September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

FFA: forming leaders, advocates for agriculture

Winona chapter to host 75th anniversary celebration Dec. 4
Memorabilia, such as the chapter’s official charter document, will be on display at the 75th anniversary celebration. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
Memorabilia, such as the chapter’s official charter document, will be on display at the 75th anniversary celebration. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA

By by Krista [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

WINONA, Minn. - Although 35 years separate their high school experiences, Roger Aldinger and his daughter, Hannah, share one experience in an organization that bridges the years - FFA.
Both have been a part of the Winona FFA chapter, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a gathering from noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Winona Senior High School Commons in Winona, Minn.
"We felt 75 years is pretty worthy of celebrating something and is quite an accomplishment," said Roger, who milks 65 cows on his farm near Winona, Minn.
While Roger has been a part of the alumni group for four years and is currently president, Hannah is a senior in high school and a current member of the Winona FFA chapter.
The alumni group has been planning the celebration for the past year.
"We're hoping to get as many people there as possible, especially past members or friends of the FFA. We will have tables with memorabilia - old photos, scrapbooks and awards. We hope people want to show up, share stories of the past and talk about the old times," Roger said.
At 2 p.m., there will be a presentation starting with an opening ceremony, like the one done at FFA meetings. Past members will play a part in this, including the president of the chapter in the late 1940s. There will also be a video featuring past members talking about their FFA experience and an open mic session where anyone in attendance can share a story or a favorite memory of their time in the organization.
"We're hoping it's going to be a fun day," Roger said.
The Winona FFA became an official chapter on Dec. 4, 1941. On display at the event will be the charter signed by the original members, many of whom still have family members in the area.
Roger was involved in FFA from his sophomore to senior year in high school from the fall of 1979 to the spring of 1982. During that time, he served as sentinel and president. He also participated on the dairy judging, farm management and soils teams.
"We didn't start a soils team until my senior year," Roger said. "It was fun. We threw a team together at the last minute and went to an invitational. We were dead last. It was horrible. A week after we went to the regional contest and finished first. We went on to state and finished third. I thought it was really cool."
Roger said FFA was an important part of his high school experience.
"I had heard good things about it and I was interested in pursuing farming after school. At that time FFA was more an agriculture thing so I thought it would be a good thing to join," he said.
The chapter had about 40 members with half of them being active during Roger's years in FFA. Most of the members were boys and 80 percent lived on farms.
Hannah's FFA experience has been different. Although the chapter is about the same size as when her dad was in school, it encourages non-farm kids to become members.
"It's turning more towards leadership," Hannah said. "You don't have to live on a farm to be in FFA. It's more about leadership, all the opportunities, being able to volunteer and help the community."
Girls are also a strong presence in the chapter. Seven out of the past eight Winona FFA presidents have been girls, and many have served as other officers.
"It goes so much farther than agriculture. You get to know yourself and it helps to build special relationships with other chapter members, to help you grow," Hannah said.
It wasn't always Hannah's intention to join the organization.
"Dad made me join. I wasn't a fan at first. Once I got into high school, I opened up more. I'm not afraid to speak in front of people and I think FFA helped me come out of my shell and be a better leader for sure. I really enjoy it," she said.
Two years ago, Hannah served as the chapter historian and throughout her six years in the organization has been actively involved in all chapter activities. During the summer, the chapter members ride in parades and operate a petting zoo. They also volunteer their time to work their malt stand during Winona's Steamboat Days.
"It was very exhausting because we worked 12-hour shifts each day, but it was fun being with other people in our chapter. It was a lot of work, but it was really rewarding," Hannah said.
Another big volunteer opportunity is the Winona County Old Settler's Association Banquet. Their chapter also adopts a highway to pick up the trash from the ditches, holds a bowling tournament, organizes a donkey basketball game, operates a fruit sale, puts together a talent show and has fun with a taco eating contest.
"I love the volunteer work. It's so rewarding," Hannah said.
Both Hannah and Roger attribute part of the success of their chapter to the current advisor, Brian Sather, who has been with Winona FFA for 35 years.
"He's so dedicated. He spends so much time on FFA," Roger said. "That's where it all starts. If you don't have a strong advisor, FFA won't thrive. You need that person to organize and push people."
But each of them also realizes it takes a team of people to make the chapter grow strong and turns the organization into a group of friends.
"There are a lot of friendships that I established 35 years ago, and I'm still friends with these people. Some of them I haven't seen in many years so I'm hoping they show up. It would be fun to see them and find out what they've done with their lives after the last few decades," Roger said.
The Aldingers hope they can honor the Winona FFA chapter's members at their upcoming celebration.
"It's a really big accomplishment for us as a chapter," Hannah said. "I hope it keeps going for years to come."[[In-content Ad]]


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