The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Since 1928, FFA has done just this for millions of current and former members. Kentucky FFA wants to highlight several individuals who attribute their success in life to their time as Kentucky FFA members. Click each tile to see their stories.
Farmer, Agribusinessman, State Senator
Dennis Parrett spent his childhood moving from place to place with his military family. All that changed, in 1974 when his father returned to Hardin County and purchased a farm. Parrett has been living the FFA Motto ever since.
“I fell in love with agriculture,” Parrett recalls. “Joining the FFA seemed like the most logical thing to do for a kid that loved the farm, so I enrolled at West Hardin High School as a sophomore.” He became very active in FFA and participated in many contests including Soil Judging, Dairy Judging, and Public Speaking. He won the Public Speaking Contest and served Treasurer of the West Hardin FFA. He lists the friendships he made in FFA among his best memories along with competitions, banquets, attending FFA camp, and a trip to the National FFA Convention in Kansas City.
Parrett gives much credit for his success to his Teachers of Agriculture Mr. Hezzie Williams and Mr. Joe Ed Johnson. “Mr. Williams had a tremendous impact on my life. He strongly encouraged me to go to college, when I really hadn’t been thinking of college as an option. Not only did he encourage me, but he helped me to get there. I was proud to nominate him for the very first “Ag Teachers Change Lives” award, given by the Kentucky FFA Foundation.”
With the encouragement of his Ag Teacher Mr. Williams, Parrett enrolled in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture following graduation from high school. At UK, he majored in Agricultural Economics and was very active in campus activities. “I was a member of the Livestock Judging team, President of the Block and Bridle club, and a member of Alpha Zeta.” Parrett lived and worked on the Coldstream Research Farm throughout his college career and graduated in 1981.
After graduation from UK, Parrett served as County Extension Agent for Agriculture in Hardin and Nelson County. In 1988 he began working at Cecilia Farm Service where he eventually became the manager and co-owner. Today, Parrett continues his work at Cecilia Farm Service and is also a part owner of Kentucky Crop Insurance, LLC and a cattle and grain farmer.
Since his days in FFA, Parrett has truly been “living to serve.” He has been actively involved in a number of community and agriculture organizations in Hardin County and across the state. He served as a member of the Kentucky FFA Foundation Board for nine years and chaired the board for two years. He has received numerous awards including the Honorary State FFA Degree, the Hardin County Farm Bureau Distinguished Service Award, and the UK College of Agriculture Outstanding Alumnus Award.
Since 2010, Parrett has been using the leadership skills he learned as an FFA member to represent the 10th District as a State Senator. He has been a strong advocate for both agriculture and education and currently serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Parrett and his wife Lisa reside in Hardin County. They are the proud parents of three daughters who were all active in FFA. His oldest daughter Devan served as State FFA President in 2005-2006.
Senator Parrett tells young people, “Agriculture careers are very rewarding, challenging, and ever changing. Work hard, take every opportunity to learn everything you can, be active, network.”
Farmer and Agriculture Leader
While the size and cost of his toys has changed drastically, Ryan Bivens has been playing with tractors his entire life. Growing up in Spencer County Bivens spent his days playing in the dirt and telling everyone he met that he was going to grow up to be a farmer. Today, Bivens owns and operates Fresh Start Farms and serves as a leader in numerous agriculture organizations across the state.
In spite of Bivens’ love for agriculture, his path to being a full time farmer did not involve following his father into the family business. His family did grow a little tobacco but both of his parents worked public jobs so he had to work for neighbors to get his farming fix.
Taking Agricultural Education and getting involved in FFA was a natural fit for Bivens when he entered Spencer County High School in the fall of 1993. Bivens took advantage of every opportunity to be involved in FFA from fruit sales to FFA Camp to the local farm toy show. He participated in numerous contests including tobacco grading, record keeping, meat judging, parliamentary procedure, and impromptu speaking. He also served as a chapter, regional, and state officer and earned the American FFA Degree. According to Bivens, “FFA taught me how to deal with others, work with members of a team, and also boosted my self-confidence.”
Throughout high school Bivens worked to build a strong Supervised Agricultural Experience Program. He began by working for various farmers in the county and then with the help of his father began renting ground and planting his own crops. He earned numerous awards through his SAE including being named the Northern Kentucky Region Star Farmer, winning a national proficiency contest, and the winning the FFA Courier Journal Contest.
