Editor’s Note: Farm Credit has an active internship program for students who are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture. This series of blogs is written by our 2017 marketing interns, Morgan Figgins and BreAnn Fields. It will be featuring agvocates around our area monthly.
“While being a part of FFA, I have had the opportunity to not only better myself, but those that surround me,” says Hunter Smitley, the current West Virginia FFA Association President. He is a sophomore attending West Virginia University, majoring in agriculture and extension education. After college, Hunter plans to pursue a career as an agriculture teacher in a high school setting and later on down the road, teaching on an international level.
Where his passion began
Although Hunter doesn’t have a family background in agriculture, he found his hidden love and passion for the industry through his father and agriculture teachers, specifically Tyrell Childers. Hunter describes Mr. Childers as the one who has been in his corner and has always been there when he needed him. “When teachers told me about all the options available if I were to enroll in an ag class, that is all I needed to hear,” he states.
Hunter has been involved in 4-H for nine years and FFA for five years. When asked what his favorite part about these programs were, Hunter says, “These programs give everyone the opportunity to better themselves and develop skills they need to achieve what they want in life.” Hunter started showing hogs in 4-H at the age of nine. He and his dad had no prior background with hogs, but knew they wanted to start getting into it. “It is okay to do something you have no background in! These organizations are all about learning and, boy, have my dad and I learned a lot about hogs since I started,” he states.
Opportunities of a lifetime
When Hunter started becoming involved with agriculture, he never realized how much it would become a part of his everyday life. Although that was shocking to him, what he really didn’t realize was the amount of opportunities he would be given, ones that he never imagined he would be able to have. “I have been blessed to have been able to attend the Ohio Leadership Camp, Ohio and West Virginia FFA State Conventions, National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, State Presidents Conference in Washington, D.C., and the National Leadership Conference for State Officers, to name a few,” he says. Being able to travel to these events has allowed Hunter to gain strong public speaking skills and further his knowledge about the agriculture industry.
Learning as you go
“I believe people don’t understand the true magnitude of knowledge that farmers retain in so many areas,” says Hunter. “People think we only go into this industry because we are uneducated and not as intelligent as others, which is definitely not true.” It is no surprise how much information Hunter has gained since he has been a part of this industry. Through his experiences with 4-H and FFA, he has been able to accomplish and learn things he never imagined. “I think these programs are amazing and do a fantastic job at reaching so many children. They are continuing to become more diversified and are combatting against the many misconceptions about the agriculture industry,” he says. Hunter plans on continuing to use the knowledge he has gained to promote this industry as much as possible.