Off-Farm Income (FFA )

Our guest today was a National Proficiency Finalist in the category of Fruit Production in 2021.  Jacob Hinton has a deep farming and FFA legacy in his family.  However, his parents did not start the farm that he has been growing up on until 2006.  They had a vision, and Jacob has been able to grow up working on that farm and helping that vision to come to fruition (pun intended).

Hinton's Orchard is where Jacob calls home.  And on this farm he tends to flower gardens, fruit trees, a corn maze and a pumpkin patch.  He also gives hay rides, and manages much of the agritoursim and apple sales that take place in the fall.  Jacob is learning a ton at his own home.  Everything from crop production, pest control and customer service are available for him to learn.  And, this cornucopia of experience led him to Indianapolis last October as a National Proficiency Finalist.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1295_JacobHinton_REVISED-BREAK_AT_7_13-012522.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

 Connor Pence won the National Proficiency Award in Goat Production in 2021, and I could have easily titled this episode "how to win a national proficiency in goat production".  However, when I really reflected on this interview, Connor is teaching everyone how to win a national proficiency in any category.

Yes, Connor's area of focus is goats, but it is what he has done with this focus area that is instructive to the rest of us.  He doesn't just raise and sell a few goats.  He has taken a very deep dive into this species, the markets for this animal and the management of this animal.  I raise goats, and I found myself learning a ton from Connor during the interview, including information that I had never heard of before. Listen to this episode to get the full story. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1291_Connor_Pence-121921.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Addy Stuever Battel is the 2021 National Proficiency Winner in the category of "Service Learning".  After hearing her story there is no question why she won this award.  With that said, there is a lot more to her story that makes this such a valuable interview.  Addy was a homeschooled student who was able to participate in the FFA.  I know from receiving emails from people around the country that not every school district allows students who are home schooled to participate in things like the FFA.  In this episode with Addy, she will explain what the rules in her school district were and how she was able to do this.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1289_Addy_Stuever_Battel-121921.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today we bring you a show that we aired previously on this remarkable young man and his journey through FFA -  Raising, Showing And Selling Pigs as his SAE - into achieving his dream of being a an agricultural pilot. 

Benjamin Olander won a National Proficiency Award at the National FFA Convention in October of 2021, and I was lucky enough to be back stage and to interview him as what had just happened sank in for him.  I knew as we conducted that interview that I'd like to have him on the show for a full interview, so we set it up and get to feature him today.

Ben has grown up around agriculture.  His parents moved to their 500 acre farm in Minnesota right around the time he was born, and he has been driving tractors since he was 5 years old.  Joining the FFA was a natural transition for Ben, and he started participating as soon as he was eligible.  In addition to the FFA, his responsibilities on the farm had been growing over the years, and his natural talents started to emerge.  For example, early on, while still in middle school, Ben developed an affinity for finance.  His parents helped him pursue this by getting him started in some beef projects, and a seed of talent had been planted.

As Ben entered high school he was able to obtain a job working in a business that fabricated custom parts and equipment for agriculture.  This led to Ben learning how to weld and run a CNC machine.  Soon, Ben was fabricating parts all on his own and welding pieces of equipment together from those parts.  He continued with this all through high school and kept documenting this as his supervised agricultural experience, leading to his national proficiency award.  Ben is also an excellent communicator, and this led him to become the Minnesota State FFA President during his freshman year of college.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1285_Ben_Olander-121821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Mackenzie Henning is a natural born seed breeder.  You might not think such a person exists, but I am here to tell you that they do.  Mackenzie grew up around agriculture and farming in typical, Upper Mid-West crop rotation of corn, wheat and soybeans.  However, about five years ago her parents made a change and started growing seed corn.  This led Mackenzie into a summer job de-tasseling corn stalks and it introduced her to the genetics of developing varieties of corn.  In her sophomore year of high school Mackenzie took a biology class and started learning about genetics and the science of plant breeding and her purpose appeared before her.

Since that time Mackenzie has been on a one-way road that is leading to a career in seed breeding.  She has advanced higher and higher in the company that she began with all those year ago as just a summer job, and her responsibilities increased each summer as well.  Now she is studying biotechnology and agricultural science at South Dakota State University, and she knows that she will be heading into graduate school after her bachelor's degree.  She has her eyes fixed on being a seed breeder.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1283_Mackenzie_Henning-121821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 10:23am MDT

Today's guest has experienced all aspect of the business cycle, and he did it all in high school!  Ayden Gartenlaub was encouraged by his father to get involved in the agriculture program and FFA at Highland High School when he was a freshman.  His father had grown up in agriculture and knew the benefits it would provide to Ayden.  So, Ayden reluctantly joined, and the rest as they say is.....history.

Like so many other students Ayden found out that he needed a supervised agricultural experience, looked around his home and found a project.  For Ayden it was chickens.  His dad and sister had purchased 15 layers for their back yard, and he thought that is where he could satisfy this requirement.  Soon, Ayden found himself selling eggs and his interest in the project began to blossom. Tune in for the rest of the story. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1279_Ayden_Gartenlaub-121721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

andon Bazemore was a National Proficiency Finalist in 2021.  He worked his way through multiple steps of a process of applications, interviews, section wins, state wins and more interviews to finally reach the stage in Indianapolis.  This is definitely a demonstration of hard work, dedication and participation in the FFA but, as Landon would tell you, it wasn't always this way.

Landon has been part of the FFA since middle school.  He was encouraged to join by the Ag teacher at his middle school as well as his father, and his step-brother was very involved in his FFA chapter and encouraged him as well.  So, Landon joined and wore the jacket and kept his membership up.  However, he did not attend many meetings and did not get involved much past what was minimally required of him.

During this entire time Landon had been working with his father in his father's business.  They install landscaping in new construction, and the nearest area to them with much residential development was Savannah, Georgia, two hours away.  So, there were a lot of trips to the city to grade yards away from homes, trench in sprinklers, lay sod and plant bushes.  During this time Landon did some work with his dad and some unsupervised.  The combination of the two caused him to learn a lot about this business.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1277-LandonBazemore-121121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:00pm MDT

Molly McClure is a fierce competitor in the FFA, but she is also a fierce competitor in sports.  At Hugoton High School she ran cross country, played point guard and ran track.  For several year the National FFA Convention fell on the same weekend as the state cross country meets, so she never went.  However, that was all supposed to change in 2020, right up until Covid canceled the National FFA Convention.

Molly's disappointment did not need to last for long however.  The convention was back in 2021, and so was she!  Molly had submitted proficiency applications for her diversified livestock projects and aced her interviews.  She ran her projects completely independently of her parents, and she credits that with helping her to do very well on her interviews.  Since she had been making all of the decisions, the answers to the interview questions came very easy to her.

Ultimately the judges at the National FFA selected Molly as one of four National Proficiency Finalists in the category of Diversified Livestock Production.  Since she was now in college at Kansas State University and no longer running cross country, this meant that Molly was finally going to be able to go to the National Convention.  However, it also meant that if the size and scope of this great convention was not a enough to overwhelm her, she was also going to be going up on the big stage in the big stadium in front of thousands of people as a national proficiency finalist almost immediately upon her arrival.  Molly said that it was fast and mostly a blur, and she was happy that she made it across the stage without tripping.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1273_Molly_McLure-121121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

 I met Cassie Carter at the 2021 National FFA Convention.  I was in a room interviewing National Proficiency Winners, and she had just won a national proficiency award in the category of Agricultural Services.  Cassie had been working in her families taxidermy business, Trophy Taker Taxidermy, since she was about six years old, and this seemed like a perfect fit for her SAE.  Well, that turned out to be correct as she had just come off stage with a very prestigious award.

My wife, Autumm, was helping me that day and she was speaking with Cassie while they waited for me to be ready.  I then did a brief interview with Cassie and asked her if she would like to schedule a time to do a full interview on the show.  She said yes, we shook hands and she walked away.  Then Autumm told me that Cassie had been telling her all about going to college at Emory in Georgia and that she was a pre-med student and how challenging it already was.

Today was the day for Cassie and I to complete the full interview, and I dug a little deeper into her story and why she wants to be a doctor.  She told me that she has actually decided to pursue being a trauma surgeon in Downtown Atlanta, and she is hoping to really make a difference this way.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1271_Cassie_Carter-120921.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 3:25pm MDT

For the past several years the issue of mental health in the agricultural community has become more and more mainstream with some of the stigma slipping away.  About the time this really started to take hold Madisen Jolliff was noticing that this existed all on her own.  At the same time she was just coming into the FFA and looking for a project for her SAE.  Ultimately she chose to speak with farmers about these issues and try to help people open up.  The results she received were very unexpected, even for Madisen.

Madisen has friends who feel an immense sense of pressure and stress because they have or will inherit land that has been in the family for generations, and they don't want to be the link in the chain where it all ends.  She also has friends that experience stress because they will not inherit land and they cannot find their pathway into farming and raising their own livestock.  She finds herself experiencing both of these as she will one day inherit part of her families farm, but that will not be for a long time.  So in the meantime she is trying to figure out how to get her own land to continue growing her herd of cattle.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1267_Madison_Jolliff-120721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Fresh off of the high of the National FFA Convention I returned home to my studio and can you believe it, my very first interview with was with Tristan Wirkus, who had just one a National Proficiency Award!

There is literally so much good going on at the National Convention that I just cannot keep up.  My interview with Tristan has been on the calendar for weeks.  What great luck for me that he won the national proficiency in Environmental Science & Natural Resources Management.  Tristan has an absolute passion for the environment and the green spaces in his hometown of Stratford, Wisconsin.  This, in combination with the fact that his mother is an FFA advisor led him into this incubator that we call the FFA.

Since that initial participation in the 6th Grade Tristan's experience has grown and grown.  This ultimately led him to coordinating with dozens of stakeholders in Stratford to get trees planted throughout the city and along their Heritage Trail, and this ultimately led to the city receiving the designation of "Tree City USA".  If this were not enough, Tristan went to work testing water quality in a local pond so that changes could be made to make the pond conducive to a healthy fish population.  Once this was done the local police department started a "Cops And Bobbers" program to teach kids how to fish there.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1265_Tristan_Wirkus.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

The Mackay High School FFA Chapter holds a "Christmas Bazaar" every year, right after the Thanksgiving break to bring the small and isolated community as well as people from the surrounding communities together.  The bazaar features some food, some singing and Christmas spirit, but the real emphasis is on community support.  This year 49 different small businesses were able to attend for $10 per table and sell their wares to the community.  On average each vendor made over $1,000 at the bazaar.

At the same time that the businesses were gaining exposure, selling products and meeting community members, people from the remote area had a place to get together with friends and neighbors and do their Christmas shopping all in one location.  It is no wonder that this event has been going up and growing in success for up to 25 years now. Tune in for this fun interview on how this all comes together. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1263-Mackay_FFA-121621.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Since Christmas is almost here, I think this interview is appropriate! Learn how one FFA member is making a difference to children by purchasing them Christmas presents from money raised by the Wilcox County High School FFA Chapter of Rachelle, Georgia. Listening to this interview will surely get you into the holiday spirit. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1262-Replay_Of_Episode_737-120421.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today's interview is special.  I rarely get to interview a student, or any guest for that matter, face to face.  However, I had accidentally scheduled an interview with Luke Jennings for when he would be at the National FFA Convention and I would be traveling to the convention.  So, we decided to do the interview in person in Indianapolis.  My studio for this interview happened to be the press box way above the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, so it was quite a different experience for me.

Luke came up for the interview after walking across the big stage at the convention for the third time!  He and his team had just been recognized for the performance in the parliamentary procedure competition.  However, how I had first learned of Luke was due to his nomination for a national proficiency award. Learn more in today's episode.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1261_Luke_Jennings-113021.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

The unbelievable stories that I am privileged to cover on this show just never stop!  Today I am talking with National Proficiency Finalist, Miles Lee.  Miles has an incredible story on many, many levels.

To begin, Miles grew up in the city but he and his family would vacation at his Great Uncle's farm in Alabama where they raised pigs and chickens.  At an early age this inspired Miles, and a love for farming and agriculture was set in motion.  However, there was more to it than just the livestock.  Miles found himself fascinated with the soil and the life within the soil.  He used to play soccer, and at slow moments in the game he would get scolded for digging in the dirt rather than focusing on the game!  That is not what the soccer coach wanted, but this agricultural podcaster couldn't be more thrilled!

