New Kansas State FFA president is ready and willing to serve
By Stuart Estes
“Probably the single best decision I made in high school was joining FFA.”
These words are the sentiment of the 2013-14 Kansas State FFA president, Lindy Bilberry, as she looks back on what brought her to this point. Bilberry is a native of Garden City, Kan., and a recent graduate of Garden City High School.
Along with five other teammates on the state officer team, Bilberry will serve as a leader for the Kansas State FFA for the next year.
“The duties include chapter visits, banquet visits,” Bilberry said. “Just doing whatever we can to promote agricultural education.”
Bilberry said the officer team also participated in training sessions to prepare them for the task at hand, noting the team had just spent time in Iowa at a training session for new state officers.
But this is not the newly elected president’s first leadership position.
“I was our chapter president in Garden City for three years and the southwest district president for two years,” Bilberry said.
During her time in FFA, Bilberry has participated in myriad contests that all served to broaden her agricultural horizons.
“I did every district-level contest there was,” Bilberry said. “I enjoyed all of them.”
Her experience in FFA contests allowed Bilberry to find and polish her skills in her true forte—public speaking.
“I really excelled at public speaking,” Bilberry said, mentioning that she competed in all four areas of public speaking during her high school career.
Competing in contests may have sharpened her skills in certain areas of expertise, but FFA exposed Bilberry to many more ideas and concepts that made it possible for her current presidency.
“Learning how to get out of my comfort zone,” Bilberry said was one of the most valuable things she gained from FFA.
“Definitely learning how to work on a team,” Bilberry said ranked highly on the list of important concepts FFA exposed her to during her career.
While she serves as state president for the next year, Bilberry will also begin attending Kansas State University in the fall, where she will major in agribusiness in the Department of Agricultural Economics.
“I want to be in agriculture,” Bilberry said about her future career aspirations. “I want to be involved in the livestock industry.”
As is the job of a leader, Bilberry sees the problems that are increasingly taking hold in agriculture.
“In this area (southwestern Kansas), I think the biggest problem we face is the drought,” Bilberry said, noting instances of producers that were forced to quit farming and of the need for substantial rains to amend the problem.
On a larger scale, Bilberry pointed to the need for a new generation of producers to succeed the current one as a major problem in agriculture.
“I think a big problem we face is young people coming back,” Bilberry said. She noted that agriculture struggles to get young people interested.
Seeing the problems in agriculture is only half the battle. Fortunately, Bilberry has some ideas about how to solve the problems, particularly about how to bring a new, more youthful generation of producers into the fold.
“Agriculture can be whatever they want it to be,” Bilberry said. “It’s just realizing that.”
Bilberry also sees the technology that continues to shape agriculture as an important draw for young people who may be considering a career in agriculture.
“The innovation is what is going to bring young people back,” Bilberry said.
To those who were instrumental in guiding her to her new position as state president Bilberry was a driven individual who defined her goal early.
“She mentioned as a freshman that she was interested in state office,” said Pat VenJohn, an agricultural education instructor at Garden City High School and one of Bilberry’s FFA advisors.
“We told her to start working on it right then,” VenJohn said.
VenJohn mentioned some of the characteristics he thought greatly aided Bilberry as she ran for state office.
“She loved competition, but was very gracious,” VenJohn said, noting Bilberry was a driven individual, but not so much as to be overbearing.
“I think she’s very genuine,” VenJohn said. “If somebody gave her a suggestion she was always willing to use it.”
Ultimately, it was her caring attitude that VenJohn thought made Bilberry successful.
“She cares about agriculture and her fellow people,” VenJohn said.
For those students who want to be active in FFA or agriculture, Bilberry has some advice.
“Any goal you set is possible if you work toward it,” Bilberry said.
Her personal experience of becoming the Kansas State FFA president taught her this lesson; whereas, her goal since her earliest days in FFA was to become a state officer.
“Now, I’m living my dream,” Bilberry said.
The honor that Bilberry feels because of her new position is strengthened by the support her family and community have shown her.
“I’m really humbled by the outpouring of support from my community,” Bilberry said.
“I’m really thankful for my family,” Bilberry said. “They’ve all done whatever they can to help me.”
In true leadership fashion, Bilberry sees her presidency as more than just a power trip.
“I’m excited to give back,” Bilberry said.
With that spirit of servanthood at the helm, it seems like the Kansas State FFA will enjoy another good year.