Bivens gives much credit to his FFA Advisors Bland Baird and Martin Humes for his success in life, “They both taught us that anything is possible if you work hard for it and set your mind to achieving it.”
Following high school, Bivens attended the University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture where he majored in General Agriculture. At UK, Bivens was active in FarmHouse Fraternity, was president of Ag Student Council and was a member of the Dairy Judging Team. He continued farming throughout college and took advantage of every opportunity for learning more about the agriculture industry including attending the FFA New Century Farmer Program.
Although Bivens met his wife Misty through FFA, the two began dating during his senior year of college. Misty-also a State FFA Officer- earned a degree in Agricultural Education from UK and began teaching in LaRue County in 2001. After their marriage, Bivens moved to LaRue County and began building Fresh Start Farms.
Being the new farmer in town was not an easy task. Bivens had to build relationships with other farmers and convince landlords to give him a chance to prove himself as a farmer. By using the hard work and goal setting skills he learned in FFA, Bivens persevered and has since built his operation to include a combination of 6000 owned and rented acres. His home farm now includes a modern shop and on farm grain storage facility. Misty continues to teach Agriculture at LaRue County High School and serve as an FFA Advisor. The couple has two sons Cyrus and Avery.
Bivens has also used the leadership skills he learned in FFA while serving in various leadership positions in the agriculture industry. Both he and his wife are active in Kentucky Farm Bureau where he has served as President of the State Young Farmer advisory committee and in various other leadership roles. In 2013 the Bivens were recognized with the prestigious American Farm Bureau Achievement Award which is given to the top farmers under 35 each year. Bivens has been active in numerous commodity organizations and is currently serving as president of the Kentucky Soybean Board.
To young people interested in entering the agriculture industry Bivens says, “I think the future in agriculture is brighter than it has ever been before. We are faced with a challenge of feeding an ever growing population. It will take everyone working together from those directly involved in production, those breeding new seeds for the future, those marketing commodities to foreign nations, those writing good farm policy, and I could go on and on, for us to reach our goal. There are a lot of people in the world today that are against us completing the job we have at hand, that is why it will take good educators, political officials, legal experts, and industry professionals to help us promote, produce and protect our world’s number one industry, agriculture. It is up to you to figure out which piece of the puzzle, you will be and how you fit into this big picture. So, set goals, work hard, and never give up.”
Chief Executive Officer - National FFA Organization
“Farm life was hard, but it taught me a work ethic and value system that is still with me today,” says Dr. Dwight Armstrong, CEO of the National FFA Organization, and former Lyon County FFA member. From tobacco and beef cattle production, to smaller swine, poultry and dairy operations, Dr. Armstrong had an early introduction to agriculture that led naturally to high school FFA involvement. Since his days of wearing the blue corduroy, he has never waived in his passions or involvements in agriculture, and credits his time with Kentucky FFA for much of hissuccess.
“I fell in love with FFA,” Armstrong recalls, noting that he participated inevery activity and event possible during his high school membership. While he very much enjoyed speaking contests, he also took part in weed identification, soil judging, and the Creed contest, was a state winner with silver honors at the American Royal in livestock judging, and won the state Parliamentary Procedure contest his senior year. He also endeavored to earn his Chapter and State FFA degrees, and held offices of Chapter Treasurer, Chapter President and District Vice President.
Dr. Armstrong recalls that the FFA jacket was worn a bit differently in his high school years than how most FFA members wear theirs today. Weather allowing, his FFA jacket served as his “everyday” coat, worn on the farm, in the Ag shop or even out on dates. One thing about FFA hasn’t changed, though, and that’s the impact of Ag teachers and FFA advisors. Mr. Clyde Grace and Mr. Ray Fowler were Dr. Armstrong’s Ag teachers, and as he says, were two of the most influential people in his high school years.
“Mr. Fowler was a mentor for many years after FFA,” says Armstrong. “He knew how to get the most out of me and would encourage, challenge and expect the best from me both in and out of school. I owe him more than I could ever explain.” Dr. Armstrong’s Ag teachers contributed to many of his favorite FFA memories, including trips to FFA Camp, Field Days at Murray State University, and attending
National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. They even helped him prepare to run for Kentucky State FFA Office, and they supported him when he wasn’t elected.