As his love for the soil grew Miles noticed how often he smelled the bad odors coming from the landfill across the road from his house.  He told me that he thought to himself, "there's got to be a better way".  This led him to discover vermiculture and vermicomposting with help of a middle school science teacher.  Miles explored composting food waste in this type of system, but soon it was time for high school.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1259_Miles_Lee-112721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

In today's show, I feature a replay of an awesome interview with one FFA member who is making a goat business work. He is expanding and finding new ways to not only grow his goat herd, but also to grow his goat herd. Check out today's replay of episode 703.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1256-Replay_of_Episode_703-120421.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

One of the great things about hosting this podcast is that I get to speak with people in every stage of development in their agricultural journeys.  Today, I am proud to speak with Shayla Russell.  Shayla is just beginning her sophomore year of high school in a beautiful part of Montana, and she is just beginning the development of her own cattle herd. Tune in for more about Shayla in this episode. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1255_Shayla_Russell-112721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Back in 2018 I interviewed a high school sophomore named Kaelyn Sumner who was just starting her first agricultural business with honey bees called "K's Bees".  At the time she told me about her interest in insects, bees and doing research beyond her entrepreneurship SAE.  Fast forward to today, and Kaelyn is a freshman in college at Kansas State University and has followed through on all of those statements that she made.

Kaelyn is majoring in Agricultural Education with minors in entomology and food science.  She has already lined up work in the food production industry for her summers, and she intends on bring knowledge about food science back to the high school ag classroom as an ag teacher in a few short years.  In addition, she has competed in several research projects and seen a lot of success since we talked in 2018, including placing in two, national science contests.

Kaelyn is a great example of good goal setting and following through on what your vision is.  She has great advice for students in this episode!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1253_Kaelyn_Sumner-112621.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today knows the meaning of a legacy, the meaning of hard work and the reward of seeing your hard work turn into revenue.  Jill Uken is a 3rd generation FFA student whose grandfather's membership inspired her and her brothers to join.  Jill also witnessed the sweet potato business that her older brother started when he was in the FFA, and she decided to carry it forward.

Today, Jill is getting a lot of attention for her project, but it has not come without hard work from everybody in her family.  Whether it was the planting of the 500 sweet potato plants, the weed control or the harvesting everyone found out what farming was like prior to the use of mechanized equipment.  That is precisely because they don't have any!  Illinois is not a place where you would expect to find sweet potato farmers, so there is no harvesting or planting equipment available to rent or borrow.  Everything Jill and her family are doing, is done by hand! Learn more about Jill in today's show. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1249-Jill_Uken-112421.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today, Avery Winters, is her FFA Chapter's President, raises pigs for her supervised agricultural experience and has been a Texas State Proficiency Finalist as well as a District Proficiency Winner in swine production - and she lives in a subdivision.  Across the nation we are seeing the enrollment in more and more high school FFA chapters coming from students who live in subdivisions.  This is due to two things - first, the outstanding success of the FFA as a program and the subsequent success of FFA students, and the fact that over time communities change and develop leading to the loss of farms and construction of homes.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1247-Avery_Winters-112321.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Sometimes when I conduct an interview I can find myself talking for hours if I am not careful.  Usually this is because there are so many different aspects of the guest's story that I could investigate the time just seems to flow by.  That was definitely possible in today's interview with National Proficiency Finalist and Minnesota State Officer, Nicole Koziolek.

I did a decent job of adhering to my normal time constraints, but there is so much to Nicole's story that it was difficult to not spend 30 minutes on each aspect.  To begin, Nicole comes from a farming family and farming legacy.  And, she grew up with her two parents who were farming corn and soybeans in Minnesota.  Nicole is an only child, so she would go to the farm with them, which is about 30 miles from their home, because she did not want to be left home alone.  However, for many of those years Nicole would just ride along and visit.  She did not necessarily show any desire to learn about the farming itself.

Nicole really was not excited about being part of the FFA, but her parents both had been very involved and wanted that to happen.  Eventually, Nicole's mom talked her into attending one, exploratory, meeting just to see what it was all about.  Something special happened in that meeting.  Nicole was hooked.  So hooked, in fact, that she went out of her way to participate.  Nicole went to high school at Northfield High School in Northfield, Minnesota.  However, they did not have an FFA chapter.  The nearest chapter as at Randolph High School about 15 miles away.  So, Nicole drove every morning to Randolph and attended two ag classes so that she could participate in the Randolph FFA Chapter.  She would then drive back to Northfield High School for the rest of her classes.

When it was time for Nicole to start a supervised agricultural experience she was considering a placement SAE, working on her families farm.  However, her dad convinced her to take a little risk and try farming for herself with an entrepreneurship SAE.  She accepted the challenge but realized that all of those years in the cab of the tractor riding along could have been used to learn everything she now needed to know.  So, she started "learning to farm" at a rapid pace.

Five years after that initial meeting at the Randolph FFA Chapter, Nicole is now nominated for a national proficiency award.  She had progressed from renting 20 acres from her parents to owning 13% of the operation.  She is majoring in agricultural communications and marketing at the University Of Minnesota.  And, she is a state officer for Minnesota FFA.  It is a remarkable journey and the FFA was an incredible catalyst for this transformation and success story!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1243_Nicole_Koziolek-112021.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 9:21am MDT

Kendra Goplin is a freshman at South Dakota State University, studying ag education.  She is also a national proficiency finalist, which is the realization of a lifelong goal.  If you are just looking at the student who now will stand on the national stage and be recognized for her accomplishments, you will miss the story of the journey that brought her here.  With no disrespect to her accomplishments, that journey is a fascinating part of this story. Listen in to get the details. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1241-Kendra_Goplin-111721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Kaylea Taylor first appeared on the show during her sophomore year of high school in episode #681.  She was just beginning her journey of putting on camps to teach 4H and FFA students better skills in exhibiting their goats.  Over time this became known as "Stepping Up Show Goat Camp" and her reputation has spread.

Today I am proud to have Kaylea back on the show as a national proficiency finalist.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1237-Kaylea_Taylor_REVISED-112021.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

As you all know I was invited to give a keynote speech at the Montana FFA Foundation's Ag Expo at Montana State University which took place two weeks ago.  After the keynote, Trent Petersen, the president of the Red Lodge FFA Chapter from Red Lodge, Montana joined me on stage for his and my first ever, live podcast recording.  It was a blast, and I am featuring it for you here today.

Trent is a very impressive young man with a dream of running his own cow/calf herd.  He is already building that herd, finding land anywhere he can in his area to put a few head of cattle, get his calves, retain his heifers and sell his steers.  He has a vision of returning to the classroom in the future as an FFA Advisor, and this is his chosen method of creating his off-farm income to support this cattle operation that he has envisioned.

Direct download: Trent_Peterson_Episode_1236_-_112221_11.52_AM.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Every now and then in an interview there is so much information to cover that I find myself exceeding the normal length of an episode.  That was definitely the case in my interview with Jeremiah Geise.

I first learned about Jeremiah because he was a national proficiency finalist in the category of diversified livestock.  As they say, that was only the "tip of the iceberg".  Jeremiah is doing a lot more than raising multiple species of livestock, i.e. pigs, sheep and goat.  He is also using artificial insemination to breed as much as he can, and he has discovered multiple niche markets.  He also had set up contracts and direct marketing on all three species.  So, when he has an animal born on his farm, he already knows who the buyer is and that the buyer exists!  This is next level agricultural marketing!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1235_Jeremiah_Geise-REVISED-111921.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Brandon Jakobi is a National Proficiency Finalist this year for his custom round bale business in Wisconsin.  He had several things come together at once that were the catalyst for him to achieve at this very high level.

Brandon joined the FFA in the 7th Grade.  It was something that he always knew that he wanted to do, and he made it happen at his first opportunity.  Brandon's father had been in the FFA and was part of the FFA Alumni Chapter in their area, so he knew the ropes.  Knowing that Brandon would need a good SAE, he suggested that Brandon purchase his round baler and start his own business baling hay and cornstalks, etc. for people in their community.  Brandon's dad also knew that Brandon had been inspired by another student from their area who had won a National Proficiency Award.  Brandon told me that the community really celebrated this accomplishment and that made him want to do the same thing.

Knowing that a national proficiency award was the goal, Brandon and his father thought this business could be the perfect fit to help him achieve this.  Brandon Jakobi's Round Baling was born.  Since that time Brandon has continued to build his client base by using such marketing methods as hanging fliers in stores and pulling his round baler through parades.  Today his business supports him financially, and when he is not baling hay he is working on his families farm or a neighboring dairy.  Brandon is still living in the surreal knowing that he is this close to accomplishing his goal and realizing just how far he has come.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1231-Brandon_Jakobi-111521.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

I just returned from an incredible three days in Montana, the genesis of which was the greatest professional honor bestowed upon me in my life - presenting my very first keynote address at the college that I received my agriculture degree from to an audience of FFA students.  On Thursday I presented a keynote and did my first ever podcast interview in front of a live audience at Montana State University.  You all know how much I love my former university and the small city that adopted me for three years.  In today's episode I get to tell you all about it!

Direct download: OFI_1230_Tuesday_Episode_-_111521_7.34_PM.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today has a really amazing story of growth and development.  To preface this, Case Edwards is one of four national proficiency finalists in the category of Ag Mechanics Repair And Maintenance.  But to hear him tell his story, when he was a sophomore in high school if you had shown him a spark plug, he would not have known what it was.

Case's story really starts with joining the FFA, but it takes a big turn during his sophomore year when his friend Terrence started small engine team in their chapter.  He talked Case into being part of it, and soon Case discovered an aptitude that he did not know that he had.  This led to the idea of fixing up old lawn mowers and flipping them, and things just kept snowballing

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income-Episode_1229_Case_Edwards-110821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today is very involved in her families dairy and dairy business, but it hasn't always been that way. Along the way to Maggie Mathew's nomination as a National Proficiency Finalist there were some bumps in the road. In some ways her childhood has been very similar to mine, starting with the divorce of her parents.  At that point she was exposed to agriculture and livestock, but at a smaller level.  However, after her mother remarried she was brought into a farming family and she took flight from there

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1225_Maggie_Mathews-110121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

The story of today's guest could be a recruiting poster for the FFA, if the FFA actually needed recruiting posters.  I found out about Francisco Rocha because he is a national proficiency finalist this year.  However, that is the current version of his story.  What is so compelling here is the "rest of the story", to quote Paul Harvey.

Francisco grew up in Heber, California, which is right next to the larger city of El Centro.  When he started high school he was placed in an introduction to science class, and this was taught through the agriculture department.  The next thing that Francisco knew, he was an FFA member, and he embraced the group.  He continued to get more involved, even though he had not grown up on a farm.

In Francisco's junior year of high school, he took a job with his father a produce packing business in El Centro.  There, he tagged boxes of produce grown in his area of California as well as produce that had been shipped over from Mexico.  After these boxes were tagged they were shipped all over the U.S. to grocery stores and restaurants for human consumption.  During this time he was learning about food safety, the supply chain and customer service.  At the same time, his FFA advisor encouraged him to make this job his supervised agricultural experience, and he took the advice.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1223-Francisco_Rocha-110121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today is just a junior in high school, but his achievements suggest someone who is well beyond high school.  Ethan Lulich is a National Proficiency Finalist already, for this his supervised agricultural experience restoring and selling antique tractors.  In addition to that he has two placement SAE's and another entrepreneurship SAE.  He is also serving as his chapter's president already.

Needless to say, Ethan is busy, and that means that he has to be well organized.  As I conducted this interview with Ethan one theme that kept coming up was goal setting.  He is achieving so much in such a short amount of time, there has to be a way that he is getting this done.  It turns out that Ethan is very good at setting significant goals and then sketching out a map to follow to help him get there.  Between his ability to set these goals and his discipline to follow the plan to achieve them he is seeing great results. Learn more by tuning into this podcast today. 

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1219_Ethan_Lulich-102321.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Last Saturday night at about 11pm my wife and I touched down at the airport, exhausted from an incredible but very active week in Indianapolis.  We had been at the National FFA Convention all week, walked dozens of miles and met hundreds of incredible people.  We had seen the future leaders of our country, with all of their hope and promise, talent and work ethic, on display for the whole world to see.  And then, just like that, it was over.

After the plane came to a stop at the gate we walked through the empty airport, retrieved our bags and found our car.  Driving through the night we found our way back to our farm, back to our normal life and the last little bit of travel adrenaline wore off.

Our daughter had flown to and from the convention with her FFA chapter, so she had beat us home.  She was already in bed, and there was no waking her.  My wife made her way to bed and to sleep as quickly as possible, but I wasn’t quite ready.

I had been gone for five days, and I missed the farm.  It was a beautiful night so I decided to take a walk and check a few things before heading to bed.  The chickens were all locked up, the pigs had feed and water and the cows and goats were bedded down where they should be.  Nothing was amiss, and from the perspective of our livestock it was like we had never left.

The night was quiet and clear, and I stood looking at the stars.  As I stood there thinking about the great week that we had just concluded I heard a train blow its horn as it approached town.  I couldn’t help but smile.  Just six hours earlier I had pulled off the side of Interstate 57 to take a picture in front of the Kankakee sign as we drove towards Chicago.

We had flown in and out of Chicago and rented a car so we could get a look at the “houses, farms and fields” of Illinois and Indiana on our way to and from the convention.  I had purposefully chosen this route on our way back so I could see this town with the funny sounding name that Steve Goodman wrote about and Willie Nelson sang about in the great song, “The City Of New Orleans”.

