Happy National FFA Week! As a former North Dakota State FFA officer and the wife of an ag teacher and FFA advisor, this is a big week in our household! Each year, FFA chapters across the country celebrate National FFA Week, sharing about what FFA is and the impact it has on members every day.
This year FFA Week is even more exciting as we launch episode 6 of the Trailblazing in Agriculture podcast featuring Becky Fouard, who works in global learning and development for Elanco and is a former state and national FFA officer. Becky shares about the incredible work she does with Elanco and talks about the impact the FFA organization has had on her life, personally and professionally.
The trajectory of Becky’s life changed when she said “yes” and joined her high school’s FFA chapter. Her story is an excellent reminder that saying yes to opportunities can completely transform the trajectory of your life!
I can’t wait for you to listen to this episode and hear Becky’s story. I hope you are inspired by Becky’s passion for agriculture, FFA and youth development, and are reminded of the power of saying yes!
Episode 6 Transcript
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Jessie Topp-Becker: Hey, Trailblazers! It’s Jessie and it’s time for Episode 6 of Trailblazing in Agriculture, podcast for anyone interested in hearing the stories of the agriculture industry’s pioneers and innovators.
Happy National FFA Week, everyone! As a former North Dakota State FFA officer and the wife of an ag teacher and FFA advisor, who finds myself regularly helping with FFA meetings and practices, I am incredibly excited for this episode of the Trailblazing in Agriculture podcast! On this episode, I visit with Becky Fouard who works in global learning and development for Elanco and is a former state and National FFA officer. Becky shares about the incredible work she does with Elanco and talks about the impact the FFA organization has had on her life, personally and professionally.
Welcome to the Trailblazing in Agriculture podcast, Becky. I look forward to visiting about the work you do with Elanco and your extensive involvement with the FFA organization. To start us off, can you tell us about yourself?
Becky Fouard: Jessie, thanks for inviting me. It’s super exciting to talk about all things that I love FFA and Elanco. I grew up in a town called Paola, Kan., on a small hobby farm – all animals, no crops. I was very involved in 4-H and FFA. I ended up going to Kansas State University, (which woo-hoo, we’ve got that in common. Go Wildcats!) and studied ag communications and journalism as well as did the leadership minor through the Leadership Studies program there, which I really enjoyed. Through my college experience, I served as a state FFA officer a national officer, and much of my work after those roles was facilitation while also going to school. After that, I worked for the Kansas Department of Agriculture for two years. And from there, I actually got a call from an FFA friend at Elanco and couldn’t pass up that offer. So in 2014, I moved to Indiana and have worked for Elanco for seven years now. It’s been a great experience. I live here in Indianapolis with my husband, Tristan, our 5-month-old baby, Sawyer, and we also own and operate a CrossFit gym here in Indianapolis. We’re having a good old time.
Jessie: That’s awesome. Well, it certainly sounds like you’ve done a lot of remarkable things. And I’m really excited to dive into some of those things. And it’s really fun to hear you talk about how you got that connection through FFA that led you to Elanco. I think that’s really neat and one of the great things about the organization is just those connections that you make and how they really can impact your future.
Becky: Absolutely 100 percent. When I think about the trajectory of where I’ve gone, I would not be where I am without FFA. I don’t even know if I would have gone to Kansas State, if it wasn’t for FFA. So, just without a doubt opening up your eyes to careers and jobs you didn’t know existed. That’s one of the big benefits that that organization gives us, as well as the network like you said.
Jessie: As you said, you work for Elanco and you currently work in global learning and development. Can you tell us about your position and the work that you do there?
Becky: Yes, global learning and development was actually the No. 1 job I wanted when I joined Elanco seven years ago. I started out in U.S. marketing and then went to global corporate communications, corporate responsibility and then global marketing. And I’ve now for two years been in my dream job, global learning and development, and the focus is on the people.
So my role in the team I work with, from a global perspective, we focus on investing in our people, the soft skills, everything from how to be a good supervisor, how to coach your people, how to build highly functioning and effective teams, to simpler things to like personality profiles for any person; we have a common personality profile all employees had the opportunity to take. And just the culture as well. We call ourselves the “keepers of the culture” at Elanco, because our role is making sure that we have those cultural advocates all across the organization who are living out the behaviors and the values that we hold firm to that represent our company.
