All I ever wanted to be was a farmer.
I grew up on a farm, and that’s not just a cliché.
I was born in 1968 and my dad started running the Pitts Farm in 1969.
It was all I ever knew.
Dad ran the farm like it was his own, the whole thing looked like a park and they were the best apples and cherries and peaches. He was a great farmer and a smart businessman, not much of salesmen, but amazing for a guy who stopped going to school in the 8th grade. He was the business manager and HR department and public relations officer and shipping clerk, all those things that farmers have to be that no one ever thinks about. And it was so cool, that’s what I wanted to do.
I remember driving my little toy tractor, pulling a little toy plow around a radish patch I had in the front yard.
I remember being a little bigger and riding my John Deere pedal tractor around the yard pulling a wagon that I had laid a garbage can in to make it my spray rig. Back and forth, across the yard, just like dad with his big tractor in the orchard.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table with dad as he went over his spray records in a big binder. I made my own note book, where I drew pictures of plows and discs and drags and explained how you used them in that order to get ready to plant apple trees. I was trying to show my dad that I was ready to work on the farm.
I remember being there when they planted apple orchards and what an exciting time it was. My dad and his brothers where there along with my grandfather and some other old timers. The rows had to be perfect, “so you could shoot the whole row with a rifle at once”
I remember riding on my dad’s lap on the old Ford Major as he pushed brush or pulled a sprayer putting Etherol on the Wealthys and Early Macs. I remember how he could split an apple in half with his hands.
I remember picking up rocks, lots of rocks.
I remember my dad's best friend seemed to be a man who brought his family to pick apples every fall, he didn't work for my dad, he worked with my dad. And even though his family had darker skin than mine and lived in Florida or on the road following crops, they became our family too.
When I got older, I learned how to drive tractor myself. I learned how to mow an orchard, and weed spray and cultivate. I learned how pick apples and cherries and thin peaches and load trucks. Learned how to drive a stick shift on a dump truck and plow a field almost straight. I didn't learn how to trim apple trees; I just knew how to do it. It’s something you can’t learn that, you either know it or you don’t. I think it’s a recessive trait, like blue eyes.
And then when I was in high school I learned something real important.
A good thing doesn't last forever.
I got home from school one day, and my dad didn't have a job anymore. For some reason, Mr. Pitts decided he didn't want to farm with my dad anymore. The only job I’d ever know for my dad and the place I’d grown up on wasn't there anymore. At 59 years old, my dad was out of a job. My brother and he signed up for unemployment. The people at the office couldn't believe that my dad hadn’t been unemployed since 1945.
Dad wasn’t out of work long, another farm owner knew a good thing when he saw it and hired my dad to work for him on his farm. And summers and after school, he hired me too, and I learned some more.
But dad had learned too. He’d learned he worked too hard for too long to make money for other people and to make their farms look good. He didn't want that for me. I had forgot a little of that little boy on dad's lap steering the Major, and thought I wanted to be a school teacher. I went to college, dad paid my way, and I tried teaching a little, and then got a great job at a company that helps teachers. I got to learn more, and see the country and even work with Ag teachers.
Dad finally retired a few years ago, now he’s 87. He has 8 acres of apples and peaches that someone else takes care of, while he takes care of mom. And we still talk about farming. We go for drives to look at orchards and see what’s new, and what’s getting old.
I have a good job that pays well and I have a nice cubical, with a nice computer monitor and no windows and no fresh air. I send e-mails and text messages and voice mails and talk on the phone. I'm stuck indoors, but I do get to help teachers daily, some of them Ag teachers with dreams of farming themselves.
I’ll be 45 this May, 3 years older than my dad when he started farming. I wish I was as brave as him. But there’s not too many apple farmers hiring desk jockeys and I can’t afford to buy my own. Maybe I could start my own business, and do something in the Ag industry and build it up so I could afford a farm.
Or maybe I’ll just man my desk for another 30 years and get a nice send off some day, but right now, I’ve got kids to get into college and a mortgage and bills to pay.
I’ll plant a nice garden this spring, and grow some radishes, and do what I can to help Ag teachers and farmers whenever I can, and dream about fresh dirt and straight rows, and diesel fumes and fresh off the tree apples.
It’s the best I can do for now, and it’s a pretty nice dream.
All I ever wanted to be was a farmer.
Professional and Technical Services Manager
Tim Montondo has been with Ward's Science/VWR for over 22 years. With a bachelor's degree in Biology and Secondary Education from SUNY Oswego, Tim's talents and contributions have ranged from growing bugs and managing Ward's Live Materials and Assembly Departments, to sourcing and evaluating new products and managing Biology product lines in our science education catalogs. Tim is currently the Professional & Technical Support Manager and uses his many talents, experience, and interpersonal skills to help teachers find answers to all types of questions concerning our products and services. He also oversees Ag Science products and does workshops for Ag Teachers every chance he can.
Ward's Science is a Career Development Event (CDE) sponsor for the New York FFA Foundation. The funds they contribute help agricultural students get closer to experience agriculture as a possible profession and career.
