “Take advantage of any learning opportunity or experience that you can. I sometimes wish now that I had taken an ag mechanics class and learned how to weld!”
To see the impact FFA made on other Monsanto employees, see our National FFA page on Monsanto.com