Jessie: That sounds like a very diverse job. And something that’s really exciting, like you said, just the impact that you can have on the culture of the company through your position.
Becky: Yes, it is very cool. And I mentioned, we’re very internally focused. There’s been times that we also do trainings for our customers. The cool thing is, you know, by focusing on the culture internally, that translates, and that’s visible to those farmers, ranchers and veterinarians that we work with.
Jessie: What really attracted you to the company itself? And what has kept you there for seven years, Becky?
Becky: Great question. And I get asked this all the time in new employee orientations. Why did you join Elanco? Three, key things. The first one is our customer. Without a doubt, in my heart I love animals, not that I have anything against crops. But I love working with veterinarians, farmers and ranchers. And our customer leads into that second point of why I really was attracted to Elanco, and that’s the purpose. We don’t just see ourselves as an animal health company that’s producing, whether it’s vaccines, nutritional products, like probiotics, antibiotics, we don’t just do that, but we see ourselves in that higher purpose of helping our customers produce enough quality food for the growing population. As a company, we’ve had multiple different platforms that we’ve phrased that in. Currently, it’s called Elanco’s healthy purpose, focused on feeding the world; companionship, so that human animal bond, especially with our pet health side of the business. Without a doubt, we don’t just talk about it, we walk the talk. Whether that’s through donations, volunteer hours, opportunities for employees to get involved, I absolutely love that. The third piece, the purpose bleeds into this, the culture. Our culture is truly a purpose-driven culture, and also one where people want to help other people succeed. It is not that corporate, cutthroat, I don’t want to help you because I want to climb the ladder above you. It is not like that. It is we all want to help each other succeed. And we know that we are one giant team, even if we’re in, you know, 60 different countries. The culture, the purpose, and the customers are the three key things that really attracted me to Elanco and what keeps me there.
Jessie: That’s really neat: that ability to come together as a team, regardless of the location of the people that you’re working with, because you are such a large company. And especially in today’s day and age, like just that positive, being able to work together as a team and really build each other up, I think is definitely something we all need more of in our lives.
Becky: Absolutely. If you don’t transition to that mindset of we’re all one team and we succeed by helping each other, you’re not going to be getting the top talent, they’re going to go somewhere else.
Jessie: You mentioned going to K-State. How has that background helped you in the different positions that you’ve had at Elanco?
Becky: When I think of my educational background at Kansas State, I always joke around that communications is the utility player. Communications wise, whether it’s written communications or verbal communications. In 2020, I pulled on my crisis communications so much. Without a doubt, communications has just helped me to think critically, know what is the most important headline, what needs to be communicated to our audience, who is our audience. And that’s a transferable skill for so many different roles. Like I said, I’ve done marketing, I’ve done corporate communications, corporate responsibility, now global learning and development. That ag communications background has just helped dramatically in all of those.
Jessie: It’s neat to hear you talk about how you were able to draw on some of those experiences or information that you gained during your time at K-State. How encouraging for people who are still in college taking courses and are like, “I’m never going to use this,” but you never know when that information will come in handy. Like you said, crisis communication this year and all of that. Never underestimate the things that you’re being taught.
Becky: You never know when it’s going to be a pandemic! Man, that one came in handy. I tell you what, you don’t think of that when you’re sitting in class. Even communications wise, when I was in corporate communications, I remember doing press releases, and I can’t remember the exact class at K-State. And I was like, “Man, thank goodness for that class.” I know how to prioritize the messaging; I’m a wordy person, so knowing how to be concise. It comes back into play, and it might not be the first year out of college, it could be seven or eight years out of college. But you’ll remember those moments.
Jessie: Well, this kind of transitions to the next thing I want to talk about. In 2020, everyone was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and like you said, you were able to draw on some of those lessons that you learned and information that you learned in classes, but how else was your job maybe impacted by the pandemic, Becky?
Becky: I’ll speak on like a higher level and then we’ll talk about my job specifically. Higher level, our commercial team, our reach to the customers, has had to become very creative. I’ve talked to sales reps who are doing meetings in parking lots. You don’t want to go to a customer facility and something happens and have to shut down that facility. The way that we do business hasn’t stopped, it’s just gotten creative.
