Building stronger leaders through agricultural advocacy

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Story and photo by Madison Byrd

Ag Experience intern Sydnee Mason spends a big portion of her summer traveling to FFA Camp Rising Sun at the Lake of the Ozarks. As the intern assigned to Missouri Farmers Care, she’s talking to students about the importance of advocacy. She’s also giving back to the organization that gave her so much as an FFA member, a state FFA officer and, now, a speaker and a national officer candidate.

Camp Rising Sun has a special place in Mason’s heart. She attended camp here, too, and she said she loves being able to use her facilitating skills as a platform to develop FFA members’ potential.

“Every time I come to camp,” Mason said, “I experience it in a different capacity that most people don’t get to experience.”

Mason’s message focuses on one word: ROTATE. Students “rotate” their thinking to talk about agriculture in a Relevant, Observant, Timely, Approachable, Transparent and Empathetic way. Advocacy has the potential to build others’ interests and bring awareness to important issues that agriculture faces, she said, and FFA students can use those skills to positively impact their own communities.

“Sharing the story of agriculture is at the root of what we do at Missouri Farmers Care,” Mason said. “FFA members are a great resource for MFC because we want students with great communication skills to share their story, too.”

Through MFC’s Agriculture Education on the Move (AEOTM) program, students can expand their Supervised Agricultural Experience which, in turn, allows for career readiness in their futures. AEOTM is a 10-week agriculture literacy program for third-grade students, and FFA members have an opportunity to facilitate. Through the program, students get hands-on training outside the classroom and gain real-world experience, and Mason’s message at Camp Rising Sun is just a stepping stone to greater advocacy efforts.

“I learn and experience the most when I’m surrounded by members in the blue jacket,” Mason said. “Missouri Farmers Care is helping them to excel in their future by providing advocacy and outreach opportunities. FFA members have a great story to tell, and we love to provide opportunities for them to grow as storytellers for the agriculture industry.”