“When I left state convention the year I ran for state office, that was the end of my FFA career in my mind,” he explains. After that convention, Armstrong received a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture from Murray State University, and then attended Purdue University for a MS and Ph.D. in Animal Nutrition. He taught in the Animal Science Department at NC State University before joining the Akey Company in Ohio, who focused on animal nutrition, feed and premixes. “It was years [after that convention] before anyone asked me to sponsor FFA,” says Armstrong. “I was fortunate that [Akey] was a sponsor of FFA, so I became reengaged.”
The Akey Company was eventually sold to Provimi, and Dr. Armstrong held roles as CEO of Akey and CEO of North American Nutrition Company, as well as roles as Director of the Americas and Global Vice President. The latter global roles allowed him to reside in The Netherlands for almost two years. In 2008, he retired to form his own consulting firm, and in 2009 joined National FFA.
His efforts in giving back to FFA began before his service as CEO. From 2000- 2005 he served on the National FFA Foundation Sponsors Board, and as Chair in 2005 led them to raise over $11 million dollars, earning him an Honorary American FFA Degree. He assures that his greatest highlight of that achievement was having the opportunity to address the National Convention and recognize his Ag teacher, Mr. Fowler. Now, as CEO, Dr. Armstrong believes that his FFA career has truly come full circle. As he says, “FFA is a part of you for life.”
Considering the over 300 careers currently available in agriculture, Dr. Armstrong feels sure that this is a great time to be in this industry! FFA provided him with career-ready skills such as servant leadership, confidence, critical thinking and citizenship that he feels certain members are still gaining today. According to him, “Secretary [Tom] Vilsack talks about the new ag economy and its importance in feeding the world, providing for global trade, alternative energy and global security. We need young people to consider a career in production agriculture as our farmers continue to age and the cost to enter farming continues to grow.”
Likewise, Dr. Armstrong feels sure that FFA only exists where there is a viable agricultural education program, and encourages high school FFA members to consider a career in Agriculture Education, taking advantage of the opportunity to influence young minds and make a positive difference. There are multiple ways to give back to FFA and the agriculture industry. Dr. Armstrong’s examples include creating scholarships to honor your Ag teachers or parents for students at your alma mater, assuring the continuation of agriculture education; acquiring the free Associate Membership in the National FFA Alumni Association; and making special donations through individual giving or fund raising efforts. His attitude about work is one all should strive for. “I tell people I have the best job ever,” says Dr. Armstrong. “What is not to like about working with FFA!”
Dr. Armstrong is pictured below as a member of the Lyon County FFA.
Kentucky Department Of Agriculture
On his first day in a freshman agriculture class, Warren Beeler’s teacher gave him five minutes to prepare a speech to give to the class. Over 40 years later, Beeler is one of the best known figures in Kentucky agriculture and a tireless advocate for the agriculture industry. Beeler was raised on a diverse farm in Grayson County, Kentucky that included livestock and tobacco production. The oldest of six children, he took an Agricultural Education class as a high school freshman because it was, “a natural fit.” Beeler was active in FFA serving as President of Grayson County FFA and regional treasurer. Beeler has fond memories ofpracticing and competing in various FFA contests including Dairy Judging, Land Judging, and Parliamentary Procedure. He also remembers the annual FFA Banquet and notes that his FFA friends from high school have remained part of his life from then until now. Beeler remembers that he, “wanted to do it all,” and gives much credit to his Agriculture Teacher Mr. Marion Higgs for motivating and training him. “My Ag Teacher was one of the best teachers I ever had……. I owe Mr. Higgs more than I could ever pay him.” He recalls that Mr. Higgs made his students give a speech every six weeks and that, “that training was probably as valuable in preparing me to succeed in life as any I could have had.” Following his graduation from Caneyville High School, Beeler attended Western Kentucky University where he concentrated in animal science and received his teaching certificate. Since that time he has served as livestock breed representative, served as director of the WKU Ag Expo Center, and as an Extension Specialist for Swine. Since 1999, Beeler has been employed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture where he has served in various roles related to livestock marketing and shows and fairs. He currently serves as Deputy Executive Director for the Office of Marketing in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. In spite of a full schedule at
work, he has continued to raise livestock in Grayson County. Beeler is also well known as a livestock judge. Over the last 35 years he has judged numerous shows in 42 states. Throughout his career, Warren Beeler has been a tireless advocate for animal agriculture. In his current position, he is leading efforts to inform the non-farming public, “that what we do in agriculture in being done the best ever and only going to get better both in terms ofenvironmental stewardship and from and animal care standpoint.” He also works to develop new market opportunities for livestock and to promote the Kentucky Proud Brand as well as coordinating grain and livestock market data collection and dissemination.