Coordinated Inspiration

As I stood there a thought entered my mind and my smile began to grow and grow.  At the same time that we had made our way back to our farm, tens of thousands of American youth were making their way back to theirs.  All across the country FFA students were making late night arrivals at their family farms, ranches and rural towns as they returned from this great convention.

I imagined these students looking up at the stars in their own hometowns, inspired by the time they had just spent in Indiana and dreaming of what their futures would be.  There is a big world out there and it is filled with opportunities.  However, if you are never exposed to those ideas or nobody ever tells you about them, you don’t even know they exist.

For the 55,000+ FFA students who were able to attend this great convention they couldn’t help but be excited.  This whole world of opportunity was brought to them and placed at their feet, all under one roof.  Whether their path is in the military, the trades, college, niche farming or production agriculture, everywhere they turned there was somebody who was eager to have them join them in their vocation and call to service.

I could not fathom how many thousands of students at that moment were telling themselves, “I didn’t know you could do that for a career” or who had received the spark necessary to light the fire in their souls that had just been waiting to burn.

If all the adults in the expo hall reaching out to these youth by metaphorically saying “follow me and serve your fellow man” weren’t enough, there were the general sessions.  The folks at the FFA are experts at creating an environment that first gets you very excited, followed by inspiration after inspiration in each of these general sessions.

No Excuses

The best thing this convention does, whether or not this is intentional, is that it removes all excuses.  In every session there are FFA students on the stage that are achieving at a very high level.  From the National Officers who run the show, to future professional musicians, to American Stars and Proficiency Finalists, you are shown the best of the best.  The stories of these students and how they made it to that stage are told to you, and every student sees what is possible.

For example, if a student had just found out about a dream career in the expo and told yourself, “that’s for other people, I could never do that”, in the general session they would get a metaphorical wake up call from the stories of the students on the stage that would leave them with only one answer - “If they did it, I can do it too, the only thing holding me back is me”.  That is a sobering thought, but it is also freeing and it is just what these students need to hear to be able to unleash their greatness.

Student after student walks across that stage.  Some receive the highest awards, others do not, but every nominee has achieved things that even adults only dream about.

Whether it is the agriscience research finalist whose research began during his freshman year of high school and has now taken him around the world.  Or the agribusiness finalist who saw a need at livestock shows that was not being filled and at 19 years of age flies all over the country fulfilling this need for his clients.  Or the agricultural placement finalist who had to find a way to fill a major void on his families farm and continue high school when Covid decimated their employee staff.  Or a star farmer candidate who started leasing land at an early age and building their own herd to now find themselves in a position to farm for their living.  Student after student and story after story erases excuse after excuse and replaces them with inspiration.

Neither a student nor an adult can leave a general session without a sense of inspiration and a renewed vigor that makes them believe they can go conquer the world!  Every student and every adult takes a lot more home with them from the convention than they brought.  I bring home so much energy and inspiration that I almost feel selfish.

Organizational Success

To go the FFA’s National Convention is to see unbelievable stories of individual success.  However, it is also to see an incredible example of organizational success.  The 2021 National FFA convention is the 94th iteration of this great event.  Since 1928 the National FFA has been chasing a vision of unity, fraternity, education and inclusion in agriculture.  The result has been unbelievable growth in the number of chapters and students who choose to be part of this organization.

In the midst of the activities, music, lights and competitions of the National FFA Convention one tends to see the individual achievement only.  However, if you sit down and watch students walk by, reading the names of the states that they are from on the back of their jackets you see how this kernel of an idea that sprouted almost 100 years ago has transformed agriculture and the lives of millions of American youth since that day.

There is no hall of fame for youth organizations or non-profit associations.  When one is finally created, the FFA will be a first ballot, charter member.  There is room in the FFA for everyone, whether you live in a neighborhood or on a farm.  The FFA will teach you the skills you need to succeed and expose you to a career or aptitude that will allow you to thrive.

Find your inspiration, find your purpose and find it in the FFA! 

Direct download: OFI_1218_Tuesday_Episode_-_11121_6.03_PM.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

So, what's in the water in Slaton, Texas?  Is it some sort of magical elixir that produces national proficiency and American Star finalists?  This is a question that I am pondering more and more.

Today's show features a repeat guest, Rachyl Kitten.  Rachyl first appeared on the show just over a year ago on episode #895.  The way that I initially found out about Rachyl was that she was a national proficiency finalist in 2020.  Well....she is a national proficiency finalist again, this time for 2021!  She has great entrepreneurial instincts, a great business, and a great supporting cast at Slaton.

What is incredible about Slaton?  Tune into this podcast to find out!

Direct download: Rachyl_Kitten_Revised_Episode_-_102921_11.25_AM.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Lashawna Vogel has so many positive attributes and has accomplished so much already that it is impracticable to try and list them all here.  With that said, the thing that stands out to me, so big, is that she grew up outside of agriculture.  One of her aunts encouraged her to take ag classes and join the FFA because she knew how positive it could be for Lashawna.  Lashawna gave it a shot, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Actually, it is not quite history yet.  Lashawna is still competing and accomplishing a lot in the FFA.  Right now she is serving as a state officer for the State Of Wisconsin.  And, she is one of just four national proficiency finalists in the category of Agricultural Communications!  She has been working as a "media intern" in the FFA since her 8th-grade year when she was awarded that position in her middle school chapter.  She continued that throughout high school and has grown her skill set more and more each year.

Now, that exposure, the training, and the challenges are all culminating in national recognition.  She is also pursuing a degree in agricultural marketing and communications and plans on advocating for agriculture through the medium in the future.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1213-Lashawna_Vogel-101821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

On the day this episode comes out I am heading to my 3rd National FFA Convention, but I won't be going alone.  Actually, Hattie is already there with her Conduct Of Chapter Meetings Team as well as 32 other members of her FFA chapter.  And, because Hattie is competing there Autumm took the time off of work and is traveling with me to Indianapolis as my assistant.  But of course we will both be covering the conduct of meetings competitions very closely and are looking forward to seeing Hattie and all of her teammates perform.

Even though this will be my 3rd National Convention, there will be a lot of firsts for me.  This is the first time that any of my family members are going.  This is the first time that I will be going as a member of the advisory council for Kuna FFA.  This will be the first time that Autumm and I have ever visited Chicago.  It is going to be a great trip, and I have all of you in the his audience to thank for this!

If it were not for you supporting this show, there is a good chance that Hattie would not be in the FFA, I would not be on the advisory council and I would have long since abandoned the podcast and never gone to that very first National Convention!  Thank you!

Direct download: OFI_1212_Tuesday_Episode_-_102521_11.52_AM.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Behind every successful person, there was somebody who was pushing them or encouraging them, and today's interview is absolute proof of that.

Kami Holt is a National Proficiency Finalist this year in Ag Sales Entrepreneurship, but her journey didn't just start yesterday.  Growing up on her family's century farm in Southern Utah, Kami has been exposed to agriculture her entire life.  However, it was her older brother's membership in the FFA that sparked this interest and ultimately led her to join.  However, joining was enough for Kami, and when she was asked if she was going to compete for a leadership role she said "no".

Kami's grandmother and brother would not take "no" for an answer and really pushed or, as Kami put it, "coerced" her into filling out the application to join the officer team.  Ultimately she was selected, spend three years as an officer, and found that to be a very rewarding experience.  During this time Kami took over her brother's SAE project, selling corn stalks and straw bales, and continued to grow the business.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1211-Kami_Holt-101821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

is interview is so good, it is worth another play.

Hannah was originally on our show on episode #410 talking all about how she combines an eye for art with her knowledge of agriculture.  I am proud to say that her talents took her all the way to becoming an American Star Finalist in 2020, and it was my pleasure to profile her again.  Below are the show notes from the first time she was on the show.

Original Show Notes:

Have you ever heard of a starving artist?  Of course, you have.  How about that old cliche about the artist that created a solid business plan, developed a targeted market that would pay for their art, and designed a solid business?  Right.....that cliche is not as common.

Our guest today is that second kind of artist.  Hannah York has an eye for art.  Specifically, she crafts her vision into artistic holiday creations for businesses around Princeton, Kentucky.  She has one, VERY busy season where she must completely prioritize her business.  As her reputation grows, so does the demand for this service that she provides.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1208-Recap_Of_Episode_925-100521.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Kayla Rossi is a National Proficiency Finalist in the category of diversified livestock production this year.  And to look at what she is currently doing and what she has already accomplished might make you think that it has been easy.  If that is the case, it is only because she makes it look that way.

Kayla raises her livestock on her family's ranch in the high country of Northwest Colorado.  This brings challenges that many of the rest of us never have to deal with including harsh winters, drought, and predators.  In 2019, as Kayla was really getting ready to hit her stride in her herd of cattle, a herd of goats, and a flock of sheep she had a major predator loss.  That year her profit, or lack thereof, on her lambs was negative $29.

She did not allow this to stop or discourage her, however.  She made adjustments and persisted.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1207-Kayla_Rossi-101421_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

As you all know this show is all about entrepreneurship in agriculture.  So, I almost never interview FFA students with placement SAE's except for American Star Finalists.  Guests like Duncan Patton definitely make me rethink this strategy.

It seems like I run into this same puzzle each time it is American Star Interview Season.  I come across a student who has risen to the top in agricultural placement, and I can see the extreme wisdom in what they have done.  Duncan Patton definitely has this wisdom.

Duncan has been working on his family's farm since he was five years old, and that is right where he wants to be. However, he has also worked for a number of neighboring ranches and farms, learning a myriad of other skills.  After high school, Duncan moved all the way to Ohio to study diesel technology, and while he was there he worked for a very large farming operation and learned about chickens and the different ways that farming gets done there.

During the interview, Duncan talked about these experiences.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1205_Duncan_Patton-101321.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Not much has changed when it comes to using the term "value-added" since the first time I aired this interview with Logan Schlauch who is benefitting from the trend in adding something a little extra or giving the consumer a little more while, in this case, a dairy producer can add to his bottom line. Here is the story of one small dairy operation that got creative and created a value-added product in order not only to help with profit margins but to also appease customer demand for greek style yogurts. Additionally, this project has served as an FFA learning experience for Logan Schlauch.


Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1202-Recap_Of_Episode_821-100521.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Interviewing FFA students I find myself constantly asking "what was I doing during high school?".  I think I was a pretty typical high school student way back in the 1900s.  I played sports, got decent grades, had a job, and focused on menial things outside of that.  I also wasn't in the FFA, and interviewing these students from all over the country makes me realize that there is a whole other level of achievement possible in high school.

To say that there is a whole other level of achievement seems like an understatement when describing today's guest.  Josh Heupel is an American Star Farmer Finalist, and his resume is unbelievable.  As a junior in college, majoring in agricultural business and political science, Josh has already accomplished a lifetime of achievements.  He is leasing and farming 97 acres of walnuts and 84 acres of almonds.  He has designed and patented a piece of equipment to improve nut farmers' harvests and encourage the use of cover crops in orchards.  He owns and operates his own custom spreading business.  And, he is soon to graduate from college and take up a role advocating for agriculture in the Central Valley of California that I think is going to be unprecedented in its effectiveness.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1201_Josh_Heupel-100721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today is an American Star Finalist in the category of Agricultural Placement, and there is an incredible story that comes along with this nomination.

Caleb Peckham has grown up on his family's small dairy farm in eastern Connecticut.  In the latter half of the 2010s, low milk prices were harming dairies all over the United States, but smaller dairies in Connecticut seemed to be getting hit extra hard because they were so much more sensitive to the margins they were operating on.  As a response to these prices, Caleb's parents knew that something had to be done so that their family farm could survive.  The decision to start direct marketing products through a farm store they called Farm To Table Market in 2018.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1199_Caleb_Peckham-100121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

One of the things that I love about interviewing FFA students is coming across individuals that don't care what age they are and who will not take "no" for an answer.  Never has that been more true than in my interview with Mackenzie Camacho today.

Mackenzie is now a sophomore at Purdue University, where she is studying civil engineering.  She has been nominated an American Star Finalist in the category of agriscience research, and it has not been easy.  Mackenzie grew up in the San Joaquin Valley of California around many different tree crops, and something about them and research took hold when she joined the FFA.

Mackenzie started studying different parasitic pathogens in tree crops and how they could be controlled either through specific management practices or by altering traditional management practices.  However, she was doing really advanced work while still in high school.  As a result, some of the researchers she took her findings to dismissed her without really hearing her out.  However, she didn't give up and continued talking to researchers about what she had found and what her conclusions were until she found somebody who would listen.  As a result, she has now presented to farmers all across the West, and she found partners to help her further her research.

Mackenzie now wants to focus on building infrastructure, like dams, that can help California agriculture.  I am very excited to see where she takes all of this!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1195_Mackenzie_Camacho-100121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30pm MDT

I don't even know where to begin in describing today's guest or her accomplishments.  Emily Acevedo is a bundle of energy, confidence, and personality.  And with her combining a love for research with such incredible people skills, she is really going to climb to heights that maybe even she is not imagining right now.