From my standpoint, it is working from home, which I used to always go into the office. It is weird not having that commute. However, I’ve learned to love it, and I think a lot of people have as well. Just yesterday, I was on the phone with someone and we were talking about how this virtual environment has actually humanized a lot of people. I think back to marketing: we always joke that marketing and manufacturing kind of butt heads, because we’re like, “we want more product.” And manufacturing is like, “you didn’t tell us that three months ago, you should have told us three months ago.” Well, now we’re having these calls and we’re seeing their kids or their dog walk into that frame, and it’s no longer the mean guy in manufacturing, Mark, who says, I can’t get my product. Now it’s, “oh my gosh, Mark and his dog, Asher, they’re so … Yeah, okay, I should have told Mark three months ago. I get it.” In a weird way, it’s humanized those people in different parts of the business that maybe you didn’t know as well and you only went to when you needed them.
So that’s a positive to this virtual environment. You’re understanding people’s families, their personal life and hopefully having more understanding and empathy for their job, what they do and understanding how you connect to that.
Jessie: Prior to working in Indiana, you worked as the education and event coordinator for the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA). Can you tell us a little bit about your time at KDA?
Becky: It was the coolest first job I could have ever asked for. It’s one of those jobs you don’t know exist, and it’s actually in a lot of states. My role was specifically focused on two things. One was the state trademark program. Every state has a trademark program for branding those agricultural products from their state. At the time, when I joined in 2011, the Kansas brand was called Simply Kansas. I went through a process of getting feedback from consumers, our target audience, also focus groups with producers, and we rebranded that back to the old brand, but with a facelift, called From the Land of Kansas. Really finding ways to promote those local-to-the-state products. That was one key responsibility.
The other one was kind of the opposite. So I had state product promotion, but then the other job I had was focused on an organization called Food Export Midwest. It is an organization that takes Farm Bill money and gives it to states to help small- and medium-sized producers export and build global relationships, which was super neat. I was there for two years, and I had a chance to go to Russia and Germany, Switzerland and India, with different Kansas producers and meet with those potential clients or customers in other countries. That was really cool to do right out of college. I was single, I was like, “Yeah, ship me off, send me wherever.” That role I know exists in multiple states, so I would encourage people who are graduating and looking at jobs that working for your state Department of Ag is a great first stop and there might be some really cool opportunities you don’t even know about that are open, and they’re looking for somebody.
Jessie: In addition to your full-time job, you mentioned that you are a co-owner of a gym. Can you tell us how you got involved in that venture? And your role there?
Becky: The easy answer is my husband, Tristan. The longer answer is we both have always had a passion for health and fitness. I used to be a runner. I started running in college, nothing competitive by any means, but just ran to be healthy. Eventually, I got super bored of running, and my husband and I tried CrossFit in Topeka, Kansas. We moved to Indianapolis, and he decided to change his career and he worked for two different gyms, and eventually, we decided we should just do this. Let’s just take the risk, let’s pull the trigger. We are constantly at these other gyms. Why not just start our own? We opened up our gym, it’s called M4G CrossFit, it stands for made for greatness. We opened it up in December of 2018, and it’s been the coolest experience I could ask for and it is something I never thought I would do. I would just say, “never say never.” You might find yourself going down a path that you didn’t expect, and it could be just your wheelhouse and you didn’t even know it.
Jessie: That’s really cool that when opportunities present themselves, and like you said, change the trajectory of what you kind of envisioned for your life. We talked a little bit about how the pandemic has affected your work at Elanco, but how then have you had to be creative with the gym and your business there amidst COVID-19?
Becky: It’s definitely been more difficult from a gym perspective than the corporate world. In the corporate world, we just transitioned to Zoom and Microsoft Teams. From the gym perspective, like a lot of gyms out there, we actually had to close our doors March through June. Once again that crisis communications class at K-State, man did that pop up! Having to shift our business model that was fully in person to then virtual, and make the decision to loan out equipment. That was a whole new phase, with waivers; you’re basically accepting that your equipment is going to come back not as nice and you’re gonna lose a couple years of that lifespan.