Beeler has long been an advocate for youth in agriculture and helped establish the Junior Activities Hampshire Swine Registry which was the first youth organization in the swine industry. He has helped coordinate the highly popular Livestock Skillathon Program for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. He is well known for his youth livestock judging clinics and has taught thousands of Kentucky youth that, “flat is fat and round is muscle.” He has been honored with the Honorary State FFA Degree and the Kentucky FFA Distinguished Service Award.
Beeler suggests current FFA members consider five things as they look to the future. “First, find that segment of agriculture that you are passionate about, your excitement for that work will be a contagious influence on others and work will be a pleasure. Second, no matter how smart you get there is no substitute for hard work. It’s what you do when you don’t have to do anything that matters. Third, be patient and know that learning never ends. Every generation learns everything over again so train yourself to be a good listener. Fourth, be a positiveinfluence looking on the bright side is infectious and effects everyone in the work place. So does being negative. Fifth, believe in yourself because a person’s own doubts and fears are their biggest limitation. If you think you can, you can.
Mid-Atlantic Territory Manager - Monty’s Plant Food
From a self-described “shy kid” to an award winning salesman, Tyler Williams has grown tremendously over the past eleven years and Williams gives FFA much of the credit for his success.
Joining the local FFA Chapter was a natural part of going to high school for Williams who grew up on a family dairy farm in Taylor County. “My uncle had been an advisor at our High School for years. My cousins and brother had all been officers in our local chapter and were very involved. I went to chapter banquets ever since I was a little kid and I saw theawards and the recognition that everyone received. I saw all the fun things they did and I really wanted to be involved in the organization.”
Williams paid his FFA dues in the fall of 2001 and never looked back. Heparticipated in a number of Career Development Events as well as public speaking. “My favorite activity was probably Dairy Judging because being off a dairy farm it came very natural to me.” He also held leadership positions including Jr. Vice President, SAE Committee Chairman, and Chapter Chaplain. He attended the Kentucky FFA Leadership Training Center as well as the State and National FFA Conventions.
Born with a love of agriculture, Williams worked hard to develop a strong Supervised Agricultural Experience Program which involved both placement on his family’s dairy farm and raising goats and foul of his own. Williams was recognized for his efforts by receiving the State FFA Degree in 2005 and the American FFA Degree in 2006.
After high school, Williams attended the University of Kentucky where he majored in Public Service and Leadership with a minor in Agriculture Economics. Following graduation he accepted a sales position with Monty’s Plant Food Company. In October 2010, he moved to Richmond, Virginia to become the Mid-Atlantic Territory Manager for Monty’s Plant Food. In 2011, he received the Top Salesman Award and the President’sAward from the company- two of the top three awards presented.
Williams gives FFA much credit for his success as a salesman. “I was always a shy kid by nature but my experiences with contests and parliamentary procedure helped to get me out of my comfort zone.” Williams also credits FFA for helping him learn how to network and speak in front of large groups. Both are skills that he uses regularly in his career with Monty’s as he attends trade shows, works with farmers and dealers, and coordinates product trials each season.
Williams lives with his wife Brittany in Richmond, Virginia. He is thankful to have grown up in a farm family and for the lessons he learned as a Kentucky FFA member. Tyler Williams is a perfect example of “Premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.”
Tyler Williams is pictured below as a member of the Taylor County FFA Chapter in Campbellsville, Kentucky.
Superintendent - Pendleton County Public Schools
If FFA has taught Anthony Strong anything, it is that no matter what stage you are at in life, having a good role model is key! As the Superintendent of Pendleton County schools, this is a lesson he is reminded of very often.
Strong was raised on an Angus cattle farm in Fulton County, Kentucky, and he developed an interest in the business of farming at an early age. As an avid 4-H livestock showman, he watched many of his older friends go on to FFA membership, and upon their encouragement when he entered Fulton County high school, this was a natural progression for him, as well.
