Two years ago as a Marion High School freshman, Nick Meyer attended an FFA Greenhand conference, an event for first-year members.
Greenhands followed along as they were led through ceremonies, workshops, and activities designed to build enthusiasm for participation in FFA. It worked for Meyer.
“I just remember thinking it was cool,” Meyer said. “I remember the opening ceremonies, I remember the national officer’s speech — she talked about her dog. I remember the workshops, the state president and treasurer, and the district officers.”
There was only one thing Meyer found unappealing about the experience.
“I didn’t like that it was in Stafford, which was a couple hours away — we left at 6 a.m. to get there,” Meyer said.
This year, Meyer, now a junior and FFA district treasurer for the South-Central district, got started on the Greenhand conference much earlier — in May.
District officer duties include planning and running the conference, and Meyer is discovering how much work it takes to pull off an event for up to 250 Greenhands.
A district officers’ meeting at the FFA state convention in Manhattan at the end of May kicked off a planning cycle that continued through the summer and into the school year.
“We met as an officer team at state convention, and we spent a couple hours talking, planning out the year,” Meyer said. “We met twice or three times in the summer, and then we had a big district officer conference the weekend before school started.
“We met two weeks later and talked about the Greenhand conference again, and we met again Wednesday.”
Planning wasn’t confined to meetings, as text messages and e-mails between officers flew continuously across the district from Winfield to Centre, Meyer said.
Meyer and his fellow officers had one final meeting Sunday in Newton. In addition to taking care of last-minute details for the conference on Monday, the officers had to put together an introductory video inspired by the superhero movie “The Avengers.”
“We picked out a cool theme, it’s called Ag-vengers — we went off the theme Avengers,” Meyer said. “We all came up with characters, we’ve all got different ones. Mine won’t be very hard. It’s Nick the Hillbilly Hick.”
When the conference kicked off Monday, the officers were in charge of registration for more than 450 participants.
They facilitated the opening session, the highlight being a speech by national FFA President Ryan Best.
“We got lucky this year to get the national president,” Meyer said.
Workshops were next. District officers conducted workshops, and made sure transitions from one to the next went smoothly.
When Greenhands had rotated through all the workshops, it was time for the closing session and awards. Before the conference, Meyer and the other district officers each raised $55, the cost of an FFA jacket. They took turns pulling chapter names out of a hat, and the winners received a coupon to purchase an FFA jacket for one of their members.
Meyer said the officers were optimistic the conference would have a positive influence on new FFA members.
“This can be either a really good impact on them and they’ll want to be really active in FFA, or this will be so-so, oh-well, I’m in FFA, I’m not going to do much,” Meyer said. “We’ve tried to plan so they’ll be super-interested and learn a lot about FFA.