What has changed now that we’re back open is we have areas marked off for where you can work out, our expenses for cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer have increased, which is everywhere, I’m sure. However, when we started off 2020, we had a business goal to grow our membership. When the pandemic hit, we’re like, “Oh, we just want to stay open, we just want to pay our bills.” The crazy thing is after we opened back up in June is we now have the highest membership we’ve ever had, and we hit our goals. Without a doubt, I would say that is because of the isolation people experienced, and loneliness. Some people are successful working out at home. However, I think health just became a higher priority where people said, “Man, I need a community to help me and a coach, and it’s not happening at home.”
So in a very cool way, the pandemic actually resulted in us expanding our community of people. We have a lot of new people already who’ve lost 10 pounds, lost 15 pounds, they ran their first mile. It’s just super cool to see that coming in a year that was so difficult; people are now accomplishing new goals and feats because of that risk that they took to say, “Hey, I’m okay. I’m going to step into a CrossFit gym. I’m going to trust it’s not that scary. I can do this.” And they have!
Jessie: A fun experience, I would imagine for you to get to walk alongside some of those people as they accomplish goals or, like you said, maybe accomplishing things that they never thought that they could do or ever would do. And just what a joy that probably is for you.
Becky: Absolutely, it is. If you think about in FFA, for example, you see someone give a speech, and you’re like, “Man, they’re so good.” And then that person gets to coach you on how to give a speech. And they say, “Trust me, I wasn’t that good.” And you’re like, “Whatever. You’re awesome,” right? I feel like CrossFit is similar. People see you and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, look at that person do pull ups,” and you’re like, “I was in your shoes, not that long ago.” So it is very cool to help other people start that journey and see them step into new levels of health they didn’t know they could accomplish and just help steward them and walk alongside.
Jessie: As someone who works from home myself and balances family and all of that. I’m curious: how do you balance your full-time job, your small business and your family and personal life? How do you manage all of that, Becky?
Becky: I feel like this is a popular question. People say how do you balance things? Our president at Elanco, Jeff Simmons, has said multiple times, and it really resonated with me, “Forget about work life and home life. Just look at it as life.” That helps me, especially now when our work life is at home. It’s not always an equal. It’s not always I spend 25 percent of my day here, 25 percent here, 25 percent here. It’s where am I going to get the biggest return on my time? And where am I needed the most?
I can’t tell you what that equation is for each person. It’s different. For me, I have figured out my routines. It’s actually nice, I can start my work at 6 a.m. before my baby is awake, then do what I need to do for my child, work and now it’s awesome working from home. I can work out over lunch if I want to and have more time. It’s finding what are my priorities and scheduling them into your calendar, which I’m a huge advocate for calendar scheduling. To me, that’s what keeps me balanced in my mental health and my needs and you kind of get it down at a certain point. It’s almost like a science. And then your baby starts teething and you have to switch things up! Do you have kids, Jessie?
Jessie: I do. Callen will be three in March, so I can totally relate to all of that; he’s made appearances on Zoom calls and all of that. You learn to get creative with your time, like you said, getting up early and working or working late and having that flexibility is really nice, too.
Becky: That is a pro, for sure. I agree.
Jessie: I want to transition a little bit. This episode is going to launch during National FFA Week, which I’m really excited about. And as a former North Dakota State FFA officer, I’m really excited to visit about your involvement with FFA; you mentioned a little bit in the intro about your extensive involvement. Can you just talk about what attracted you to the FFA organization as a young person, Becky?
Becky: I am that person who said no to FFA at first. I was all about 4-H. My older sister, she’s two years older than me, was in FFA and loved it. In my sophomore year in high school, she talked me into taking intro to ag, and that’s where my journey began. Before that, I didn’t get it. I didn’t know how FFA was different from 4-H. After joining, it didn’t take long to realize this is how you level up. This is a new level of leadership growth, career growth. I fell in love with FFA quite quickly, despite my hesitation to join at first.
Jessie: That’s awesome and neat to hear about how you went from having that hesitation to then full-fledged extensive involvement. What did your involvement in FFA look like as a high school student?
Becky: Like I said, I joined my sophomore year. Our school was a fairly new chapter; I think we’d been a chapter for like four or five years. We didn’t have a huge membership base, so we all just did everything. We all did most all the CDEs. I grew up with chickens, so the poultry CDE was probably the one I excelled the most at. I really loved the communication side: job interview, prepared public speaking, extemporaneous public speaking, ag sales. Those are some of the contests I really enjoyed.