At the age of 20, Emily is a hardened veteran in the world of agriscience research.  After all, she reluctantly joined the FFA in the 6th Grade and found herself on stage later that year as a state proficiency finalist!  And after an unexpected kidding incident at the fairgrounds, with no parents around when she was young, she has been obsessed with reproduction in goats ever since.  That has driven her research, and that is what will take her to Indianapolis later this month to go on the big stage as an American Star Finalist in Agriscience Research.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1193_Emily_Acevedo-092821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

On Today's show, I replay a fun and entertaining interview on how two FFA members teamed up to craft a unique FFA SAE. It is not just about the finished art products, it is also about unique marketing and forming a partnership using specific skillsets with a common interest in woodwork and art. More about how this idea for a "board art" SAE came about coming up in today's show. (Replay of Episode #316)



Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1190_Recap_Of_Episode_316-091121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

On multiple occasions, after interviewing FFA students who have started lawn care businesses, I have referred to this particular type of business as a "future millionaire maker".  It seems as though every single year there is an FFA student who is a finalist for the American Star in Agribusiness that is the owner of a lawn care company, and that is because this is such a strong and great business to have.

In today's episode, I get to interview Matt Rowlette, the owner, and creator of Rowlettes Lawn Care.  This company actually officially began when Matt was eight years old, and he was hired to trim weeds along his uncle's fence, bordering 150 acres.  His parents purchased his first mower and trimmer for him, and he has those still today.  However, he has been steadily reinvesting into his business and growing it since that time.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1189_Matt_Rowlette-090721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today's guest, Chase Krug, first appeared on the Off-Farm Income Podcast in episode #203 when he was a freshman in high school in 2016.  Back then he was already doing research and had been awarded an SAE Grant to study the Colorado Potato Beetle as well as blight in potatoes.  Over the past five years he has continued his passion for both research and plant breeding, and has added 13 more research projects for a total of 15 (he had one before the potatoes).

If you are wondering, this is not the norm, this is exceptional.  So exceptional in fact that right after Chase graduated from high school he was sent to India, by himself, to work on plant breeding and research new varieties of mung beans through an internship he had been granted.  Chase has continued to be recognized and be awarded internships and jobs such as working for the the USDA - ERS and publishing recommendations for countries like Egypt.  And now, he has been nominated as an American Star Finalist in the category of Agriscience Research.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1187-Chase_Krug-090621_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

I interview a lot of high school students on this show with great businesses.  Even with these fantastic businesses already started, many of them tell me that they do not plan on continuing as a business owner or they are going to go to college after high school and possibly continue the business on the side in the future.  For some reason, even though they have seen success as business owners during their time in the FFA they don't see it as a possibility as a future career.

Our guest today, Tyler Ertzberger, is not one of those students.  And, what has it led to?  He is an American Star Finalist in Agribusiness.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1181_Tyler_Ertizberger-090221.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

There is something very special about being able to interview all of the American Star Award Finalists every year.  It is definitely a time of year that is inspirational to me and that gives me the motivation to continue my quest into entrepreneurship.  And the only thing that can make that even more special is when one of those finalists has been a guest on the show before.

After 7 years of interviewing FFA students, and increasing the number of FFA students that I interview from 52 to 104 per year, that has been happening more frequently, and that is happening today!

Raegan Klaassen is an American Star Farmer Finalist, and she first appeared on the Off-Farm Income Podcast in February of 2017 on episode #251 when she was just a freshman.  I don't think I had enough experience to predict that she would have this level of success way back then, but looking back on what I wrote in the show notes for her episode I should have seen it coming.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1177_Raegan_Klaassen.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

I try to interview every American Star Finalist, every year at this time.  To me, getting to spend 20-30 minutes asking these FFA members about their journeys is what it would be like for other people to get to interview a star athlete for that amount of time.  These students have risen to the top of an organization with a lot of talent.  When these students are finally named as an American Star Finalist they have overcome the odds and been selected as one of four students in their category out of a total population of students of over 700,000.  That puts them in the top .0005% of all FFA students.  Those are more difficult odds than making it to the major leagues, NBA, or the NFL!

Today's episode is another example of the talent level that the FFA holds.  Our guest, Wyatt Harlan, knew at an early age that other extracurricular activities like sports or drama were not going to be for him.  So, he chose the FFA based on his agricultural roots and lifestyle, and he poured himself into it.  Six years after joining he had found himself as a Texas State FFA Vice-President, a business owner, and now an American Star Finalist in Agribusiness

Direct download: Wyatt_Harlan_Episode_1175_Commercials_Removed_-_101822_7.44_AM.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

On today's show, we are featuring an American Star Finalist in agricultural placement.  These are always great interviews because the students that make it to this level are so dedicated to whomever they are working for, family or otherwise, their talents and work ethic shine through.  That is definitely true with Jakob Weinheimer.

Jakob has grown up in Claude, Texas working on his family's farm.  In their portion of Texas, they are growing cotton, corn, wheat, and milo.  Some of this is done on the irrigated ground and some on dry ground.  Each poses its own challenges.  

Jakob is a pivotal part of this operation, and he has progressively been given more and more responsibility every growing season as he has got older.  Being recognized as an American Star Finalist is not the first recognition that Jakob has received.  In 2019 he was a national proficiency winner in grain production, so he has been to the big stage once already.  Interestingly he did this with a different chapter at Claude High School.  However, since graduation from high, he switched chapters to continue pursuing achievements in the FFA.  Jakob's sister is in the FFA through the Pan Handle Chapter, so he switched over to that chapter to make keeping up his record book seamless.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1171_Jakob_Weinheimer-082421.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Every year I am so fortunate to interview the sixteen students who are finalists for American Star Awards.  This year we are kicking it off with Grady Johnson.  Grady previously appeared on the Off-Farm Income Podcast in episode #482 back in 2018.  It is always a significant thrill for me when a student who I have previously profiled comes back onto the show because they are accomplishing so much, like Grady is.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1169_Grady_Johnson-081021.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

After 1,100+ interviews and 800+ interviews with FFA students you would think that I have seen it all, or at least most of it.  So, when I am surprised I am thrilled.  That is exactly what happened to me in today's interview with Annie Boomsma.

Annie is just entering her senior year of high school as her chapter's president.  She, her brother and her father run their families 3rd generation cattle ranch in Wessington, South Dakota where they raise commercial cattle.

Annie has her own project though, and it is impressive.  Annie currently owns 18 dairy cows that she purchased as either culls or springers.  She purchased all of them for their milk production and so that they could be "nurse cows".  Annie also owns 75 calves that she purchased to be raised by these nurse cows.  Every morning before school and every evening after, she heads out to the barn, brings the cows in, puts between 4 and 7 calves on them to nurse, and then turns them all back out.

Annie has found a niche in the market with calves that are sold early and dairy cattle that are culled because they don't produce enough for the dairy but still produce plenty to raise several calves.  This is a brilliant method of making money with cattle, and I have never profiled it even once in seven years of conducting interviews with farmers and FFA students.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1165_Annie_Boomsma-082421.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today's interview is packed with interesting facts about our guest and tips from her.  There is almost too much to fit in to a just a couple of paragraphs of show notes, but as a professional podcaster I will get it done!

Way back in the 5th Grade, Kaylee Bosma discovered an interest in chickens and approached her parents with a request to obtain some to show through the 4H.  Although hesitant, 30 chickens were purchased, and a new project was begun.  Kaylee's parents had no way to know where it was going to be taking their aspirational daughter.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1163_Kaylee_Bosma-082321.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a fantastic achiever in the FFA, Baylee Brown, the president of the Mulhall-Orlando FFA Chapter at Mulhall-Orlando High School in Orlando, Oklahoma.  Baylee has her hands in a lot of projects.  So many in fact that it was difficult to talk about all of them in the interview.  She is just starting her second term as her chapter's president, she won a state proficiency for her pig business last year, just was awarded gold status for her national proficiency application and is also doing an agriscience research project.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1159_Baylee_Brown-081921.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

The title of today's episode is probably the most serious title of an episode that I have ever written, but it is true.  Our guest, Austin Archer, started off the interview by declaring that he doesn't like school.  When I asked him why he joined the FFA, that was his answer.  Even as an incoming freshman he knew that if he did not have classes that allowed him to learn by doing, rather than reading, that he would fail.  So, he joined the FFA and never looked back.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1157_Austin_Archer-081721.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

What is it in people that makes them look at something and say "I'd like to try that?"  I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that I don't have it!  Our guest today, Toby Barringer, does.  At a farm sale Toby and his father saw an old coal fired, blacksmithing furnace and decided to try it out.  Today, Toby has a blacksmithing business called Brother Bear Blacksmithing Shop, and he is selling products all over the United States as well as doing custom work for customers.  This all started with a natural curiosity, which Toby encourages you all to follow.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1151_Toby_Berringer-072621.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 4:30pm MDT

Today's guest is Hannah Auer from Weld Central High School in Colorado.  There was a lot to talk about with Hannah in her interview, but one theme kept repeating itself, and that was how Hannah is looking forward, setting goals for herself and planning her future.  They say that you cannot get anywhere if you don't know where you are going, and that is not a problem for Hannah.  Even having just finished her freshman year of high school, she has a firm grasp on creating a road map to her future.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1147-Hannah_Auar-072621_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Abby Mitchell first appeared on the Off-Farm Income Podcast in March of this year.  At that point in time she was just in the brainstorming phase of the business she was developing for her supervised agricultural experience - "Goat To Be Kidding".  Today she is back on the show with an update!  She put herself out there again, and has been recognized again.  And, her business is progressing forward quickly.  I'm excited to have her back on the show.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1145_Abigail_Mitchell-072221.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today just graduated high school, and she has accomplished a lot.  She lives and works on her families cattle ranch in Montana which gives her a lot of responsibilities.  She is already certified to artificially inseminate cattle, and she helps her parents get their females bred every year.  She also runs a "heifer improvement program" for the family which takes up a lot of her time.  In addition to all of this, she has been involved in the FFA for four years, serving as historian, secretary and finally, chapter president.

What is amazing about Reace Lannen's story is that right in the middle of her journey through the FFA she developed an unknown problem that kept her from walking, let alone working on the ranch and participating in the FFA.  After a trip to the Seattle Children's Hospital she found out what the problem was - juvenile arthritis.

After a diagnosis was reached, a treatment was prescribed - a shot of chemo therapy to be given to her once she got back to Montana.  However, the shot caused her to have a severe, anaphylactic allergic reaction, so that was no longer an option.  Then, through the FFA, she met an advisor at an FFA event, whose wife had rheumatoid arthritis.  Information was shared, and Reace found a medication that continues to work very well for her to this day.

Once Reace did not have to focus so much on treating her arthritis so much, and she returned to what life was like prior to her first inflammation, she started reflecting on what she had gone through.  One of the worst parts of the ordeal was the six months in which she could not live her normal life.  She was unable to help out on the ranch or be around the livestock that she loves so much.

This reflection inspired an idea.  So today, Reace has purchased to miniature horses and a small, Corriente calf that she is training to be therapy animals.  Reace is actually in the process of becoming certified to do this right now.  She now has a mission of helping people who feel disconnected from the farm life and livestock that they love because of a medical connection, to be able to be around livestock again.  She knows just what it is like to smell a horse or a cow after you haven't been able to for a long time.  For somebody who loves livestock she believes there is healing in that, and she wants to help other people heal.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1141_Reace_Lannen-071521.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Kirsten Wood grew up on her families cattle ranch in Weldona, Colorado.  As she described the ranch to me, she talked about a lot of different niches that her family has explored to diversify their operation and keep it sustainable for a future in ranching.  These new ways of doing business include selling boxed beef to folks living in the urban areas along the Rocky Mountain front from Denver up through Boulder and beyond in Central Colorado.  It also includes partnering with some other companies to sell spices, sea salt and other products that compliment the beef that they sell.

The operation involves raising cattle on pasture, finishing cattle in a feed lot and growing the crops needed to feed those cattle.  And, in the scope of the operation some calves become orphans for one reason or another.  Either their dam dies or possibly rejects the calf, and the calf then needs special care to survive.

This is where Kirsten found her niche, within her families niche ranch.  Kirsten started purchasing these orphan calves from her families ranch and bottle feeding them.  She would raise them on a bottle and introduce them to feed as they grew.  Then, when they were ready to be weaned she would transition them to the feedlot, and pay her family for the space and feed that was required to keep them.  Ultimately they were finished and sold, and this was Kirsten's business.

In addition to this Kirsten has a love of horses that was developed by growing up around them on the working ranch.  Throughout her FFA career she has been raising and showing horses, and this led her to a proficiency award in equine science.

