A New Kind of Leadership

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Show Notes

Emma Musser State Chaplain 2020-2021 PA State Officer

Summary

On this episode of the Farm Credit AgVocates Podcast, we interview Emma Musser, Pennsylvania State FFA officer. Emma will share her perspective through the eyes of a young FFA leader. She will share her journey of becoming a state officer, what this experience means to her and her creative opportunity to serve the future of agriculture.

In this episode, you will learn about the importance of National FFA Week and the efforts Pennsylvania FFA has organized to celebrate the memorable week.

Links

FFA

Pennsylvania FFA

National FFA Week

FFA Creed

The Big E

Eastern States Exposition

Pennsylvania FFA YouTube

Transcript

 Johanna Rohrer:

Welcome to the Farm Credit AgVocates podcast. I'm your host Joanna Rohrer, Marketing Specialist at MidAtlantic Farm Credit. Today's guest is Emma Musser from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Emma currently serves as the State Chaplain on the 2020-21 Pennsylvania FFA State Officer Team. Emma began serving in her role since June. The Pennsylvania FFA Officer Team consists of seven young agricultural leaders serving over 13,000 members across the state. In her role, she is responsible for representing the organization at numerous industry functions, assisting with workshops and conferences, but more importantly, she is known for speaking up for agriculture and inspiring others to become young leaders. Emma earned her FFA Keystone degree and was a member of the 2018 Pennsylvania 4-H Livestock Judging Team. Emma's passion for speaking up for agriculture runs deep in her roots, along with her passion for art.

Please help me welcome Emma to the podcast. Hi Emma.

Emma Musser:

Hi Johanna. Thanks so much for having me on the podcast today.

Johanna Rohrer:

I wanted to just start out and ask for you to give us your 30 second elevator pitch for FFA.

What is FFA and why is it so awesome?

Emma Musser:

FFA is a student led organization whose mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. I think FFA is awesome because it takes your classroom instruction combined with a project you have outside of school and then your whole FFA experience and just combines into an experience unlike any other experience you’ll have in your life.

Johanna Rohrer:

We know FFA is the combination of in-classroom instruction, but also that hands-on learning approach, as well as, developing your leadership potential over time. I know you grew up in the Elizabethtown FFA chapter as a high school student. 

Did you serve in any leadership roles during those years in high school?

Emma Musser:

I loved FFA. My dad was in the program and my sister went through the program. When I was a freshmen, I was quick to join the Elizabethtown FFA chapter. Then, I was allowed to run for an officer position and I served as a Reporter that year. My junior and senior years, I was fortunate to serve as the President of the Elizabethtown FFA program. I kind of worked my way up the program and really had a lot of ideas that I was able to develop as I served as President those final two years. Outside of the FFA scene, I was active in the Lancaster County 4-H clubs. I served as Swine Club President and Beef Club President, among many different office positions throughout the years. My final positions, I was president in both of those clubs.

I was also active in the Lancaster County FFA program.

Where I come from each school and our County has their own FFA program. We then bring all those schools together to have a whole Lancaster County FFA program. In the Lancaster County FFA program, I served as Sentinel and Secretary. I was fortunate to serve in a lot of different leadership positions, but I also had some out of school activities. I was involved in Bible Club and I also square danced.  I really enjoyed square dancing. I did it with my cousins and we performed each year at the PA Farm Show.  I did hold a lot of leadership positions, but I also was able to have some fun.

Johanna Rohrer:

Wow, that sounds like such an amazing resume of leadership opportunities and positions that you were able to serve in. That brings me to thinking about what made you want to run for a State FFA Office? Obviously, here in the state of Pennsylvania, you get nominated through a nominating process, as you're interested in running for State Office.

What made you consider to run for State Office?