From an SAE perspective, I had a small animal entrepreneurship as my SAE. I raised rabbits and chickens, had about 200 of each, so that was my focus. We do not have that many animals at home anymore! We all left and my parents said too many chores for us. So that was my SAE.
From a chapter perspective, I was a chapter officer for three years and I was a district officer my senior year, which was really cool. And each of those, like I said, that’s really where I leveled up when it came to my leadership growth, going to different leadership camps and conferences, I learned a lot. Truly that the leadership side is where I fell in love with FFA.
Jessie: As you talk about the different career development events that you participated in, I think that’s maybe one of the areas that not a lot of people realize or know about the organization is just the diversity of those competitions that they have and really that they provide so many valuable skills for young people to prepare them for careers. And even beyond that, just giving them public speaking and other skills, you know, decision making and things that they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
Becky: I would say the other cool thing is just the exposure to the vast industry out there. I know there’s certain states, especially on the East Coast, they have CDEs that I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know this was a CDE.” So you’re right, like what a cool area of FFA that truly connects to different career opportunities you may or may not have ever heard of.
Jessie: Absolutely, especially with the ag industry as diverse as it is and how rapidly it’s changing to have an organization that exposes students to so many great opportunities.
You mentioned obviously serving as a district and state officer for the state of Kansas. Tell us a little bit about why you chose to seek a position as a state officer and how that led then to your desire to run for national office.
Becky: I didn’t know that much about FFA, and my ag teacher Mr. Strohshine, was the first person who said, “Hey, you should consider running for state office.” I was a district officer; I’d probably just met my first state officer and it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I did a little bit of digging, talked to a few people, decided to run; I went in, ran for state office, became a state officer and absolutely loved it. It was professional development maximized more than I could have ever realized. The time and opportunity you had to pour into members across the state was so much fun. In Kansas, we do go to school while we’re state officer; not all states are like that. However, you are highly encouraged to take a lighter workload, which I did, which gave that opportunity to travel. I remember going to lock-ins, banquets, all the different people you meet and build relationships with; it was such a cool experience.
The second part of your question around national office was very similar to state office. I didn’t think about it; it didn’t cross my mind until Mrs. Kane, our state executive secretary, mentioned, “Hey, have you thought about running for national office?” I hadn’t, and it was at that national convention when I was a state officer and the relationship that I built through the state officer training with one of the national officers at the time, Jessie Geib. It was through that relationship where I thought, “Wow, Jessie is the coolest person, she’s invested in me. I would love to do that for someone else.”
I mean, it is a huge decision because you want to go in thinking, I could get this, I could succeed. And if I do, I’m taking a year off of college, I’m leaving that, you’re going on a journey for a whole year, you don’t know what to expect. It’s hard to know what to expect until you live it. To this day, people ask, what’s one of the most impactful experiences you’ve ever had, and being a National FFA officer, quite frankly, is up there. I’d like to say my top, my husband might, you know, be disappointed if I don’t say marrying him, but national office is definitely up there outside of my husband and having a baby.
Jessie: You served as National FFA Secretary in 2008. What was that year of service like, Becky?
Becky: Let’s talk about numbers. When you’re a national officer, you are on the road approximately 330 days out of that year. You are living out of a suitcase. Quite often, we had our suitcases not show up, so you’re living with what’s on your back. We on average traveled to 40 states throughout that year. The only state I have not been to is Alaska now, which is pretty crazy. We also had the chance to go to Japan, with a relationship we have with Future Farmers of Japan; it was super cool. Those are some of the numbers.
I would say a cool piece of national office is you truly learn how to become uncomfortable, and you become comfortable with uncomfortable. I cannot count how many times I showed up at an airport and didn’t even know who’s picking me up. And you’re just looking for a sign. So you you become very flexible. You’re meeting new people all the time, going from place to place, having to shift your mindset; maybe you’re at a state convention and then you’re going to a camp. You become very flexible. And you get to experience the genuine and loving hospitality of the FFA community across the nation, which is amazing. It’s hard to describe, but people all across the United States have a passion that’s shared and that brings you together and it’s an immediate connection that’s very special, I would say.
Jessie: How did that year of service and the things that you learned – like you said navigating and being comfortable with being uncomfortable – how has that served you in your professional life, Becky?