All of this has inspired her to pursue a future in agricultural business.  When we conducted this interview she had just graduated with an associates degree in Ag Business, and she was just preparing to start her final two years of college at West Texas A&M in Canyon, Texas.  Kirsten hopes to come home to the ranch one day, but she has been told to go out and make it on her own first.  Right now she is looking into an agriculture finance career with the hopes of coming back to the lifestyle that she loves in the future.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1139_Kristen_Wood-071521.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

The other day an article about a young man with a trapping business popped up on my computer.  I took a look at it and thought, "this would be a good interview for the show".  Sam Terneus had just been awarded the Illinois State Proficiency Award for Agricultural Processing based on what he had been doing with trapping fur bearers and selling their hides as a business.  I thought that was going to be the whole story, but it was just the tip of the iceberg!

Sam has been trapping for years now, since he got exposed to the hobby/sport/business at an early age.  He has actually been living kind of a dream life really.  He and his parents live in town, and his grandfather has a farm out of town.  To get to the farm to help out grandpa and to go trap, Sam has been traveling through the backwoods of Illinois on his four wheeler for several years.  As Sam stated, "the farm is five minutes by car and twenty minutes by four wheeler".  Sam prefers the road less traveled.

Sam is constantly selling furs, and he is constantly reinvesting his money into more traps and expanding.  This is what led to him starting his own business called "Wilderness Design Company".  Among other things, Sam has created and sold Christmas wreathes made out of the furs that he has trapped.

Sam is very involved in working for himself.  He has been taking a course on entrepreneurship, and through that he has done some amazing things.  He came up with a business idea to become a nuisance wildlife trapper, which I wholeheartedly support, and began exploring that possibility.  It turns out that you need a special license to do that in Illinois, and you must be at least 18 years of age to obtain one.  Well, Sam is still 17, so he started trying to figure out what he could do to get around this law.  Ultimately, there was nothing that could be done.  However, thanks to Sam's efforts, there is now a bill before the Illinois State Legislature to lower the age of a person who wants to get this license!

If all of this were not a enough, Sam just received his state FFA degree, and he is getting ready to start college.  He plans to study forestry with an emphasis on fish and wildlife to increase his knowledge in the business that he has already started and loves.  In addition to that, he is planning to compete at the national level with his supervised agriculture experience and hopes to be a national proficiency winner very soon!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1135_Sam_Terneus-071121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

I really enjoy interviewing FFA students because I get to witness the transition they go through as they move to bigger projects.  In today's interview that statement is both literal and figurative.

Emily Spayd has just begun her FFA journey.  She is getting ready to begin her sophomore year of high school and her second year in the FFA.  She has been showing goats at her county's fair for several years, but just like she went big in the FFA, she decided to go big in the show ring.  So, Emily has now transitioned from goats to beef cattle for her fair projects.  This wasn't only a size increase in animal, but it was also a size increase in responsibility.  Emily began halter breaking her steer and heifer in the middle of Colorado.  Needless to say, this is cold and frustrating work, but it is necessary to show this large of an animal.

This seems to be Emily's style however.  In the interview she talks about being dragged to FFA events with her sister who is three years older than her, and being bored.  However, after deciding to give the FFA a try, Emily dove in 110%.  She participated in every competition that she could, and she has already been selected to be an officer.  She will begin serving as parliamentarian when school starts again this fall.

As this episode is published, Emily will be engrossed in one of the two county fairs in which she will be showing her beef projects this summer.  In her county you are only allowed to sell your project at the auction if you reach certain level of success while showing.  So, we've got our fingers crossed for Emily that she will be able to auction off both her steer and heifer this summer!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1133_Emily_Spayd-071121.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today is just getting ready to begin her senior year of high school, and she has discovered a profession that I did not know existed as her future career.

Jaycey Lambert serves on the executive committee of the Weld Central High School FFA Chapter.  She has been showing sheep for years, and now she has added showing steers into the mix.  Earlier this year Jaycey had a lamb that was not acting correctly, and in trying to diagnose what was wrong with it she turned to a person with the profession of "livestock chiropractor".

The livestock chiropractor came to her farm, looked over the lamb with special equipment and determined that its back was out.  Once he was diagnosed, she was able to move its back into proper position, and voila! he was good as new.  This inspired Jaycey, and she has her sights set on this career in the future.  Jaycey is planning on attending South Dakota State University to study agriculture.  She has visited the campus already and found the class sizes and campus size to be just right for her.

I'll be excited to have Jaycey back on the show in a few years to profile her ag business of livestock

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1129_Jaycey_Lambert-070521_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Almost two years ago exactly I featured today's guest on episode #665 of the Off-Farm Income Podcast.  When I first interviewed Annamarie Stone she was just getting ready to start her sophomore year of high school, and she was raising meat chickens.  She had just approached to grocery stores and obtained contracts to sell her birds in both stores.

Since that time Annamarie has flourished in her FFA career. Today she is on the executive officer team in her chapter, and she is the Area IV President in the State Of Missouri.  Her business has also flourished and grown.  Now she is also selling turkeys, bacon, mums and poinsettias.  So, she had to change the business name to "Stoney Creek Meats & More".  While this caused a lot of work it was necessary and definitely worth it!

On today's episode we will catch up with Annamarie and update you on the incredible progress of this student.  Here are the show notes from her previous visit to the show:


Have you ever met somebody with no fear and a can-do attitude?  If not, you get to, today.

Annamarie Stone is just that type of person, and she is just getting ready to start her sophomore year of high school.  Why do I say this about this young lady?  In addition to starting her own herd of Charolais cattle, showing pigs and showing sheep she has another enterprise.

Annamarie started her own business called "Stoney Creek Country Fresh Chickens".  She raises pastured poultry and sells birds to customers who want their chicken raised that way.  Annamarie decided that she wanted to sell her chicken in grocery stores as well.  So, as a freshman in high school she got dressed nicely, walked into two separate grocery stores and requested to speak with the freezer case manager.

By the time Annamarie was done, she was selling her pastured poultry in two separate grocery stores!  When I asked Annamarie how she did this she had a very simple explanation.  The worst that they could tell you is "no", and if they don't like your idea the grocery store down the street probably will.

This is an enterprising entrepreneur in the making!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1127_Annamrie_Stone-070521.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

I've been talking about entrepreneurship and the transition from being an employee to a full-time entrepreneur on this show for almost seven years now.  From personal experience, I knew that the process I was explaining was correct.  However, nothing really brings it home like somebody else talking about experiencing the exact thing I have been explaining.  That is exactly what happens in today's interview with Dawson Boys.

Dawson just won a proficiency award in the State Of Illinois for agricultural mechanics & repair entrepreneurship because of the car detailing business that he began while in the FFA.  He is now a full-time entrepreneur with no job other than his business.  However, it did not start out that way.

Dawson's business got started because his first customer noticed how clean and polished he kept his own car, told him that he should detail cars for a living and then hired him to details theirs!  After that seed of an idea was planted, Dawson took off with it.  Today, the word of mouth has spread and he has lots of business.  Dawson understands the competition in his area, and he understands what his competitive advantages are.  Therefore, he is knocking it out of the park with his business.

As Dawson tells the story of growing his business, he talks about the fact that he was working two jobs when he started this.  And, as his business grew he entered what I refer to as the "crazy time" in which he was not ready to leave either of his jobs but the demands of his new business became larger and larger.  Eventually, Dawson left his first job, then his second and he found himself as a full-time entrepreneur.  He had to go through the "crazy time" first, and then things gradually mellowed out.

Dawson also had to convince his parents that his business would really work and that leaving his steady jobs would not be a mistake.  He did it just as I prescribe.  He worked a ton of hours to demonstrate his commitment, and he made good money to demonstrate the viability of the business.  Once he did that, there was no need for words to convince his parents.  He had proved the concept, and they gave him their blessing.

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1123_Dawson_Boys-062821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today, I am happy to welcome the 2021 Illinois State Star Farmer, Shana Lueking, onto the show.  Shana comes from a rich history of FFA advisors in her family, with both her father and grandfather serving as FFA advisors, and a rich dairy farming tradition that goes four generations deep in her family.  In addition to legacy, Shana has passion and is an excellent speaker.  This combination plus some hard work led Shana to this prestigious award from her home state of Illinois.

Shana has many reasons to be proud, but she is also a natural helper and educator.  So, in today's episode she tells us how she, her father and her grandfather put together the winning record book that led to her becoming her state's star farmer.  She lays out methods and ideas that will help anyone reach the next level, if that is where they are trying to get to.

I am really excited to air this interview with Shana because of the positive impacts it can have for other FFA students.  I have not judged record books of FFA students, but I have judged applications for SAE grants.  When you are a judge you start to notice some applications that really jump out at you because of the effort that has been put into them.  It turns out that it is no different when putting together a record book for a prestigious award like star farmer.

In this interview, Shana tells us about how she put together her record book, with the help of her father and grandfather.  She gives descriptions of the words she used, how she incorporated photographs and what she was trying to accomplish when writing narratives for her record book.  She was essentially trying to make her record book "pop", but she had to be careful to not overdo it with too much content.  Therefore, writing a vivid story in a concise manner became very important.  And, Shana will explain it all in the episode!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1121_Shana_Lueking-062821.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

On today's episode of the Off-Farm Income Podcast I am fortunate enough to speak with a very high achieving student who is involved in agriculture, sports, business education, her faith and so much more.  Olivia Odle is a standout, becoming her chapter's president, while being very active in many areas outside of the FFA.  She lives in Northeast Colorado, which is completely focused on agriculture and so much different than the vast majority of her state.

Olivia keeps up a rapid pace of activity, but it is apparent that she would not be able to do this if her community and school did not value agriculture and the FFA so much.  As an example, sports can sometimes interfere with other extracurricular activities, such as the FFA, but her community and school clearly support agriculture so it works out.  The mascot for Oliva's school is the "beet diggers", which is clearly indicative of the growth of sugar beets as a crop in her area and her area's history.

It is this type of support that has allowed Olivia to succeed in so many different areas of life and take on responsible positions, such as president of her chapter.  And it is this type of support that will push her to succeed at the next level when she begins college, just two months after this episode is published!

Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1115_Olivia_Odle-062221_2.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT


Today is a great day for Americans, farmers, and non-farmers alike.  As we celebrate the anniversary of American Independence we should think about the men and women who lived through this time.  With this in mind, let's look at how it impacted farmers in the colonies during the 18th Century.

Here are a few of the things that farmers went through during the Revolutionary War:

  • Trade routes to the market were cut off by war, either waterways or roads.
  • Farmers could not plant surpluses because they might not be able to sell the excess and it would just rot on their fields.
  • Herds of cattle and horses were depleted either by the plundering of the British or as provisions for the Continental Army.
  • Farmers were away from their farms for long periods of time and had to start over when they finally returned.
  • At this time, 90% of the population were engaged in farming so this really was a war fought by farmers.

I wanted to mention something that I read in Stephen Ambrose's book "Citizen Soldiers" about farm kids in World War II.  He said that the commanders loved the soldiers that grew up on farms because they had been hunting for their whole lives, knew how to handle a rifle, and could shoot straight.

I wanted to pay tribute to four of my ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War in this episode as well:

  • Samuel Hubbard
  • James Wilcox
  • Jesse Richardson
  • Jesse Rowley
Direct download: Off_Farm_Income--Episode_1112-Recap_Episode_470-062421.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

When people rise to the top all of the sudden they find themselves answering a lot of questions.  Other people want to know the secret to their success so that they can replicate what has been accomplished.  So, naturally, I asked today's guest what her secret to standing out was.

Madison Woods just completed her first year of college, and she is getting ready to head off to Oklahoma State University to pursue her agricultural aspirations.  Along the way, she has picked up a couple of very prestigious awards - National Proficiency Winner in Sheep Production and California State Star Farmer.  Awards like that don't just happen by accident, so I needed to know what made Madison stand out so much!

To begin, Madison grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California with no livestock present!  Her family farms almonds and grows plants in a greenhouse for sale.  So, when she was nine years old and decided to go her own way by getting a lamb, there were some raised eyebrows in the house as to whether or not she was serious.

That first year wasn't easy either.  Madison got run over and dragged by that lamb, and there were plenty of times that she needed to find her resolve just to keep going, even at the age of 9.  However, by the age of 10 Madison had purchased a ewe and started breeding her own sheep.  Today, her flock is just over 50 ewes, and she has sold sheep all over the country.  She has been pushed, and she has pushed herself, and it has paid dividends.

So, what was Madison's answer to how did you do it?  She encouraged everyone to "face their fear" and try everything that interests them.  That way, you can find what you are truly passionate about.  Once you do that, devoting yourself and putting in the necessary work is no problem.

Direct download: OFI_1111_-_Madison_Woods__Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Any of you who have shown animals at your county fair or jackpot shows, or who have kids who do have seen the families that seem to have repeated success, over and over, in the show ring.  Quite honestly, sometimes animosity can build when families have repeated success at a high level and the rest of the field seems to be perpetually in 2nd place.

In today's episode, I get to speak with a student with a family tradition of success in the show arena, exhibiting pigs.  Jaycie Jordan will be joining us to discuss this aspect of the pig business.

