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FFA members shine at state conference

Article cover photo
Rebekah Sletten, ISA Soy Squad member and senior at Iowa State University, chats with FFA members at the Iowa FFA Leadership Conference Career Show. (Photo: Lauren Houska/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist

Spring is a time of celebration for many Iowa high school students, from prom to graduation — and for thousands of FFA members, the Iowa FFA Leadership Conference. 

More than 5,600 FFA members, advisors and guests gathered in Ames this week for the 91st Iowa FFA Leadership Conference. FFA members passionate about the future of agriculture participated in competitions, programs and fun activities to hone their skills and celebrate agriculture. 

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) took part in the conference held at Iowa State University (ISU). The ISA Producer Services team and ISU Soy Squad volunteers connected with FFA members at an exhibit booth at the Career Show. 

“For the students who want to return to the farm or hope to start their own, this is an opportunity to create positive connections early on and let them know we are a resource for them,” said Carrie Kelly, ISA Producer Services regional coordinator. 

“For those who aren’t necessarily considering farming, it’s still a fantastic opportunity to showcase the work ISA does and let them know we are a great source of agricultural information,” Kelly continued. 

Happy pigs eat soybeans

Visitors to the ISA booth were greeted with facts and food. Since Iowa soybean farmers’ customers are “real pigs,” FFA members were encouraged to step up and mix their own symbolic feed ration.

A bag of popcorn represented the corn found in pig feed, while roasted soynuts represented soybean meal. Goldfish crackers, chocolate chips and marshmallows rounded out the rations, representing oats, vitamins and minerals.

The ISA team explained that one in five rows of soybeans are fed to the pigs raised right here in Iowa. On average, one hog consumes approximately 9 to 10 bushels of corn and 100 pounds of soybean meal from birth to a market weight of 275 pounds.

As students mixed and snacked, the ISA team took the opportunity to chat with students about ISA, Iowa agriculture and their plans for the future.

Members of the East Sac FFA chapter mix their feed rations at the ISA booth in the Career Show. (Photo: Lauren Houska/Iowa Soybean Association)

People, places and possibilities

“Right now, I’m learning a lot about the breeding of crops like soybeans,” said Madison Stevenson, a sophomore at Roland-Story. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what I want to do in my career. I want to explore all my possibilities and FFA helps me do that.” 

Iowa is home to 15,400 FFA members from 242 local chapters. Meeting new people, visiting new places and developing career skills and opportunities were frequent answers among FFA members who visited the ISA booth when asked about their favorite part of FFA. 

Camber Herrig, a senior at East Sac County, says she’s considering a career in journalism and might be interested in writing about agricultural topics. 

“It’s important to have people communicating about agriculture, but also important that people not directly involved in agriculture have agricultural knowledge,” she said. “FFA has helped me gain that knowledge, no matter what career I decide on.” 

Kara Wilkens-Reiman, a senior at East Sac County, agreed, adding that FFA has helped her develop skills that will be beneficial in any career. 

“Through all the activities within FFA, I’ve gained skills like leadership and public speaking that will help me in my future career,” she said. “I’m considering dermatology, but I can still use my skills and background knowledge to be an advocate for agriculture in that field.”

Contact Lauren Houska at

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