Those friends urged his involvement and likewise spurred his successes! A natural in speaking competitions, he did well in Creed, Impromptu and Extemporaneous Speaking, but he also enjoyed livestock judging and proficiency contests. His favorite FFA event, however, was Parliamentary Procedure. In 1982, he chaired the Fulton County Parliamentary Procedure team that won at state convention, breaking a 10 year record held by another Kentucky chapter! Another special memory came during his year of service as Kentucky FFA State Secretary, when he had the opportunity to serve as a delegate at National FFA Convention. At that time, Kentucky had only two delegate positions, in comparison to the 10 now representing the Association.
After State Office, Mr. Strong graduated from the University of Kentucky and began his career in Agriculture Education. Here, he discovered past role models were highly valued.
“When you study Ag Education, you learn less about running an FFA Chapter than anything,” he explains. “As a teacher, your program is modeled after what you know. A good role model is key!” Strong considers himself fortunate to have had Mr. Larry Lynch as his FFA Advisor, recognizing that Lynch’s example of running a single teacher Ag department did more for him professionally than he realized until his own career.
Mr. Strong taught Agriculture for 10 years, at Pendleton County. It was only when he realized that he was spending more time with his FFA students than with his own son that he opted for a career shift. After positions as both Assistant Principal and Principal, and Campbell County Superintendent, he now serves as Superintendent for the Pendleton County School District. As he explains, a Superintendent is essentially the CEO of a school district, supervising all aspects of operation, from transportation to instruction to maintenance to the annual budget.
Training from FFA helped prepare him for multiple aspects of his current position. Public speaking skills, professionalism, record keeping and time management are practicalities present in his daily routine. Likewise, FFA embedded a passion for Career and Technical Education that has stuck with him throughout his career. As an administrator, Strong likes to stay involved with the local FFA chapter, serving as a judge or sponsoring awards when he can. When asked why this is important to him, he states, “It goes back to what I feel like I got from it; I would not be doing what I do today with [FFA].”
“No one would have thought Ag would take me to a Superintendent position,” he continues. Strong feels sure that agricultural involvement opens doors to other opportunities, that even if they are somewhat removed, still have a connection, and he believes that agriculture will always be a strong field with plentiful jobs and options for students who: 1) Get Involved; 2) Pay Attention; and 3) Stay Focused.
Strong is pictured below with other members of the 1983-84 State FFA Officer Team. He is in the center of the second row.
Proprietary Products Manager- Loveland Products- Crop Production Services
Kent Moore was literally born into the agriculture industry but it took his FFA Advisor to help him realize his full potential to be a leader in the industry.
“I was raised in Morgantown, KY on a family farm of corn, soybeans, tobacco, and cattle. We also owned and operated an ag input supply business where we sold agronomy inputs for crops as well animal health, feed and livestock supplies.”
Moore’s older siblings were involved in FFA and he had a deep interest in agriculture so he knew he would eventually become an FFA member. But his agriculture teachers Bill Hampton and LeeAnn Daugherty saw leadership potential in Moore and pushed him to get more involved in the organization. When asked what activities he participated in as an FFA member, he said, “All of them….. FFA Camp, State and National FFA Convention, contests of all kinds, and leadership roles on the local and regional levels.” Through these FFA activities, he gained confidence and learned work ethic, public speaking, and leadership skills.
Moore recalls that Mrs. Daugherty always encouraged him to be a leader and to stretch himself beyond what was easy. When he was a high school junior, Mrs. Daugherty suggested he apply for the George Washington Pioneer Farmer Program through the National FFA Organization. “I told Mrs. Daugherty that there was no way that a boy from Butler County, Kentucky could be one of the fourteen selected for the program, but she insisted that I try.” To Moore’s surprise (but not Mrs. Daugherty’s) he was selected to participate and spent the summer between his junior and senior year of high school living and working at Mount Vernon, Virginia. “We began the HAND construction of a replica of George Washington’s innovative 16 sided, two-story treading barn, two horse stables, and two corn cribs. These structures now stand complete on the historic farm and I can proudly say that I participated in their construction.”
Following high school Moore attended Western Kentucky University. He graduated in 2000 with a degree in Agronomy and a minor in Business Management. Following college, he managed the family farm supply business until he began working for Miles Farm Supply as a Wholesale Territory Sales Manager. While at Miles he held many roles including wholesales seed, chemical and fertilizer sales, serving as a Seed Specialist, Marketing Manager and Customer Service Lead, and ended up as the Value Added Fertilizer Salesman. When Miles Farm Supply was purchased by Crop Production Services in 2011, Moore was hired as the Proprietary Products Manager for Loveland Products.