Jaycie's family farm began with her parents when she was about three years old.  Both of them enjoyed raising and showing pigs, so pigs have been the one, consistent livestock animal on their farm.  Jaycie has three older siblings, and all of them have preceded her in the FFA and in the show ring.  This family is all about raising, breeding, and showing pigs, and with five mentors ahead of her (2 parents and 3 siblings) Jaycie found herself winning her first grand champion ribbon his past year.  As she notes in the episode, this comes after a streak of 12 straight grand champion or reserve grand champion ribbons by somebody in her family.

Jaycie goes into detail about how they breed their pigs, how they feed, practices they are adopting, and practices that they are abandoning.  I have been that parent in the stand, watching a well know family to win over and over and over again.  And, I have heard the grumblings of other people wondering what is going on.  The truth is, some families have figured it out.  Jaycie's family certainly has.  With everyone putting their best foot forward with their pigs, great things are bound to happen!

Direct download: OFI_1109_-_Jaycie_Jordan_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today I get to interview another student who is in the business that I refer to as the "millionaire-maker".  Conner Watts is not only the founder and owner of "Conner's Lawn Care & Landscaping" but he is a finalist for the National Star in Agribusiness at this year's National FFA Convention.

Conner started his business as a way to make some extra money and then it started raining in West Texas.  It rained and rained, and it caused the lawns to grow...a lot.  Pretty soon he had a growing business with lots of referrals and an ever-increasing client list.

This lit a fire with Conner, and he realized what he wanted to do with his life.....operate his own landscaping business.  Conner continued to grow the business and hired employees.  He then branched out to other communities and started servicing clients in other cities.  He is now the main landscape company in two of those communities.  He has also partnered with a nursery that contracted with another company to provide lawn care services.  When that individual decided to retire, Conner gladly picked up where he left off.

Conner is studying agribusiness as well as plant and soil sciences at Texas Tech. University.  Everything he is doing in school is designed around building this business from learning more about business to becoming more of an expert in soils and plant health.

Good luck this October Conner!

Direct download: OFI_1106_-_Replay_Conner_Watts_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

In today's episode, I get to do a lot of reminiscing about where I grew up.  Our guest, Hartley Silva, just graduated from Modesto High School in Modesto, California.  She has already been taking classes in agriculture at Modesto Junior College, and she went to elementary school at a very small school that my elementary school used to play in sports.  Hartley and I grew up in the same county and I went to Modesto Junior College too, but Hartley is taking her love of agriculture to a level that I never even dreamed of.

The list of accomplishments for this young lady just does not stop.  Hartley is currently serving as the "Jersey Queen" for the State Of California.  She also just received a state proficiency award for dairy production.  And, she is raising, selling, and showing her own line of Jersey cattle under the business name "Flying Hart Registered Jerseys".  If this were not enough she has served as both a chapter and section officer in the FFA, will be seeking a national proficiency award and an American Degree.

I could stop right there, and that would make an incredible resume for 99% of people in our country, but Hartley did not stop there.  She has gone all around the U.S. showing dairy cattle and judging livestock.  And, this has even taken her "across the pond" to Scotland, where she placed in a worldwide competition for judging livestock.  As an individual in this international competition, Hartley was awarded 6th place.  On a team of two with her sister, they placed 3rd.  What an incredible accomplishment!

Hartley is studying a lot of different aspects of agriculture and livestock production in college.  She is planning on transferring to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to finish her bachelor's degree and get her teaching certificate so that she can bundle all of this knowledge into a package and deliver it to her own agriculture students.  She has a plan, and there is no question in my mind that she will execute it!

Direct download: OFI_1105_-_Hartley_Silva_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

As Darth Vader would say, "the desire to farm is strong with this one"....

I couldn't help it, but it is true.  Caitlyn Mack has a phenomenal story of being brought up in a farming family, developing the passion, and then taking the responsibility of starting her own operation.  Caitlyn just graduated from Drummond High School, but she is already farming 227 acres of cropland on her own.  She has been working for her father and uncle on the family farm for years, earning an hourly wage.  She has been using that money to lease her own ground, purchase her own inputs, and start her own enterprise the entire time.

There is a myriad of grain crops that Caitlyn is farming for herself as well as her family, and she has started her own cow/calf herd of beef cattle.  She is actively involved in embryo transfers, and she is growing better genetics in her herd.  All of this led her to be named the Star Farmer for the State Of Oklahoma in 2021.  This follows a national proficiency win in grain production, and three years serving as her chapter's president!

Caitlyn is off to Oklahoma State University this fall to pursue dual degrees in animal science and agricultural education.  She is planning on bringing all of this experience back to the classroom, but she is not done with her own accomplishments just yet.  Caitlyn will be seeking her American Degree during college, and she is planning to compete to become an American Star Farmer!

Direct download: OFI_1103_-Caitlyn_Mack_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Ah, the energy, optimism, and strength of youth.  So many of us let that part of our lives pass by without taking full advantage of what we were capable of at that time.  Our guest today, Cody Keefer, is not one of those people.

Cody is farming with his brother, father, and grandfather on a farm in Ohio that has been in their family for almost 50 years.  Cody just graduated high school, and there is no question that his passion is outdoors, on a tractor, and in a field.  His family's farm is a traditional, production agriculture row crop farm with some cows on the side to keep them busy during the winter.  Now that Cody has graduated high school it almost like he has been unleashed to go out and get farming!

In addition to farming with his family, Cody got started growing and selling hay a few years back.  Since that initial launch, he has started obtaining more and more hay ground and selling more and more hay.  He is currently up to about 50 acres, which he says is plenty for him considering all of the other work that he has to do.

I asked Cody about his future plans now that he is done with high school, and he had an interesting answer.  He has already identified a couple of employers in his area that offers shift work, including overnights.  He has got his eyes set on working at one of those places so that he can put in his off-farm hours during the night and farm during the day!

Most people work overnight shifts because they are just starting with a company, and they do not have enough seniority to work during the day.  However, Cody is looking for that overnight work so that he has the daylight hours to work.  Sleep?  What about sleep?  Well, Cody figures he will find some time for sleep when the farming and the off-farm work is done for the day.  However, right now, sleep is a distant third on the priority list for Cody.

I am excited for this young man and where he is headed.  He knows exactly what he wants to do, and his energy and thinking are all geared towards getting there.  It is this drive and passion that is going to get him through on those days that he is short on sleep, and it is this same drive that is going to cause him to take full advantage of this time in his life when he is capable of hours like this.

Cody is literally and figuratively going to be making hay while the sun shines, and this is going to set him up well for the future that he is looking for!

Direct download: OFI_1093_-_Cody_Keefer__Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today has a passion for bees.  It is funny what a true passion will do.  It will push you to produce more, get better at what you do and most importantly, figure out how to sustain your business so you can keep doing it.

Alexis Crone started raising bees when she was ten years old.  Those first hives have now grown to a staggering number of 23, and that interested has blossomed into a business called ABC Pure Honey.  Even though Alexis now harvests and sells gallons and gallons of honey, she realizes that is not enough.  She has looked around at her competition, and she sees that there are a lot of people raising bees and selling honey.  What she has discovered is the need for a USP or "unique selling proposition".

Alexis started thinking about what she could do to make ABC Pure Honey stand out.  What she came up with was selling bi-products of honey production and creating value-added products.  So, as she transitions into her junior year of high school she is doing the research to start selling pollen to people who will consume it for help with allergies.  She is also experimenting with the creation of cosmetics from her beeswax and honey so that she can diversify her product line and stand out from the competition.

Alexis already has a great business going, but she obviously has more than that.  She has instincts for how to grow her business and make it exceptional.  She has already won a state proficiency award during just her sophomore year in high school.  Now, as she continues to grow and develop her business more recognition is sure to follow!

Direct download: OFI_1091_-_Alexis_Crone__Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

How many of us have racked our brains trying to figure out a business we could start that would set us on our path to independence?  I know that I am in that group, and I spent years trying to come up with the idea that would work.  This is why I love interviewing FFA students.  Sometimes they make it look so simple that it is an excellent lesson for the rest of us.

Elliot Scheaffer has a great business.  He cuts up firewood, splits it, sorts onto 1/2 chord pallets, sells and delivers it.  He has enough business that he has actually pulled down his Facebook ads because he doesn't want any more orders at this time.  And, all of the firewood that he sells is obtained for free.

Elliot's business is brilliant and simple all at the same time.  As he drives around the countryside in his area of Iowa he sees people who have trees down on their property.  He will contact them, offer to clean up the downed tree in exchange for the wood, and voila! he has a product to sell.  Then Elliot cuts and splits the wood stacks it onto pallets and delivers it to his customers where he will stack it for them.

While so many of us are driving around wondering what kind of business we could start, Elliot is driving around finding things to sell and starting.  There is so much that we could learn from his example.

Direct download: OFI_1087_-_Elliot_Scheaffer_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today's guest, Tristan Miller, is the second FFA student who is a fifth-generation farmer to appear on the show in a row.  Tristan currently works and lives on his family's farm north of Sacramento, California that has been part of his legacy since just after the Civil War.  During that time, the farm has seen a lot of changes.  For example, they used to raise cattle in addition to crops until drought made that unprofitable.  Also, their farm and farms in their area used to be dominated by rice, but now almonds are taking over.

Tristan takes all of this in stride and loves the farm work and responsibility he has on the home place.  When I asked him what his day-to-day work looks like, his answer was simple and to the point - "whatever grandpa tells me to do!".

Tristan has plans to return to the farm at some point, but he has some other interests that are enticing to him right now.  He is heading off to college to study agricultural business next year.  He also wants to get certified to drive large equipment so that he can operate large earthmovers for Cal Fire during wildfire season.  If that weren't enough, he would like to start his own business cutting and bailing hay for farmers.

Tristan is definitely motivated, and it is going to be exciting to see where he takes this journey.

Direct download: OFI_1085_-_Tristan_Miller__Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today is a 5th generation farmer from Tennessee.  Campbell Baker and his father are jointly raising cattle on land outside of Carthage, Tennessee, which has been in the family since the late 1800s.  Where they are located is just about 50 miles to the east of Nashville.  With all of the growth in and immigration to Tennessee and Nashville right now, Campbell sees many changes that he never expected.

As more and more beautiful farms are turned into subdivisions, Campbell has realized that when he takes over this farming enterprise, he will face challenges unlike any faced by his ancestors in the past.  The growth, loss of farms, and diminishing open spaces can certainly be considered negative.  However, Campbell chooses to put a positive spin on things.

Campbell and his father have recognized that the influx of people also means potential new markets and new customers for directly marketed beef.  Therefore, they have been learning about new grazing techniques, new breeds of cattle, and how to market to folks in the city.  They are prepping for the future and looking at how their farming operation can be sustainable through the future and possibly even more productive and profitable.

Campbell definitely has a passion for what he is doing.  He understands all the different forages available on their farm, grazing techniques, and why a smaller breed of cattle might serve them better.  He also is preparing to go to college to learn about agricultural business and marketing to put himself into a position to grow this operation in the future.

Direct download: OFI_1081_-_Campbell_Baker_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Our guest today is a sophomore in high school, and she is already figuring out how to farm.  Lily Noel is the owner of Hilltop Pumpkins, and she is well on her way to developing a successful pumpkin farming business.

Growing up on her family's farm, Lily found an extra acre of ground where she could start growing pumpkins.  Then she started figuring out how to market her crop.  Then she started figuring out how to extend her sales and marketing season by adding in different varieties of pumpkins.  Soon, she found herself selling pumpkins at three different locations in her county.

What stood out to me about this interview with Lily was how she recognized that her pumpkins were not going to be the main priority on the family farm.  This meant that she had to work around the other farming operations.  They were not going to work around her.  So, when Lily is doing things such as planning out locations to grown more pumpkins in the future, she has to cognizant of their proximity to other crops, and if those crops might need to be sprayed with chemicals during the growing season that could harm her pumpkins.

It seems simple enough, "Just grow some pumpkins and sell them in the fall".  But nothing is ever as simple as you think it will be.  Lily is finding that out and doing an excellent job adapting to those complexities.

Direct download: OFI_1079_-_Lily_Noel__Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Have you ever heard the saying that "you will know it when you see it?"  If you were to ask me how I can tell who will make it as an entrepreneur, that is probably the answer that I would receive.  Sometimes you know what you know.

In the case of our guest today, Anna Collins, this is a young lady who will make it as an entrepreneur if she chooses to be one.  How do I know this?  It is all about looking at the actions that she has already taken and realizing that people who are not serious about an enterprise do not do what she has.

Anna loves horses, and she is determined to have her own business teaching others to ride and training.  That sentence is not unique to Anna.  You could make the same statement about many people who love horses and want to turn it into a full-time living.  However, you could find countless people who have given up on that dream because they didn't have a farm or facilities or because there was too much liability.  None of this has stopped Anna.