Emma Musser:

This is a really tough question. Like I said earlier, I was super involved in the Elizabethtown FFA program and I truly loved each moment that I got to spend in my blue jacket in that program.  I loved it a lot because my older sister, she was two years ahead of me in school and she had really paved the road for me to find success. She really left big footsteps for me to fill, but I was fortunate to follow her path. Once she graduated, I was able to lead my younger sister in the FFA program. That family time and being able to spend time with my sisters, both doing something we were all passionate about was super important to me and something I really cherished. Running for state office, I was just excited for the opportunity to leave the walls of Elizabethtown FFA and the Lancaster County FFA and reach a much bigger platform that I could influence over 13,000 members. It was not something I'd really considered my first couple of years of high school, but into my junior and senior year, my advisors were super encouraging to me. They really thought it was something I would be good at and something they really encouraged me to pursue. One moment in particular that really solidified my thoughts and running for State Office was a friendship I had made my senior year. I took an Agriculture Mechanics course, something super outside my comfort zone. I was actually the only girl in the class. I had become friends with this sophomore FFA member. It was a friendship that was truly meaningful to me and touched me in a lot of different ways. He was a student that wasn't really good book-wise; he was more of that hands-on kind of guy. He began to fail in school, his girlfriend had broken up with him and he was just going through a really hard time.  I loved being able to be there for him to encourage him, to help him get out of his rough patch. It was after our banquet got canceled in May that he reached out to me and sent me this really, really amazing message about how I had really impacted his life and how he really appreciated me being there for him, and how I had inspired him to be involved in FFA and to get involved in agriculture and be a part of the community and a part of the industry. That message to me was so amazing and so thoughtful. I thought if I can make that impact on one FFA member, I can't wait to see how the Lord's going to use me on a platform like the State Office. That was kind of the defining moment that made me say, okay, I want to do this. I want each FFA member to feel the way that my friend felt in Ag Mechanics.

Johanna Rohrer:

What a good reminder for all of us to think about challenging ourselves to take that next step, but also for you, having that moment to be able to reflect and say “I know that I was able to impact one person's life in a positive way, and now I'm ready to take the next step and try to do it with more people.”  To have that ambition to not only put yourself out there and to try for State Office, that's such a great story. I really appreciate you sharing that.

You shared a little bit about your agricultural education classes. We've heard that you took an Ag Mechanics class, which kudos to you because that is something that I did not do in FFA and I mildly looked back on the years and wish that I had. I wanted to kind of shift gears a little bit. We know that FFA, one of the fundamentals is agricultural education classes, but the other side of it is what we call FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience’s or commonly said is SAE’s.

I'm curious which ones [SAEs] you participated in and which one was your favorite?

Emma Musser:

I was involved in three different SAE projects. I had goat entrepreneurship, which was basically raising and showing goats, swine entrepreneurship and beef entrepreneurship. My Supervised Agricultural Experiences were mostly to do with livestock. It was raising them and then preparing them to show at my local and state fairs. My favorite SAE project was my beef entrepreneurship project. I actually first began showing pigs in 4-H. I love showing pigs. It was so fun, but I always was interested in big beef. Showing market steers was something that really intrigued me. I was in sixth grade when I got my first market steer and it was a project that I fell in love with. Steers can be very tricky and very temperamental. You never know how they're going to react to certain things, but I was fortunate to have very tame ones. I spent a lot of time getting them to that point, but when they were tame, they were so sweet and I had them for about a year. My connection with them was much stronger than it ever was with my pigs. Beef entrepreneurship was definitely my favorite. It taught me a lot of things and I learned how to work hard. I had my own checking account. I remember I went to the bank when I was 16 and they said I was not old enough to have a checking account, but we fought for it and I was able to actually get one. I was writing checks, balancing that checkbook, which is something that is useful to me now and something that I will definitely continue to use in my future.

I also loved, and this is probably my favorite part; I know I talked about the connection with the animals, but I was able to raise livestock alongside my sisters and cousins. I didn't grow up on a farm. My dad grew up on a broiler chicken farm, but we moved off the farm. I was fortunate because I got to keep my livestock at my grandparents farm, where my dad grew up, but that's about 10 minutes away from my house. I didn't get that on-the-farm experience, but I did it in a different way. Getting to do that alongside my sisters and cousins made me feel like I grew up on a farm, but it was great to have that experience with them, to spend that time with them, and to build such close-knit relationships with them is something I will always cherish.