“In my current role, I train and educate CPS sales staff in basic agronomics and sales skills as well as manage the sales and marketing of the CPS Loveland Products brand of proprietary crop protection, seed treatment, nutritional, and adjuvant products within my territory.” Moore notes that throughout his career he has used the knowledge and skills he gained as an FFA member.
Moore is married to his high school sweetheart, Danya. The Moore’s have two children, Samuel Kent and Weymouth Foster. They are active in their local church where they teach classes and serve in various capacities. They have a small farm in Butler County where they raise corn and soybeans. Other interests include travel, UK basketball, and time with friends and family.
To high school students who are interested in a career in agriculture, Moore says, “Go for it! The agricultural field is wide open right now with exciting new opportunities every day. There is a great need for people with a strong work ethic who are self-motivated, confident, can articulate a position, and can lead people. Technology, biochemistry, and engineering continue to play a greater role in the field and the possibilities seem endless.”
Produce Buyer - Winn Dixie Supermarket
When Cory Reinle entered the Agriscience Classroom at Nelson County on his first day of high school, he had no idea that his life would change forever. Reinle was hooked from day one and says that he, “instantly realized that Ag-Ed and FFA was fun, funky, and unique…I had to be involved!”
Over the next four year, Reinle became very active in the Nelson County FFA Chapter. He participated in Junior Chapter Meeting, the Marketing Plan Career Development Event, Prepared Public Speaking, and Extemporaneous Public Speaking. He also served two years as a committee chair, attended the local Freshman Leadership Conference, and participated in numerous local FFA events. Reinle says his favorite FFA memory is “the brotherhood and bonding that I formed with my fellow FFA members.”
When Cory Reinle entered the Agriscience Classroom at Nelson County on his first day of high school, he had no idea that his life would change forever. Reinle was hooked from day one and says that he, “instantly realized that Ag-Ed and FFA was fun, funky, and unique…I had to be involved!”
Reinle credits FFA with giving him many of the skills that have helped him succeed, “The networking skills that I developed as an FFA member have been my number one asset in landing my positions in graduate school and with Winn-Dixie. FFA forces you to take charge, not be afraid of crowds, and makes you become better at talking an interacting with others. Also, the Marketing Plan CDE gave me a glance at how products go from the farm level to their respective market to be processed and sold. I use the pricing and market analysis skills from that CDE in my job every day.”
Reinle suggests that current FFA members take full advantages of the opportunities provided to them by FFA. “Meet and build relationships with as many other people within FFA as possible. You really will become the agriculture leaders of tomorrow, and it is great to have friends and acquaintances that you can turn to as you start and grow your career.” He also advises students to, “Get an education and/or training for whatever career you want to follow. Higher education and training will challenge you and open your mind to tons of great opportunities for the future!”
Cory Reinle has succeeded in the agriculture industry because of the knowledge, skills, and passion he developed through his involvement in FFA. He is truly an example of “premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.”
Farmer, Pastor, Counselor, Community Leader
Lloyd Dean of Morehead, Kentucky hung up his FFA jacket over 60 years ago, but he is still using the lessons he learned about leadership and service to make a positive difference in his community.
Mr. Dean joined the FFA in 1947 at the recommendation of his cousin. Mr. Dean participated in judging contests and was the pitcher on the FFA softball team. His farming program included corn and hog production. He received regional recognition for his work with corn, hogs, pasture improvement, and farm improvement.
Mr. Dean’s FFA Advisors were Charles Hughes and Carl Sinclair. He states that they were, “great role models,” who really loved the FFA organization and the boys who were members. He credits FFA and his Advisors for making him want to stay in school at a time when many young men did not graduate.
On June 8, 1950, Mr. Dean received the State FFA Degree. In recognition of this achievement, he received $5 from the Mid States Steel and Wire Company. Although the $5 was spent many years ago, he still has a letter of congratulations from the company president. Mr. Dean remained active in FFA after graduating from high school and in October of 1951 became one of the first young men from eastern Kentucky to be awarded the American Farmer Degree. He and one of his advisors rode the train to Kansas City where he received the Degree at the 18th National FFA Convention.