In high school, Anna is already teaching people to ride and training horses, and she is doing it on another family's farm and in their facilities.  I could not interview them about why they allow Anna to do this, but I think it is highly likely that they saw the same drive and dedication in Anna that I did, and they wanted to help her achieve her dream.  So, even though Anna did not have a proper facility, she did not allow that to stop her, and she is underway.

Putting other people's children on horseback and teaching them to ride is filled with potential liability.  This is the type of issue in which you would expect a parent to step in and slow a high school student down to keep them from getting themselves or the property owners into hot water in a business like this.  However, as I interviewed Anna, she had the correct answer to everything regarding civil liability.  She is knowledgeable about business structures, waivers, insurance, etc.  It is the fact that she has done the research, learned all about the business, and made the arrangements to shield everyone from liability that shows show clearly how devoted she is.

People who are just talking don't go to the headache of learning what an LLC is. They don't scour the internet, finding the correct liability waiver for their particular business, but Anna did.

Direct download: OFI_10975_-_Anna_Collins_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Today we get to profile a very interesting family business from the Central Valley of California.  Moreila Vieyra Santana lives on her families 20 acre horse property in Madera.  They have a large barn for boarding horses, and they put on equestrian events that draw people in from all over the Valley.  They are definitely helping to keep the horse culture of California alive.

Moreila and her brother and sister work in the family business.  On a daily basis, Moreila is cleaning out stalls, combing horses, and providing lessons.  When it is time to host an event she is busy doing whatever needs to be done to make sure that the customer and all of the spectators and contestants are having a great time and are satisfied.  In this manner, Moreila does not get to enjoy the event like everyone else, but she learns a lot about business.

Moreila speaks fondly of her family's business as well as the leadership skills she is gaining in the FFA.  It is obvious that she is not afraid to step up and lead.  One of the things that she cites about her family's business is that she sees areas for improvement.  From the perspective of a sophomore in high school, she sees other things and events that they could be providing that would be good for the community as well as the business.  And, she is not afraid to approach this with her parents.

This is one of the parts of interviewing FFA students that I enjoy so much.  They are encouraged to try their ideas and voice their opinions about how things can be improved.  In addition to preserving a rich culture in her part of California, Moreila is not shy about suggesting improvements, and this is going to serve her well going forward.

Direct download: OFI_1073_-_Moreila_Vieyra_Santana_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

To make money in the cattle industry, you need to be creative.  Today's guest, Cody Voss, has found his creative niche.  Along with his father, they have figured out how to buy bred cows that have missed calving season for one reason or another.  They take the cattle home and sell them back about a month after they calve.  The trick here is picking a cow that will act reasonably after having her calf.

Cody and his dad have a circuit of about five auctions they go to looking for these cows.  The auctioneers know them and know what they are looking for and can steer them in the right direction.  They have figured out who the breeders are that are selling the cows at auction, and they know whose cows are good but just missed a heat cycle and are being sold because they are outside of the calving season.  I really like this business model.

In addition to all of this Cody raises sheep and goats.  Plus he and his family custom raise hogs in Iowa.  This has led Cody to many proficiency applications and Stars Over Iowa.

Direct download: OFI_1070_-_Replay_with_Cody_Voss_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

It is always amazing to me what a student in high school is capable of when they get fired up about agriculture.  Our guest in today's episode is just beginning high school, and she already has so much going for her in addition to having her future well mapped out.

Cameron Shelton is a freshman at Monache High School in Porterville, California.  She has been involved in the 4H for six years and is just completing her first year of FFA.  She has been showing goats for several years, and currently keeps a herd of 15 wethers at her home about 20 minutes away from Porterville.

Cameron's sister preceded her in the FFA, and she is now living and working in Texas, still involved with goats.  This has exposed both Cameron and her sister to opportunities in the goat business, and they have taken full advantage.  Cameron and her sister are now co-owners in goats from sea to shining sea, including California, Texas, and Delaware!  It is really amazing how deep into the industry Cameron has got herself before she has even finished her freshman year of high school.

If that weren't enough, Cameron knows that she wants to be a veterinarian.  As such, she has already identified the top three schools that she would like to attend to propel her into this career: Texas A&M, Tarleton State University, and Colorado State University.  It is really exciting to see a student get this fired up about their future!

Direct download: OFI_1069_-_Cameron_Shelton_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

If you have been listening to the Off-Farm Income Podcast for long, you know the question I always asking young men and women who are paying rent to a relative to be able to farm some of their ground.  I always want to know why the relative has them pay rent if they want them to succeed.  And the answer is always some form of how that relative is passing down wisdom and teaching the student work ethic and how things work in the real world.

Today's interview is a great example of this exact thing.  Kidridge Griffin has been farming since he was twelve years old, and his father and his grandfather have always made him cover his own end.  This has turned out very well for Kidridge as he has just graduated from high school but he is already leasing over 100 acres of farm ground and has built up a herd of 70+ mother cows.

Kidridge has been given a lot of wisdom over the years, and it is obvious that he has listened.  One of the ways that I could tell was by the fact that he is able to defer pleasure.  He works full-time on his family's farm, but he doesn't receive any pay.  Instead, he receives feed in the winter for his calves, and he receives the use of the family's farming equipment.  This has allowed Kidridge to farm on his own and ever start doing paid farming jobs for other people in the community.

Most 18-year-olds, me included, would want to be paid right now for our work so I could go spend the money on something.  However, Kidridge is different.  He is completely willing to forgo the cash to reinvest back in his farming enterprise because he has his eyes on something bigger in the future!

Direct download: OFI_1067_-_Kidridge_Griffin_Mixdown_2.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

Each and every one of us has an obstacle that we will have to overcome if we are going to find success and happiness.  And, it is a natural tendency to believe that we are the only ones facing hardship when we are in the midst of going through something.  But the truth is, if you had access to every person's personal information, that you would realize that life is hard for everyone, and everybody is overcoming something.

Today's episode is a reminder of this and a beautiful example of what is possible when we are determined to now allow anything to stand in our way.  Our guest, Halle Miller, has both a before and after picture to this story.  Looking at this story today you are seeing the results of a lot of work and determination, and as most talented people do, Halle makes it look easy.  Halle is a talented public speaker and entrepreneur, and she is excelling in both categories through her work with Ohio Ag Net and her own business breeding and selling Bordoole puppies.

Her before pictures looks much different.  As a young girl, she was extremely shy.  She also had a traumatic incident involving a dog that took years of determination and therapy to overcome.  However, Halle refuses to let anything stand in her way.  So, over the years she has gone from shy and terrified of dogs to becoming a premier breeder of Bordooles and a reporter.

It is these transitions that make interviewing FFA students so special, and I am pleased to share this story with you today.

Direct download: OFI_1063_-_Halle_Miller_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

If you have something you want to do or a job you want to take, and you want to make sure that you wind up in a place that suits you very well, how do you find the right fit?  Let's take college as an example.  Let's say that you want to find a college atmosphere that will offer you what you are looking for academically and also be a place that will help you to thrive.  There are 5,300 colleges in the United States.  How in the world do you figure out which one of these places will do that?

Our guest today, Sydney Alsip, offers some good advice on this process.  Sydney is just getting ready to graduate high school, and her dream is to travel and judge sheep shows.  She knows that she wants to go to a college with an excellent livestock judging program, but she also wants the college to be a good fit for her personality type.

Most colleges with the best livestock judging programs are two-year schools.  However, the colleges you hear the most about are the higher profile, four-year universities.  So, if they are getting all the press, how do you find that school that fits you and isn't getting any press?

Sydney did this by putting herself around people who were having success in college judging livestock.  This is an important lesson.  She wanted to do this and to find the right place, so she gravitated to people who were doing what she wanted to do.  By listening to their conversations, asking good questions, and following their example she identified the right college for her.

What is so impressive about what Sydney did is that she found the right fit at the College of Northern Oklahoma, even though she is from Kentucky.  Talk about a diamond in the rough!  But, she did it, and this is possible for anyone else.  If you know what you want to do but don't know how to start, put yourself in the company of those people who are doing what you want to do.  The rest will take care of itself.

Direct download: OFI_1061_-_Sydney_Alsip__Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT


I had an interesting transition from community college to a four-year university in 1993.  My first three semesters of college were spent in Modesto at Modesto Junior College studying animal science.  During that time I was living at home, working full-time, and then working as much as I could at my step-father's farm in my free time.  I was busy, but it was working.  I had a 3.5 GPA, and I was on the Dean's List.  I was performing at a high level.

Then I transferred to Montana State University, didn't have a job, joined the club baseball team, and lived in the dorm.  I had my first ever semester in which I did not achieve at least a 3.0, and my first ever semester achieving below a 2.0.  I was almost immediately placed on academic probation.  I continued to get poor grades for about a year.  Then I hit pause on college, got residency in Montana, and started paying for college myself.

Once I was back to more of a stressful lifestyle with harder classes, a heavier class load, full-time work, rent and tuition to pay, etc. I saw my grades creep back up.  It became clear to me that I was left to create my own structure because of free time I was not nearly as familiar as if I were forced to create structure due to being busy.  If I only had 90 minutes in a week to work on an assignment, I would concentrate intently on that assignment and do a better job.  If I had copious amounts of free time, I would wonder where all the time went, and I would do poorly.

For years I thought I was all alone, but today I interviewed Anna Webel.  Anna is just finishing up her sophomore year in high school, but she has already discovered this about herself.  She keeps herself incredibly busy playing sports in all three seasons, serving as an officer in the FFA chapter, raising cattle at home, and showing cattle at different shows around Illinois and beyond.  She is achieving at a high level in all of these areas, and she credits the need to have structure to be able to participate in everything that interests her.  Without it, she knows that she would have to give something up, and that drives her to maximize her performance in everything she does when she gets the opportunity to work on it.

Direct download: OFI_1057_-_Anna_Webel_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT

A word that is probably overused in entrepreneurial circles these days is "pivot".  However, like all overused words, it has a good meaning.  If you are not familiar, when somebody talks about pivoting in business it means being flexible enough to change direction as circumstances dictate so that you can find business success.  Our guest today did just that, and it has led her into a real opportunity for business success as she rounds out the latter half of her high school FFA experience.

Kailea Tilton is currently a sophomore at Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky.  During her freshman year of high school, when trying to come up with a supervised agricultural experience, she decided that she would get a rabbit and teach it how to do tricks as part of a livestock SAE.  She tried everything she could think of, month after month, and she could never get the rabbit to do what she wanted.  So, she had a decision to make - start completely over or rework what she had already begun.

Kailea decided to pivot.  She knew that she liked to bake, and she knew that she liked her rabbit and her other pets.  She decided to explore baking treats for her pets and the pets of other people.  She was sticking with a form of her original project, searching for success.

At this point "Hershel's Bakery" was born, and she started creating treats and testing how well they were received on pets around her neighborhood.  It wasn't long until she knew that she was onto something.  At that point, Kailea leveraged her mom's Facebook profile and posted a flyer announcing her business and treats.  In no time at all, she had over 100 orders and was well on her way.

Kailea got started with the help of a $500 grant from the Kentucky FFA Foundation.  This was pivotal in helping her to purchase ingredients.  She is now looking ahead to applying for more SAE grants and growing her business even larger.  She has determined that she likes working for herself and sees entrepreneurship as a part of her future.

Direct download: OFI_1055-_Kailea_Tilton_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT



As an entrepreneur, I really appreciate people who go out and seize opportunities.  Actually, people who create their own opportunities are the ones that impress me most of all.

Our guest today, Anna Link, did just that, and that is how she wound up being on this show.  Anna reached out to me and another agricultural podcast host, Rob Sharkey, on Twitter and requested to be a podcast guest.  I had her send me an email and let me know what she has been doing in the FFA, and it was a no-brainer.  I booked her on the show right away.

Creating her own opportunities seems to be a character trait of Anna's, as requesting to be a guest on this show is certainly not the only time that she has done this.  Anna raises Hereford hogs, and she does so because they are so underrepresented in the show pig world.  But she did not stop there.  She started a Facebook group for people with Hereford hogs in Missouri.  That group has grown and now has spread across state lines.

Anna also took the initiative to be part of the 4H as well as the FFA, as her parents were not pushing her to go that direction, she lives in town and does not have a farm.  Those efforts have led her in a good direction though, and she found herself serving as her chapter's president as well as her area's reporter.

Enjoy this episode with this exciting young student.


The tagline for the Off-Farm Income Podcast calls agriculture "the ultimate lifestyle business".  I have made the argument for why this is true many, many times.  One thing that we have never really done is delved deeply into why people are so attracted to this lifestyle.  What is it that will make people work twice the hours for half the money just to be part of this group?

One answer to that is community.  It is the community that we are so fortunate to be part of in agriculture that pulls people in.  People in agriculture have old-fashioned values, and one of those old values is helping each other out.  I think what keeps that ever-present in agriculture and farming is the fact that any of us can find ourselves in a situation that we cannot get out of ourselves at any moment.  The need to call on neighbors or even strangers is always there.

