Dylan Westfall is not your traditional Future Farmers of America student — if there is such a thing.
The Hermiston High School senior’s path to FFA state office has been unconventional, but Westfall is excited to take the role. At a statewide FFA convention in Redmond last weekend, Westfall was elected vice president for the FFA state officer team.
“I didn’t join for the ‘right reasons,’” Westfall said. “I had no agricultural background prior to sophomore year.”
He said he took his first FFA class simply with the intention of completing one of the programs of study that Hermiston High School offers. But through attending some of the required events, Westfall found himself wanting to come back, and soon took on leadership roles such as chapter and district officer.
“I kind of fell in love with FFA,” he said.
Westfall and the five other students elected to state office, all current high school seniors, will spend the next year going to leadership trainings and visiting every school in the state with an FFA chapter to teach students about the program.
The students were elected after being selected from a pool of 24 hopefuls, following a rigorous, three-day session of multiple interviews and tests, both theoretical and practical.
Finalists for the spots had to give a speech to their peers. Westfall got some laughs with his.
“My speech theme was, ‘How I’m like your favorite underwear,’” he said. “I’m supportive, I’m relatable and I’m reliable. I used it to relate to everyone, because everyone wears it, but I also used it to relate back to me.”
Hermiston FFA teacher Leah Smith said the last time Hermiston had a state officer was 12 years ago.
The officers have all agreed to defer college for a year in order to serve in the positions.
Smith said officers don’t get paid for their roles, but the state FFA organization reimburses them for things like food and travel, and the experience gives them a better shot at scholarships at agriculture-focused colleges.
Westfall said he’s looking forward to learning about all aspects of the agriculture industry, from farming to communications, and helping students understand that FFA is not limited to people who only come from farming backgrounds.
Westfall himself is interested in majoring in ag communications.
“I don’t have a ton of knowledge on farming,” he said. “I have more of the leadership experience, and how to advocate for ag on social media.”
He said he’s become passionate about dispelling inaccurate information about the industry that he feels often circulates.
He said because farmers are so busy with the physical demands of running an operation, they often don’t have the ability to advocate for themselves.
“As agriculturalists, we have to learn how to not slander other people, but defend ourselves,” he said.
One area where he’s observed issues, he said, is with the dairy industry.
“Dairy prices are so low right now,” he said. “Everyone thinks dairy cattle are being tortured. There are some (farms) that don’t do the right thing, but most are.”
He said many people who bear that misconception are going away from dairy, which is impacting the industry in Oregon.
“It’s hard for them to come back from that,” he said.
Smith said that while Westfall asked for help where necessary, he was largely self-motivated in preparing for the role.
“He made his own success,” Smith said.
Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at 541-564-4534 or firstname.lastname@example.org