Johanna Rohrer:

I think back to the first time that I met your family and I met your older sister, Maddie, when she first started showing pigs in Lancaster County. I'm a little bit older than you Emma, so I had the opportunity to watch you grow up showing livestock here in Lancaster County. I have to say, when you're talking about family time with your SAE projects, I can totally relate to that because some of my best memories with my family was with my brother. My older brother showing livestock, and then going to shows with my family and having all of that time invested in our livestock projects. It takes a lot of dedication and it's a lot of hard work to do that really, really well. Thank you so much for sharing that. I think SAEs are such an important component of FFA because they help students and members get that application part of their project. You talked about getting your checking account, writing checks, being able to budget, doing your inventory and your record keeping; those are all skills that I learned at FFA and now I use them today in my career. There are many important life skills that you learned through those projects. It's not always about the livestock. It's more about the application of the project and the life lessons that you're learning.

The other side of FFA, we know that the FFA organization hosts agricultural science, food, fiber, and natural resource Career Development Events, or what we call CDE’s.

I'm curious what CDE’s you participated in. What's your favorite? Let's talk about that a little bit.

Emma Musser:

Career development events are a great way to get involved in the FFA program and they provide some incredible opportunities. I was actually more involved in the leadership development side of things. FFA has those career development events, but we also have Leadership Development Event’s, which is like job interview and public speaking. The first Leadership Development Event I ever competed in was Creed Speaking.  I was a little freshman doing the FFA Creed by E.M. Tiffany. Like I said earlier, my sister really just paved the way for me. She actually competed in this exact contest. When she was going through it, all I ever heard was the FFA Creed, her and my dad would say it all the time. I knew as a freshman in high school that I wanted to do the FFA Creed, and this was my favorite. It just means so much to me because it opened a lot of doors for me. As a freshmen. I was scared, I was nervous and I didn't really know what FFA was. I knew I wanted to be there, but I didn't really know what I was doing. The creed just gave me an opportunity to be successful, to try something new, and to discover a talent that I had.  I didn't really know I was good at public speaking until I was very successful in the Creed. That opened the door for me to then compete in junior prepared public speaking, and eventually senior prepared public speaking. In senior prepared public speaking, you memorize a six to eight minute speech, and then you present that in front of a panel of judges. I was fortunate to place second in the state. Then I got to go to the Big E in Massachusetts, the Eastern States Exposition. That was just a very cool opportunity for me to experience. It was awesome to spend time with my advisors and a few other members in my chapter and get to go to a state I've never been to before. I had never been to Massachusetts or the New England area. It was so beautiful and so fun. The Creed had really opened my eyes and opened many doors for me to be successful. It was definitely the thing that got me too senior prepared and got me to experience that great opportunity.

Johanna Rohrer:

Public speaking is not an easy thing to do, but you obviously are very skilled in the subject matter.

Do you think that those experiences will help maybe guide you into a future career or future interest that you might have?

Emma Musser:

Whatever I end up doing I would love if public speaking could be a component of that because it is something that I've really come to love and enjoy. It sounds kind of crazy because it is kind of a scary and daunting task, but it is something I would definitely love to do in my future career, if that's possible.

Johanna Rohrer:

You talked a little bit about traveling. You challenged yourself to compete at a bigger level with senior prepared public speaking, so that gave you the opportunity to travel and maybe see some new places that you hadn't been to before. You also get the opportunity to travel some in your role as a State FFA Officer. I know this year hasn't been normal, so you're creating some virtual chapter visits as well, along with some other virtual experiences for the students here in Pennsylvania.

Would you share one of your most memorable experiences engaging with the student members here in the state?