Today's interview profiles exactly why we love this community so much.  It all starts with Bethany Keller.  Bethany is a senior at Newberry High School in Newberry, Florida.  She has been in their FFA chapter since middle school.

About a year ago Bethany lost her grandfather to cancer.  About a month after that she began her 2021 fair project, which was a steer that she was going to show and then sell at her county fair in March of 2021.  Like any fair project, there is a lot of work involved, but with a steer, I think there is more.  You have to start sooner, your feed cost will be higher, your purchase cost will be higher, you have to halter break, you need bigger equipment to transport a steer - everything is magnified.

To get motivated for a project of this scope a student needs to see a reward on the other end.  Normally, that reward comes at the auction when you make money off of your steer.  This was Bethany's motivation, and this was totally appropriate.  But about halfway to the fair Bethany found out that one of her friends had been diagnosed with cancer, and he and his family were facing significant medical bills.

Her friend's diagnosis changed everything for Bethany.  She decided then and there to forgo what she was going to make from the steer and to donate all the proceeds to help him with the medical bills.  He resisted, but she insisted and it was done.

The fair arrived in March, and the night prior to the auction she was taken around the show ring, and a fair representative told her story and what she was doing.  The following day at the auction, the auctioneer told the story again.  Then the bidding for her steer began.  By the time it was all said and done, Bethany's community had bid her steer up to over $16,000.  She was able to provide a great donation to her friend and his family through her selflessness and the generosity of her community.

That is a community and lifestyle worth making sacrifices to be part of!



Obviously, the reason that I started interviewing FFA students was their involvement in entrepreneurship.  The way that the FFA facilitates exposure and learning in entrepreneurship is second to none.  And, as the title of this episode suggests it really is an entrepreneurship incubator.

That is very apparent in our interview with today's guest, Jenna Spangler.  Jenna is a very competitive person, and upon joining the FFA she found that this organization served her competitive spirit very well.  Through a myriad of different contests and competitions, she found exactly what she was looking for.  Then the day came that she wanted to go on a mission trip and needed to raise $150 to make this happen.  Jenna decided that she would make ice cream and sell it to people for the fundraiser and actually pre-sold what she needed to raise.

This motivation is what led Jenna to be exposed to business and entrepreneurship.  She found herself really enjoying making and selling products to other people and wanting to explore this further.  Well, she just happened to be in the FFA already.  Of course, this organization not only promotes but rewards entrepreneurship, and she found just the backing and encouragement that she needed.  This led her to seek out opportunities outside of the FFA to learn even more about entrepreneurship, and Jenna Lou's Homemade Ice Cream was born.

Today Jenna is preparing to finish high school and go to college to study in pursuit of growing this business even more.  She has reinvested her profits and upgraded her equipment, allowing her to produce even more ice cream in less time.  Jenna has a vision, and she has figured out what she needs to do to make that vision a reality.  It will be very exciting to see where this all goes.

Visit Jenna Lou's Homemade Ice Cream online here:



I'll start this post by saying happy birthday to today's guest, Anna Ridenour, as her episode release date is on her 18th birthday!  And, that does not happen that often.

Anna is the epitome of what can happen to a student when they get involved in the FFA.  I have seen more than once that a student who joins the FFA has a passion develop, they develop skills to serve that passion, and they find themselves at a very advanced stage of life development by the time they graduate from high school.

In Anna's case, I have a hard time believing that there was ever a time that she did not have all the passion and enthusiasm that she currently has for agriculture, but those things grow over time.  Today, Anna is serving in multiple officer positions both at her chapter and regional levels, and she is pursuing a spot on the Minnesota State Officer Team.  She and her sister have been developing a sheep and goat business since they were seven years old, and they see great success with this, selling livestock into over half of the states.

Anna has her eye fixed on college next and veterinary school after that.  She has recognized that as a goat producer herself, her Minnesota region does not have many veterinarians with significant knowledge about goats.  Since this is her passion and wants to serve her community, she sees herself filling this void as a large animal vet.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned in this great interview.  One of the most important is how to find your passion.  It would be effortless to listen to Anna and believe that she has always known exactly what she wants to do, but that is not the case.  She is just so fired up about the FFA, farming, and life that she has tried many things since joining the FFA in sixth grade.  This has not only resulted in success, but it has failed in some cases.  Most importantly, Anna has been able to identify what she is not passionate about by trying things that were not the right fit.

This is an important lesson.  Sometimes we identify our passion not by figuring it out but by figuring out what is not our passion and looking at what options are left.


I have a lot of favorite businesses that I profile on the Off-Farm Income Podcast, and the business we will profile today is quickly becoming my favorite for FFA students.

I have talked many times over the years about how I think the development of a lawn care business in the FFA can lead a student to unbelievable entrepreneurial success.  I have gone as far as to say that in the same way that the dry cleaning business was called the "future millionaire-maker" back in the 1980s and 1990s, I think the lawn care business takes its place as the "future millionaire-maker" of today.  Well, over time I have come to learn that there is an even more basic first step to this business, but it is a very important one.  That is the repair and maintenance of small engines.

In today's episode, I am interviewing Isaiah Hopkins.  Isaiah has a vision for a future of business endeavors.  He is a junior in high school, and he is just getting started recognizing the possibilities by fixing up broken-down motorcycles and lawn equipment and then reselling them at a profit.  This is a natural lead-in to the lawn care business because small engine repair and a mechanical aptitude are so important there.  Also, the ability to find old equipment, sometimes for free, fix it up, and use it to make money with the best definition of "bootstrapping" I have ever heard!

As Isaiah gets more experience with his business, record keeping, and insuring a profit he is expanding into lawn care.  He sees this as the conduit that can help him make the money that will allow him to go into other entrepreneurial ventures like rental houses and storage units.  I believe he has an excellent plan, and the only thing that can stop him will be if he changes his mind!


You may wonder how we can produce so much food in the United States on an ever-shrinking footprint of ground with fewer and fewer people being involved in production agriculture.  The answer is the natural curiosity of the American Farmer coupled with a passion for agriculture and an innovative mind.

These characteristics that have made the American Farmer great are evident throughout the spectrum, from the 80-year-old farmer who is trying hard not to retire to the 16-year-old who is dreaming of how they can become a farmer.

In today's interview, I am lucky enough to interview one of these farmers.  At age 18, Matthew Grab is already accomplishing amazing things in the FFA and in agriculture.  He lives on his family's grain farm in Freeburg, Illinois and one of the crops they grow is soybeans.  As part of Matthew's supervised agricultural experience, he and a friend decided to see how hail damage would impact the yield on soybeans.

The two of them set up a test plot of soybeans to experiment on, but the question was, how were they going to replicate hail?  A very fun and innovative solution was thought up.  They would shoot the soybean plants with a shotgun from a distance to simulate hail stones comes down and ripping the soybean leaves.

Their initial hypothesis was that hail damage would decrease yield.  This is a very natural hypothesis.  However, they ended up demonstrating that at the stage of development that they simulated the damage the yield wound up increasing.  This was very interesting, so the next year they replicated the experiment on a larger scale using a herbicide at a very low rate.  This also increased the yield.  They entered this experiment into the FFA's National Agriscience Fair, and they won!

It is this type of natural curiosity and love for what they do that has always led the American Farmer to produce more with less.  And it is this type of innovation and spirit in Matthew's generation that gives me the confidence to know that we will find a way to continue to feed the world as our world's population continues to grow.


For years now the percentage of Americans working in agriculture has been shrinking.  As farms become more efficient and jobs in rural communities go away, more and more youth, move into urban areas for work.  But, could we be seeing a change in this trend?

In today's interview, we feature a guest who tells her story of coming into agriculture through the FFA.  This is a story that I am hearing more and more often.

Missy Hamilton grew up in a subdivision of Bardstown, Kentucky with no exposure to agriculture.  Her older brother found his way into the FFA when he was in high school and encouraged her to try out the group as well.  Missy gave it a try, and it has turned out to be an unbelievable success, with her now serving as her chapter's president.

In four short years, Missy has gone from no knowledge about agriculture to leading her chapter and pursuing a career teaching ag as an FFA advisor.  The FFA has given her the exposure and motivation, and agriculture is benefitting from this as we pull a student from an urban area into ag.  In this way, the FFA is acting as an incubator for future agricultural professionals, and this is a very good thing.

Missy is currently running her own candle and wax melt business called Missy's Makings.  In addition to learning about agriculture, she has learned about entrepreneurship.  She was also granted a $500 SAE grant from the Kentucky FFA in pursuit of her business.  Now she is well on her way to a career that will enable FFA students in multiple different ways that will allow them to live and work in agriculture and rural areas if that is their wish!

To purchase Missy's Candles and Wax Melts Visit:




Direct download: OFI_1033_-_Miss_Hamilton_Mixdown_1.mp3
Category:FFA -- posted at: 12:30am MDT


What is a "traditional FFA student"?  I ask that question because I think the definition of a "traditional" FFA student is changing.  In decades past of course it was a student who grew up on a farm and was furthering the farm education and future career in farming through this program.  More recently it has been a student with exposure to farming who is very involved in aspects of what it takes to farm - soils, welding, mechanics, livestock production, etc.

In the not too distant future, I expect this definition to shift again.  Through my work conducting interviews with FFA students, and in my own exposure to our local FFA chapter through my daughter being a member and sitting on the advisory committee I see more and more students who are growing up without farming exposure that is joining the FFA.

There are a number of reasons for this.  The more students that I interview, the more I believe it is due to the developing knowledge that the FFA is an excellent pathway into a well-paying and very interesting career.  Our guest today, Shawn Jamison, epitomizes this.

Shawn is just beginning his FFA journey.  He is close to wrapping up his freshman year of high school and his first year in the FFA.  Shawn did not grow up on a farm, and his parents are not involved in agriculture.  However, Shawn had the insight to see something about himself very early on - he enjoys being outside.  And it was this enjoyment of being outside that led him into the FFA.

Even as a freshman Shawn realizes that there are career fields that he can work in that won't have him inside of a climate-controlled environment all day.  Shawn wants to feel the wind on his face, breathe fresh air and touch the soil.  The FFA is his pathway because he realizes that agriculture is a great industry to allow him to live this life.

What Shawn may not realize yet but soon will, is that when he finishes high school and four years of FFA he will have the skills that enable him to work outdoors but so much more.  Between public speaking, record keeping, marketing, entrepreneurship, and everything else that the FFA offers he has already taken a significant step to set himself up for a fantastic life.


We all have something inside of us that drives us towards reaching our goals.  For some of us, it is a desire to complete worthy goals.  For others it the need to do everything correctly that gets us to the endpoint.  And for some of us, it is competitiveness.  Actually, there is probably a little bit of all of those in all of us, with one outshining the others. 

Our guest today is definitely competitive.  Madison Nolley describes herself that way.  She has an older brother that she loves very much but definitely does not want to be outdone by.  This drives her.  It got her started in the FFA as soon as her school district would allow - 6th Grade, and it has pushed her into every possible competitive FFA event that she was allowed to do prior to beginning high school.

As a freshman, Madison is already transitioning from a placement SAE to an entrepreneurship SAE, and she has already been able to obtain a $1,000 SAE grant from Farm Credit to help her begin her Dahlia production business.  Madison is still competing with her big brother, who is currently serving as the state president for the New York State FFA Officer Team.  However, this competition coupled with her natural drive is pushing her towards great achievements of her own.

Madison lovingly talks about being competitive with her brother, but there is a serious side there too.  She has some great goals for her flower business, and for the offices, she wants to achieve in the FFA.  It is going to be a lot of fun to watch where she goes over the next three + years of high school and FFA.


There are many pathways to finding success in small businesses and entrepreneurship.  If you are fortunate enough to live in the United States there are myriads of people who will help you to succeed.  When it comes to being an entrepreneur there are really two extremes.  There are those who it just comes naturally to, and there are those who have to develop the skills for success.  I count myself among that second group.

If you are interested in working for yourself, or if you need to work for yourself because of the situation that you find yourself in, it is incumbent upon you to find the tools and resources available to you to make it happen.  Our interview today features a young man who has done exactly that.  Dalton Dennis is joining us to talk about how he has been developing his own nursery business.

Dalton's journey started out with the mentorship of his older brother who encouraged him to take agriculture classes when he got into high school.  Soon, Dalton added to his list of mentors with his FFA advisors.  After that Dalton was able to get a job working at a nursery and added his supervisors to this list.  Not long after that, his advisors were recommending Dalton to people in the community who needed to hire somebody for yard projects, and he started getting exposed to entrepreneurship.

Today, Dalton has been able to obtain an SAE grant, sponsored by Caterpillar, and this has allowed him to purchase inventory for resale and to begin his nursery business.  Dalton has ordered a number of trees from a grower all the way in Salem, Oregon, and had them shipped to Alabama.  Now, he has located a buyer who will sell them at retail and believes that buyer is going to buy 100% of his inventory.

It is really amazing what can happen one surrounds themself with people who want to assist them and see them succeed.