Mr. Dean went on to attend college at both the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University where he graduated in 1959. From 1953-1957 he served his country in the United States Air Force. In October of 1954 he married his wife of nearly 60 years Arvetta. He served as a teacher and guidance counselor at Felicity High School in Felicity, Ohio from 1959-1963. He was counselor for 22 schools in Carter County from 1963-1970 and then served as counselor for Rowan County High School from 1963-1991. He retired in June 1991.
In 1959, Mr. Dean helped found the Morehead United Pentecostal Church. He served the church as Pastor until 2002. He continues to serve as Pastor Emeritus and remains involved as a Sunday School Teacher.
In addition to being a pastor and guidance counselor, Mr. Dean has served his community in a variety of ways. He has been involved with numerous community groups including the Rowan County Historical Society, the Rowan County Farm Bureau, the Rowan County 4-H Council, the Haldeman-Hayes Crossing Fire Department, the Kentucky District Campground of the United Pentecostal Churches. Mr. Dean has also conducted genealogical research on various branches of his family and has organized an annual family reunion.
Mr. Dean is a strong believer in the value of Agricultural Education and FFA. He believes that every student in America could benefit from being involved in the organization and has worked tirelessly to see that Rowan County students had the opportunity to be involved in FFA. He was one of ten charter members of the Rowan County FFA Alumni and has written numerous letters supporting Agricultural Education and FFA in Rowan County. According to State FFA Executive Secretary Matt Chaliff, “Lloyd Dean was providing support for the Ag Program at Rowan County when no one else was. His support played a key role in the school system maintaining the program.”
In 2009, Krista Hayslip was hired as the Teacher of Agriculture and FFA Advisor at Rowan County High School. Ms. Hayslip says that Mr. Dean has been a supporter of the program and has played a role in the growth and expansion that has taken place over the last four years. In 2012, Tanner Utterback became the second young man from Rowan County to receive the American FFA Degree. Lloyd Dean’s contributions to the program came full circle when he posed for a picture with Tanner shortly after the National FFA Convention. In the photo, both men- sixty years apart in age- proudly hold their American FFA Degrees.
Mr. Dean’s innumerable contributions to his community would not have been possible without the lessons he learned in FFA. He says, “I gained knowledge, wisdom, ambition, and desire for improvement.” Those lessons were well learned and have allowed Lloyd Dean to impact hundreds of lives for over 60 years.
Above: Lloyd Dean’s American Farmer Degree which he received in October 1951 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Below: Lloyd Dean is shown working with his hog project which helped him earn the American Farmer Degree.
Retail Business Representative - Syngenta
Most FFA members describe their years in the blue corduroy as “an era of developing leadership skills,” “a time of building lifelong friendships,” or even “a chance to realize true potential.” For Willie Hawkins, Retail Business Representative for Syngenta and former Bath County FFA member, his FFA career was each of these. It was also “a love story.”
“I lived for getting off the school bus,” Hawkins describes his childhood. He recalls finding any excuse to go fishing or hunting, and by eighth grade he had resigned that college likely wasn’t in his future. He intended to return to his family’s tobacco and beef cattle farm, until a conversation with the farm’s landlord made him question his plans. Soon after that conversation, the Bath County FFA Chapter made a presentation to eighth grade students, highlighting activities that sparked the interest of this self-professed “country boy.”
It didn’t take long for Hawkins to completely sell-out to FFA. He poured himself into every activity possible, even some that his advisor had to insist he take part in. Among parliamentary procedure, soil and livestock judging, welding, proficiency contests, State and National Convention and notable Impromptu speaking successes, Hawkins found an interest in school that he hadn’t known before.
His favorite FFA activity, however, was attending FFA Camp. Those weeks spent in Hardinsburg were filled with activity, and they afforded him opportunities to meet people from all over Kentucky with similar interests to his own! Hawkins took a special interest to a fellow camper from Warren Central FFA. In his final year at KY FFA LTC, Willie Hawkins was elected to serve on Camp Council alongside Elizabeth Bates, from Warren Central. He and Elizabeth married a few years later.
As if FFA Camp didn’t change his life forever, Hawkins is certain that his service as Kentucky FFA Eastern Region Vice President is one of the most impactful events in his lifetime. Professionalism learned and contacts made throughout that year have stayed with him throughout his entire career in the Agriculture Industry. That career included 11 years in Agriculture Education, where he taught at both Pendleton County and Greenwood High School. In both positions, Hawkins aspired to influence his students in the same manner that his own agriculture teachers had inspired him.