To All Partners in Agricultural Education,
Attached is a newsletter from the State Officer Team. This is being done as an added value activity from what used to be simply district newsletters. Not only can students see content from their district but they can see what students across the state are doing.
Please print out a copy of this newsletter for sharing. It includes information about upcoming events and past successes. If you have information you’d like included in future issues you can contact your district president or email the line officers directly at email@example.com. They’d be thrilled to feature your students and events.
Thanks for helping to distribute this to your students and supporters!
New York FFA Executive Secretary
Youth Program Specialist
FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
The National Postsecondary Agricultural Student Organization (PAS) is an organization associated with agriculture/agribusiness and natural resources offerings in approved postsecondary institutions offering baccalaureate degrees, associate degrees, diplomas and/or certificates.
PAS is one of the 11 career and technical student organizations that has been approved by the U. S. Department of Education as an integral part of career and technical education.
To learn more about the National PAS, go to www.nationalpas.org .
2013 National Postsecondary Agricultural Students Conference Results for New York State
Congratulations to the following students who represented SUNY Cobleskill at the National Postsecondary Agricultural Students Conference held in Louisville, KY on March 17-21. Steven Quanz completed his year of service as the 2012-13 National PAS Vice President and SUNY Cobleskill Alumnus, Miranda Clayson was elected as the National PAS Associates Chair. Alumnus, Eileen Jensen continues to serve on the National PAS Board of Directors as a Business representative. In addition to these awards, we received many compliments from National Staff, Judges, Advisors, and Hotel Staff about the exceptional professionalism and character our students displayed throughout the trip.
Livestock Specialist Award – Overall Livestock Team – 1st Place National Winner
Sara Huttenmaier – 1st Place Individual
Kady Porterfield – 2nd Place Individual
Nicole Avery – 4th Place Individual
Employment Interview Contest
Fruit and Vegetable Production – Thomas Latzkowski – 1st Place National Winner
Animal Health – Sara Huttenmaier – 2nd Place
Agricultural Education – Nicole Avery – 2nd Place
Agricultural Equipment – Robert Weitze – 3rd Place
Agricultural Equipment – Sean Galley – 4th Place
Agricultural Equipment – Robert Weitze – 1st Place National Winner
Animal Systems – Ruminant – Kady Porterfield – 1st Place National Winner
Animal Systems – Non-Ruminant – Sara Huttenmaier – 2nd Place
Agribusiness Management – Eric Rotondo – 3rd Place
Agricultural Education – Nicole Avery – 3rd Place
Agricultural Education – Patti Xedis – 4th Place
Precision Agriculture Specialist – Robert Weitze – 3rd Place
Terry R. Hughes
Career Pathways Director
Knapp Hall 106
Cobleskill, NY 12043
Guest Post: New York FFA Food Insecurity Lesson / Challenge
In the last 2 weeks, state officers participated in the Rally to Fight Hunger and then watched the news to see people’s homes destroyed and their families left in need in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many of your students may be having the same conversations with each other as the state officer team has been having among themselves.
In response, the officers developed an initiative to engage local chapters with their schools in a dialog about food and food insecurity and a response to hunger in New York. They want students to focus in part on problems that threaten food security and how careers in agriculture can solve systemic and chronic problems – but they also know part of the challenge is that a general misunderstanding of the issue of hunger results in people not taking advantage of systems that are in place to serve people in times of need.
The challenge officers are making is simple and significant. They are asking all chapters to educate themselves about the reality of food insecurity and the role food banks play in feeding New York. Then, chapters are to educate their peers and the faculty at your school about the reality of hunger issues. Finally, once that education has taken place, they want schools to collect donations for local food banks in order to respond to the anticipated increased need for food in food banks throughout NY – particularly in the weeks and months following Hurricane Sandy. Any donations made between now and the deadline made in the name of the Harvest for All project will go to help credit NY Farmers in their competition to see which state Farm Bureau network contributes the most food to their food banks throughout the year – there is a lot of good that can come out of this project.
To launch the project, the team worked on a video laying out the problem and their challenge. I’ve included it as two different links – youtube and school tube. I’m also going to try to put it up on a file share site in case your school has blocked both of those sites.
In the next few days we’ll be trying to put together some resources for your students to use to help them get started in understanding food insecurity. This is a phenomenal stepping stool to engage students in the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute next year, or perhaps to spark some ideas for agriscience projects, ag issues presentations or prepared speeches. Additionally, creating a school wide dialog and understanding of hunger may help to attract some students into your agriculture classes when they recognize the challenge this generation of students must meet.
Good luck – and thank you for taking time to share this with your students. The video is 6 minutes and 20 seconds but I’d bet you could anticipate 10 to 15 minutes worth of discussion and planning to come out of it (if not more) if you propose this as a project your students take on.
Let me know how I can help – the videos are below.
NY FFA Executive Secretary
Greetings, NY FFA!