Emma Musser:

You mentioned that this year looks very different than years before and it totally does. It's had it seasons of disappointment for me. I've had times where I'm just comparing to the past couple of years and wondering why my year doesn't look like that, but I know that I'm here for a reason and that I’m meant to be on this team this year for a reason. That just gives me a lot of hope. I've also had a lot of moments where I've been reassured that this is where I meant to be, and this is where the Lord wants me. Those have been such blessings throughout this year because the disappointment pairs with these awesome, eye-opening blessings, and it's been a year of growth and a year of learning. Something I've really enjoyed and one of my favorite experiences actually came towards the beginning of the year. My teammate and I got to drive four hours away to go to Otto-Eldred High School, which is in McKean County. We traveled pretty far, but Otto-Eldred had just started their FFA program this year. We were getting to go talk to students who really had no idea what FFA was. It was intimidating for me to have to share all that FFA is with these kids, but they were so engaged. Their eyeballs were glued to us the whole day. They were so fascinated with what FFA was and all they could do. It was just one of those experiences that just filled me and excited me because this group of kids might not have gotten the opportunity to be a part of FFA. They're just starting a new program so they get to experience something that is so beneficial to our youth and they are so excited. I know that they're at kind of a disadvantage because starting new and starting from scratch can be difficult. But if you have that passion, if you have that interest, they're going to go very far. Spending time with those students, getting to speak to them about something that I love and that I'm passionate about and having it be received so well and with so much interest and with so much excitement was something that I'll remember for the rest of my life. I just love the connection that I've made with them. I still try and stay connected with them over social media. This was definitely one of my all-time favorite visits and something that I was blessed to do.

Johanna Rohrer:

That is awesome that you were able to be a part of their first FFA experience and also for you to realize how important that moment is, not only to you, but also to them, because it's the start to their FFA experience.

What does being a leader mean to you? In your role as a State FFA Officer, you are in a leadership role. What does that mean to you?

Emma Musser:

I actually got asked this when I was running for State Office. One of the members in the nominating committee asked me if I thought that leadership came with a title or position. This was something I had never really thought about. Something that I've come to learn and understand that being in a position of leadership or having a title of leadership means a lot. It’s a lot of pressure and it requires a lot of perseverance and character, but I've also learned that leadership doesn't come. You don't have to have a position or a title to be a leader. As a sister, I lead my younger sibling. As an employee, I can inspire the people who are older than me or younger than me. In every area of my life, I can bring that leadership component and I can show others, and encourage others, and take that leadership responsibility. That’s something I've come to understand and learn. As I'm in this position of leadership, I think it is important more than ever to stay passionate about what I'm doing. This year is so hard and I feel for all the students across Pennsylvania who are learning virtually, who are missing out on so many great opportunities, who got their Keystone and weren't able to attend Midwinter Convention at the PA Farm Show, and who zipped up their jacket for the first time and didn't get to do it in a room full of people. It's hard for me, but I know it's harder for them. That's something that I'm coming to learn and understand that while I'm in this position of leadership, I just have to remain passionate and remember why I'm here, why I'm doing this and I'm doing it for the members. I think that being a leader is being someone that these students can look up to and see positivity, happiness, and joy in, even though this year is full of so much less than what we anticipated.

Johanna Rohrer:

Yes, this year has challenged so many of us in different ways. You're definitely not alone, but what a cool way to talk about leadership and to reflect on the responsibility that you've been given in your leadership role. You're exactly right, leadership can mean so many different things to different people, and you have the opportunity to be that role model and that good influence. I always talk a lot about trying to be a good influence to my colleagues that I work with or to the industry partners that I get the privilege to have a relationship with or with my family. Being a good person and being able to contribute to the betterment of my community is really important.

Emma, we're going to transition over to National FFA Week with a new question. National FFA Week is coming up February 20th to the 27th. For those of you who don't know, National FFA Week is a time for FFA members to host activities that will raise awareness about the role FFA plays in the development of agriculture's future leaders and the importance of agricultural education.

What plans does the FFA have in place to help promote the week?