Becky: Too many ways to count! One of the neat things about being a national officer is you meet so many different people. Truly the mission of a national officer is to connect and serve or contribute however you can for those people that you’re with. That connection and ability to connect with such a diverse membership translates so well into any job you go into. You’re working with people of all different ages, different backgrounds. So that’s a huge piece, is the people piece.
I would also say the ability to communicate and tell the agriculture story. It’s so cool that you’re doing this podcast, Jessie. I’d say state officers, national officers, you become really good at how to become an advocate and do it in a way that’s not defensive in certain situations, but in a way that’s proactive and fact-based. So that’s another huge piece.
From the career side as well, I would just say that being a national officer expands that network; you meet so many different people. I mentioned earlier, I would not be in Indianapolis, I would not work for Elanco if I didn’t meet Eric Shilling or Jim Bishop or Amanda Kephart when I was a national officer and they kept in touch, and I learned about a company I might not have known about otherwise. So, so many different things that transfer from that year of service into those journeys that you take afterwards.
Jessie: Absolutely. And I think that’s so true even not just for being a national officer, obviously, that network is a little bit bigger, but even as a chapter member who’s maybe participating in a career development event that interacts with a judge who maybe works for a company or is exposed to different companies at a career fair or things like that. Just that ability, like we talked about a little bit, that FFA connects so many people and the network that you’re able to grow that you might not have that ability in some other organizations that you would choose to be involved in.
Becky: Yes, the network. Something else we haven’t talked a bunch about is starting your own business. I think of so many chapter members through their SAE programs that started businesses that then became their actual full-time job, which is so cool. Yes, I’ve started a business and FFA has had transferable skills to help me with that. No, it’s not an agriculture business. However, it’s an audience of people who care about food and health that I can be an advocate for. So that SAE perspective as well really, especially as a chapter member, you could start a business and think “Ah, I’m just doing this because I need an SAE, and it could really grow into something cool.”
Jessie: Obviously, you had many years of involvement in the organization. Have you found ways to remain involved with FFA?
Becky: Yes, two key ways. One, our company, Elanco, has an FFA alumni chapter, which is really cool. FFA started non-traditional alumni chapters, so a lot of ag companies now have alumni chapters for their members. I was nominated as president for our chapter. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve transitioned into this role of how do we engage those employees and alumni from Elanco with FFA, making sure we secure our sponsor dollars. We specifically focus on sponsoring the delegates, as well as Living to Serve grants is another section we really focus on sponsoring.
Another way, I’ve done one-off trainings for different chapter teams and officer teams. The one thing that’s been very consistent is every year, whether it’s the state or some national officer candidates, they’ll reach out and we’ll do some preparation for them running. That’s really fun, because I love the interview process, the speech, the workshop, and just being able to coach people on the experiences I’ve had and what that looks like to set them up for a great journey when they run for those roles.
Jessie: That’s cool. Elanco is a big company, so it’s neat that they have the alumni chapter. I think one thing that many people don’t realize is that you didn’t have to wear the blue jacket to be an alumni member. Do you have members of your alumni who would fall into that category? And how did you entice them or encourage them to get involved?
Becky: Our officer team would slap my hand for the fact that I didn’t say FFA alumni and supporters, because that is our official name. I’m so glad you mentioned that, Jessie. We have people who are never in FFA, who are either just passionate about youth development and agricultural leadership, and they’re looking for a way to get involved. When they hear what FFA is about, they raise their hand and say, “How do I get in?” and this is their chance is being involved in that alumni and supporters chapter. The other one is we have a lot of parents who were never in FFA, but they’ve got kids in it. They see that value tenfold and they want to give back. A lot of our members, I would say, fall into those two camps as well as obviously people who were in FFA themselves.
Jessie: We’ve talked about the Career Development Events and the SAEs and all of that, but what is it about FFA that sets it apart from other youth organizations, Becky?
Becky: I mentioned it before. I was someone who was hesitant to join, because I thought I’d already found what was the greatest. I’m not saying 4-H is not the greatest, because 4-H is the bomb. What I did learn is FFA is leveling up. It is a whole new level of competition, and it’s a whole new level of leadership development and personal growth. The different conferences, camps, experiences at the chapter, state and national level, truly help you identify what is my purpose, what do I want to do? Like we’ve talked about as well, FFA exposes you to the over 300 careers in agriculture out there, new ones being developed every day, and gets you connected to that real industry and people who can help you find that career of your choosing.
