Naia Evans, Rockland FFA
My FFA experience began when I was in 8th grade. The first event I participated in was Creed Speed. I had memorized it fairly quickly and my advisor, the infamous Mr. Andy Nelson, had suggested that I compete in the upcoming Creed Speaking LDE hosted at the American Falls High School. Eager to impress my teacher, I quickly agreed. Sporting a borrowed blue corduroy jacket, I set out to show the judges my knowledge of FFA and my presentation skills. Needless to say, my lack of experience showed through and I did not do very well. Even though I was bummed about the results, I was suddenly aware of the amazing world of FFA, and I wanted to be a part of it.
My freshman year began, and I was excited to become more involved in FFA. I ordered my very own jacket and competed in the first competition that I actually did fairly well in: Floriculture. State Leadership Conference that year was an amazing experience that I will never forget. I decided then that I wanted to compete in as many different events as I could. In June of 2018, I competed in the Vet Science CDE. I learned quickly that even though I loved animals, I was not destined to become a vet, after that, most of my competitions were plant based.
In the fall of 2019, my advisor introduced me to the world that is Rangeland Management. Wanting to follow in my older brother’s footsteps- who had been on the team that placed first at state and third at western nationals the previous year- I was eager to give it a try. I learned all of the plants and their forage values, how to solve a stocking rate, and all of the other components of the competition. It was at that time I learned of my love for plants. I became fascinated and determined to learn more about them. When my team and I went to state, we placed third, which was a surprise to all of us since we had only been learning about Rangeland Management for roughly two months. We went on to compete at the Western National Rangeland competition in Logan, Utah and came in ninth overall.
My dreams of being an Ag teacher suddenly came to an end. Rangeland Management, I decided that was my calling. I would be able to work with plants and math! It was a dream come true.
Throughout the following year, I participated in as many plant related competitions as I could; doing better in some than others. The competitions included: Floriculture; ENR and Forestry. I also signed myself up for as many plant related classes as I could, which due to the size of my school were few and far between. I learned that I didn’t only want to work in Rangeland Management, I decided I want to get my Doctorate in Plant Biology.
So when I am asked, “Why FFA?” I respond that it is because of the welcoming environment, the ability to try new things and always be able to connect with people... and because of a blue corduroy jacket. Most of my friends have been made through FFA, it is a new family that spreads across the nation.
I will always be grateful for that Spring when I borrowed that blue corduroy jacket and braved the judges to become a part of something bigger than myself.