“Mr. Jimmy Walton and Mr. Bill Steele were two men who really pushed me to realize my potential,” said Hawkins. “They pushed me to go to college. Their constant attention grated on me at the time, but now I’m so glad they did it.” Hawkins likewise notes that Mr. James Bates, FFA Advisor at Warren Central (and also his father-in-law) played a very influential role in his teaching career.
After his tenure with teaching, Mr. Hawkins was offered a position with a company called Novartis, which eventually became Syngenta. Now, as a Retail Business Representative for Kentucky and Tennessee, he works with divisional offices, like Southern States, Crop Protection Services or Tennessee Farmer’s Co-op to insure quality relationships based on excellence of product and customer service. He is confident that participation in FFA lead to his confidence in public speaking and his attention to professionalism, both high demands in his current position.
“Develop professional skills,” Hawkins said is his number one piece of advice for current FFA members. “Also, listen to your Ag teachers, and get involved even when you don’t want to. When it comes to a career, pursue something you enjoy and make a change when you have to.”
Mr. Hawkins acknowledges that we live in a very busy culture. Although his career keeps him on the go, taking time to give back to Kentucky FFA is very important to him. In years past, he has served on the State Foundation Board of Directors and judged numerous contests, and he is a Century Club Member. As he said, “I want to do anything to help.” Kentucky FFA is certainly appreciative of all he does!
Willie Hawkins is pictured below as a Bath County FFA member.
Vice President Of Purchasing Operations - Animal Health International
Melody Alford, Vice President of Purchasing Operations for Animal Health International, Greely, CO, has quite the colorful career path since her time in the Blue and Gold. From positions with Tractor Supply Company, Books A Million, Cracker Barrel Company and numerous others, she has never forgotten lessons learned through agriculture and FFA, and credits each with leading to her career successes. Still very dedicated to FFA, Mrs. Alford also served as Chair of the National FFA Sponsors Board.
Growing up in Owensboro, Kentucky, Mrs. Alford was a proud agriculture student and FFA member at Apollo High School. Says Alford, “My older brother was involved with the FFA… I saw what the experience did for him – watching him grow in confidence, he began to dream bigger and set his goals higher. I wanted to experience the same excitement and growth that he had encountered.” Excitement was easily found; Mrs. Alford’s active membership occurred during a time when few females had integrated into FFA programs throughout the state. Luckily, she had plenty of experience with being outnumbered. “…being raised with [one sister] and five brothers, this (FFA) could not be much different,” she assures.
Clearly, being outnumbered was no deterrent. “The FFA did not see gender as a handicap,” she explains, “and I learned the value of truly being part of a team and contributing as an equal.” Contribute may be a understatement. Among a myriad of participations, Mrs. Alford fondly remembers competing in Dairy Impromptu and in Land and Soil Judging, and she also served as her Chapter President, leading a male majority chapter and recalling the valuable lesson learned: always think before you speak. “I tried many events,” she says, “and discovered many things that I should let others handle while I focused on leadership and public speaking.”
Other favored FFA memories include: having her parents watch her compete in the District level FFA Creed Contest; attending Kentucky FFA State Convention, then held in Louisville; and attending National FFA Convention, then held in Kansas City, Missouri. “It was the first time this small town girl when to the big city,” she recalls.
Like many former and current FFA members, Mrs. Alford credits her Ag Teachers with greatly impacting her FFA experience. “Mr. Pettit (Daviess County High School) and Mr. Greene (Apollo High School) taught me not to be afraid to try new things and that failing was just a part of learning.” Not being afraid to try something new is just one of the skills gained from FFA that she believes has helped in her career. Others include speaking with confidence, planning out projects, and setting/working toward goals. Mrs. Alford sees her service on the Foundation Sponsors Board as a means of ensuring that today’s youth continue to gain and observe new opportunities. “The FFA experience showed me possibilities that I would never have thought about growing up in a small town. I [am] in a position to help ensure the future of this great organization.”
As for current FFA members looking to pursue a career in agriculture, she offers this advice, “The agriculture industry is so expansive that you can define your career within it if you are not able to locate one that fits your skill set. The world population will always need agriculture in order to survive and to grow. Being a part of an industry which impacts so many people, and has been around for longer than history can define, is an honor and a responsibility.”