This convention was an exciting one. We had teams and competitors in every single event. Our National Officer Candidate, Morgan Shaver, represented the very best of our state with grace and enthusiasm. State Officers made some of the most compelling, logical arguments for a key constitutional change I’ve seen in five years observing and helping with the national delegate process. On stage, NY students shone – students from Granville, Stockbridge Valley and Tri-Valley lit up the stage in the band and chorus. Behind the scenes, NY alumni made convention work. Several key roles were filled by OUR FFA alumni members. The Expo was loaded with former members helping students make strong decisions about college and careers. And of course, every NY student had a chance to recognize that they can achieve the highest levels of leadership in FFA as one of OUR members, Kenny Quick, served the last few days of his National Officer year of service. This success can be credited to the advisors who have built this association with their dedication to students and to agriculture.
We’re starting to see greater success on a level beyond New York – and it is well deserved. But just as the officers challenged our members – we have room to grow as well. I think a phenomenal example of this is the Tri-Valley FFA earning the national Model of Innovation award for Community Development. This is not the first time they’ve applied, nor is it the first time they’ve been a finalist – but after years in the making, the chapter was finally recognized for something they’ve been doing well – and improving steadily – for years.
As a state, we do many things well. Our classrooms are packed with relevance and taught by caring teachers. Our FFA members are eager and filling state level events. Student SAEs are diverse and there are some phenomenal projects throughout the state. The things your chapters do for students, for your schools and for your communities are practically unrivaled. I believe we can continue to see more NY students and schools being recognized by continuing to emphasize and facilitate the recognition process. We can take student development and the level of instruction we’re delivering to the next level. I’m going to do my part from the state office to provide as much support as possible, and as a state we can continue to grow the value of what we do for our students and our chapters.
A little success brings a desire for greater success – and this is an exciting time to not only celebrate what NY FFA has already accomplished but to envision where we will go, together. I believe we’ll see schools making impacts in their community’s fight against hunger; students developing better speaking skills than we’ve ever seen on the local level; SAE projects that are garnering attention beyond our state convention stage and chapters being recognized for the full value of what they are delivering.
Let’s start by telling our story. I’d encourage you to have your students write an article about their convention experience and send it to local media. Have them connect with your local supporters – partners, administrators, school boards – to share with them the value of what they just did. Sit down with your chapter officers to identify how they want to grow their membership and grow your chapter’s success. Capitalize on the post-convention enthusiasm. If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know.
Congratulations on all the success you earned this week in Indianapolis. Thank you for making me proud to say that I represent NY FFA.
NY FFA Executive Secretary
Thank you for making the 2012 State FFA Convention a success!
Convention would not be possible without the concerted and significant efforts of several individuals. I hope you’ll join me in thanking them for all they’ve done to provide a rich, engaging and organized experience for your students.
First and foremost, Keith Schiebel, VVS FFA and the VVS Community went above and beyond every request to make sure they provided an experience that screamed hospitality, preparation and spirit. From outstanding meal service to turning their red and white school to blue and gold. There were an abundance of judges, a wealth of volunteers and efforts made by every single person to assure that the convention was better than ever. Because of VVS, nearly 80 jackets were hung, props were raised and lowered, volunteers stayed late into the night to manage lights and sound and much, much more.
Todd Lighthall and the FFA Foundation worked diligently to return the FFA VIP Reception to convention again this year. On the heels of last year’s exciting event, this year’s showcase of our retired teachers created a real sense of community. I strongly think this is going to be a key event for the future of our foundation efforts and am so proud of the work Todd does to make it possible.
Tina Miner-James and Kaylie Ackerley worked together to prepare materials for and manage Career Development Events this year. On site, Aubrey Whittaker (Cornell Ag Ed Major) and Cathy Jones-Brimmer (executive treasurer) joined Kaylie and spent hours organizing, collecting and managing results so information could be provided quickly and accurately.
Cornell Students Amber Wynkoop, Danielle Sanok and Morgan Shaver took major leadership roles during the convention, organizing and managing components of the sessions and other volunteers. On site, a team of volunteers from several states took responsibility for running pre-sessions, helping with seating, organizing and overseeing nominating committee and running information throughout the convention. SUNY Cobleskill’s Brandon Aldous, Josh Draves, Mary Foote, Tracee Schiebel and Maggie Smith joined Nick Feidt from SUNY Morrisville and Corinne Ogle, Joe Killian, Corey Reed and Matt Sweeney from Cornell as our team of diligent and enthusiastic volunteers.
CDE Coordinators ranging from industry representatives to ag teachers worked hard to provide students with a challenging and engaging CDE Experience. With as many contests as we have, it’s impossible to think our office could organize them all. CDE Participation is the number one activity by participation at the State FFA Convention (aside from sessions) and more than 25 coordinators devoted time and attention to making them valuable.
Last, but certainly not least I’d like to thank Shari Lighthall. Shari is the longest-standing member of our team and her organizational skills, commitment to students and untiring ability to multi-task are essential to our success in any event – but especially the convention. Without her, none of this would have been possible.
The New York FFA Foundation
The NYSFFALTF, Inc., chartered in 1946 by the New York State Board of Regents, is a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) charitable organization that provides businesses, associations, other foundations, and individuals the opportunity to contribute to the growth and success of our New York youth. Our mission is to build and maintain a financial base that will allow the New York FFA to generate well-educated and career focused productive citizens. Email our Director at firstname.lastname@example.org .