Emma Musser:

Pennsylvania FFA during National FFA Week is planning to do virtual and in-person visits. We sent out a sign-up sheet to teachers and they can choose to have us come in person, which we would love to do, but also if that's not an option because of COVID and all the restrictions, we're also offering a virtual platform. We are more than excited to spend some time with our chapter, whether that's in-person or virtual. Talking with them, chatting with them, either giving a speech or running a workshop. We're excited to see how they're celebrating National FFA Week and spending some time with them. We're also planning to release chapter challenges each day. Each day of the week we'll have a challenge for our chapters to complete and then hopefully we can offer a prize at the end of the week for those that did each challenge and then enter them into a drawing. We're still in some of those planning stages for other things that we want to do, but we're really taking advantage of this virtual platform. In years past, we couldn't visit as many chapters during National FFA Week as we can this year because of the virtual platform. We are engaging more members, more people, and more classrooms. We're super excited to visit with everyone and to celebrate National FFA Week together.

Johanna Rohrer:

When you put on your blue and gold jacket, what are you most proud about?

Emma Musser:

When I put on my blue and gold jacket, I'm very proud to be a part of the future of agriculture. Through COVID-19, this whole quarantine, and this season of life that we're in, we have learned that agriculture is such an essential business. When more people are understanding that their food doesn't come from the back of the grocery store or any part of the grocery store, it comes from farms. I think that just being a part of an essential industry that feeds, that clothes, that provides for so many people, is something that makes me so proud that when I zip up my blue and gold jacket, I just can't help but to smile that I get to be a part of agriculture. I've found my place in the industry. I just pray and I hope that each member who zips up their jacket and puts that blue and gold on that they can see that they are part of something so much greater than just themselves or their FFA chapter or Pennsylvania FFA. They are a part of agriculture. I pray that each person can find their place, find their passion and learn and grow from the FFA and from the agriculture industry.

Johanna Rohrer:

I think there are a lot of us out there that are FFA member alumni that are now able to say, we work in the community and we once wore that jacket too. It may have been a few years ago, but the organization just plays such a huge role on building the leadership and also the skillset of future young leaders that are going to come back and lead the agricultural industry and also be huge components of our communities.

I know that you have equal passion for both art and agriculture. I'm curious how you use that talent to influence your contribution to your community?

Emma Musser:

I love this question. Art and agriculture are definitely my biggest passions. I've had many opportunities to combine them, which is something, so special to me. One way that I really use my art talent was this summer. Our fair was canceled, so we got together with a group of livestock parents and community members and we put on this Old Line Youth Livestock Exposition. It was really cool to see all these people come together in my community for the youth who are showing livestock for the future of agriculture. I loved it so much. It just made me so excited and made me so proud of where I come from and who I'm surrounded with and who I get to work with.

I was fortunate to serve on this board of directors. On this board, we had people who were doing our financials. We had people who were more secretary positions who were getting everything in line and preparing for this show. It was so cool to see all these people use their strengths to come together and put on this livestock exposition. I was fortunate to use my strength of art. I got to design our t-shirts and our logo.  I also got to design the banners that were awarded to our champions and champion showman. Using my art combined with my passion and my Supervised Agriculture Experience of showing these livestock and raising these livestock was something I really never thought would happen. It was so cool to watch that all come together.

I also have used my art recently in this past week, I've had two student teachers reach out to me. They're both starting a blog and they wanted a logo to go along with it.  I was fortunate to be able to design that for them, so they can use it in their classroom and they can use on their blog to promote agriculture. That's another great way I've used my art. I also love to paint. I love to paint steers, cattle and livestock. It has just really cool to be able to combine my passion for agriculture, with my love for art.

Johanna Rohrer:

Do you think being creative during this particular time has helped you to serve the FFA members during the pandemic?