All those things, not saying other youth organizations are bad by any means. I think when it comes to the leadership development and the career side, I haven’t found another organization that does it quite the same as FFA. The other neat thing about FFA is FFA doesn’t settle for status quo. They don’t have that mindset of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. They’re constantly asking the industry, How do we make this CDE more relevant? Or they’re asking on the leadership personal development side, What’s new and how do we improve? And that’s why those different programs have shifted, they have new names, they have new curriculum. That’s a huge investment that the FFA organization makes, that continues to make this organization one of a kind with what you get out of that experience.
Jessie: Is there anything else Becky, that we should touch on in regard to FFA?
Becky: Oh my goodness, we could just talk about FFA all day! For those people listening to this who are in FFA, my advice would be: say yes. When that ag teacher says “Oh, you should try livestock judging” and you think man, I don’t have any animals. Say yes! What’s it gonna hurt to try? You might love it.
We’ve already talked about ag teachers saying, “Have you thought about running for office?” whether that’s chapter state or national. If it’s something that you feel interested in and passionate about, don’t hold back. What’s the harm? You can’t get an opportunity if you don’t try. So you might as well try. Even if you don’t achieve it, you’re going to grow and learn in the experience.
Jessie: I think it’s neat that you talk about that. We haven’t really talked about the impact that those advisors can have. But I think it’s neat because I have similar stories of my advisor saying, “Hey, you should do this career development event, or you should do this” and being like, you’re really sure. But they see things in us or as students, they see things in you that you don’t recognize in yourself, and they believe in you, and they will give you the skills and the knowledge that you need to be successful. And so I think that’s really neat. Like you said, just say yes, trust them and their ability to help you and their desire to do good by you.
Becky: Yes, shout out to ag teachers for always seeing the potential in their students.
Jessie: Absolutely. The name of the podcast is Trailblazing in Agriculture, and one of the things that I like to ask all of my guests is can you tell me about a trailblazer in your life and someone who has impacted you?
Becky: There’s so many! This is tough. In Kansas, our FFA Executive Secretary Miss Kane, Mary Kane. When I became a state officer, like I mentioned before, it’s not something I really prepared much for. Miss Kane did such a phenomenal job of, as we mentioned, seeing the potential in me, pushing me to my limits to try new things. I remember us practicing speeches, practicing workshops, and she is someone who had the ability to bring out the best in you, not only from a personality and character standpoint, but also in those competencies and skills that you wanted to grow and learn in. Without a doubt. I know we mentioned ag teachers, there’s so many people I can mention. Those are the people that when you become older, you think, “Man, I wish that they lived down the road, so they could still be a mentor or coach to me.” In my mind, Miss Kane will always be a mentor or coach to me. I would just encourage people to soak up those experiences. When you have someone investing in you and pushing you, it can be uncomfortable. You’re going to miss it someday. So soak it up while you’re in that moment, and don’t forget to say thank you.
Jessie: Wonderful. Well, Becky, thank you so much. I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. And, like you said, I think we could talk about FFA and our experiences, probably for the rest of the day, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I just really appreciate you sharing about your journey through the organization and the work that you do today and the impact that you are making in the agriculture industry.
Becky: Well, thank you so much, Jessie, for having me. Thank you for everything you’re doing for agriculture and sharing how people are trailblazing in the industry. I can’t wait to go back and listen to all of your episodes.
Jessie: Wow! What an incredible journey Becky has been on as the result of her involvement with FFA … and it all happened because she said “yes” when asked to join her local FFA chapter in high school. Becky’s story is an excellent reminder that saying yes to opportunities can completely transform the trajectory of your life!
As FFA chapters across the country celebrate FFA week in the coming days, I encourage you to seek out a local FFA chapter and see how you can support and encourage their members and advisor.
Thanks again for joining me for today’s episode of Trailblazing in Agriculture, featuring Becky Fouard. Join me again next time as our journey to highlight trailblazing women in agriculture continues!
Samantha grew up on a commercial cow-calf operation in Montana and has been involved in the agriculture industry her entire life. She has a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a minor in agricultural business from Colorado State University. Her past work experiences have built her skills in account and project management. Her passion for the agriculture industry drives her to help others in the industry reach their business goals.