Emma Musser:

Most definitely.  I would say if we're going to be creative, now's the time to be creative. My director has told our team throughout this whole year that the book that we spent 90 years writing is out the window and we are rewriting it from scratch. We have a blank book and we get to write our own story, which is something that frustrates me sometimes. I get angry that I have to be the one to rewrite it, but it's also an incredible opportunity to do new things and to inspire our members in different ways and to connect with them in different ways. It's been a crazy opportunity to get that experience. I think being creative now, thinking outside the box and thinking how we are going to engage our 13,000 members and how we do that well has been a challenge, but also has been important. As the State Officer team we have released two series called “Inside the Jacket” on our Pennsylvania FFA YouTube channel. Our teachers have been showing these in the classroom to our students, and we also have a worksheet to go along with each video. We are pushing content for these teachers to use in their classroom because as hard as this year is for us, it's also really hard for our teachers. They're struggling in the exact same ways we are; how they are going to engage their students and keep their students passionate about agriculture education. “Inside the Jacket” is a great way to involve students and teachers to be able to aid our teachers in some content. Social media has been super important. I've gotten to use my love for graphics and art to work on our social media and to push posts out that keep our members informed about what we're doing and excited. It's been super fun. It's been a challenge to be creative, but a challenge that I have really enjoyed.

Johanna Rohrer:

I love the visual about how you have the opportunity to literally write a new book. Sometimes that's such a daunting task. I wish there was a playbook that could help me through this process, but deep down, you're sitting there and you're getting to create a moment that someone hasn't thought of in the past. It's nice to see you being able to use one of your strengths and to be able to create this experience for the rest of the FFA members across the state.

What do you think will come next in your journey after serving as a State Officer?

Emma Musser:

This is such a hard question. I have really been thinking hard about this probably since well before I graduated high school about what comes next for me. I've really enjoyed this gap year in between high school and college that I've used to serve Pennsylvania FFA. It's been truly a wonderful experience and I'm excited to take all these things that I've learned and all these strengths I have developed into the next season of my life, which I think is going to be attending Penn State. I want to go for Ag Science and minor in Marketing and Communications. Something I've learned that I love and enjoy is social media and making graphics. It doesn't come as natural to me as painting or drawing. It takes me a little bit more time, but it's also something that I think I would really enjoy whether that's making ads, designing ads or running social media for a company, or maybe even video editing. I think those are all really fun things and I'd love to continue to pair my love for art with my love for agriculture. Hopefully those two can come together effortlessly into a career.

Johanna Rohrer:

That's an awesome way to look at your future, leave the doors open. Coming from one marketing professional to another young person thinking about getting into the communication field in agriculture, it's such a great opportunity to combine your passion for art and also the communication piece. Those public speaking skills will never leave you. It's such a great opportunity. I have one sign off question for today for you. Emma, we always signed off all of our podcasts this way.

What do you advocate for in agriculture?

Emma Musser:

In agriculture I advocate for the next generation of agriculturists. Being in this position of State Office has gave me such a platform and such an opportunity to advocate for this next generation, for the future of our industry. I am so excited to see the ways that this year has shaped our membership and shape this next group of people who are going to be entering the industry. If anything it has showed us that we are resilient and that we can persevere. Agriculture is so essential and that it's worth getting our hands dirty. I'm just super excited to see where this next generation takes us and where the future is. The future of technology and the future of efficiency. I am just so excited to be in the industry that I love to continue to advocate for it, to continue to speak out for the opportunities that agricultural holds and to continue to influence that next generation.

Johanna Rohrer:

We always talk about how the future is with our youth and in this industry, I’m a firm believer of that. I think our FFA program does an outstanding job at building our future leaders to help lead the organization that both you and I have grown to be so passionate about over the last few years. I thank you for your time today Emma, you did an outstanding job.

I just want to remind everybody that today over a half million students across the U.S. are engaged in a wide range of agricultural education activities leading to over 300 career opportunities in agricultural science, food, fiber, and natural resources. For more information about National FFA Week visit FFA.org, and remember to check out your local virtual FFA chapter celebrations next week to join in on the fun.

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