Gary Halvorson gives to the National FFA Foundation because he recalls with fondness his youth in a little town — and the big role the organization played in his family’s life.
As senior vice president of agronomy for CHS, Halvorson also appreciates how FFA helped shape his career as well.
Growing up in the “very, very small town of Maddock, N.D.,” he recalls there weren’t many things for kids to do outside of school. Thankfully, though, they did have an active FFA chapter—the Maddock A.S. Gibbens Chapter.
“FFA was very much rooted in our school and the society of young people there,” Halvorson says. “As a young person deciding whether or not to join, I could see that the real leaders and the sort of good kids were part of FFA.”
He noticed they all had opportunities to travel and learn, and that their friend network grew much quicker than that of others. “Joining FFA was as much of a no-brainer as it could be,” he says. “I went to my first state convention when I was in eighth grade—as early as I could— and then went every year after.”
Halvorson’s two brothers also participated in FFA, and his parents were active volunteers. “My younger brother and I have our National FFA awards, and all three of us have a state award,” he says. “And my mom was Chapter Sweetheart back in 1966, in Halstad, Minn. So we’ve been involved in FFA as a family forever—well, for a few generations anyway.”
Each year, his parents drove them to state conventions and joined them. “We’d all stay in the dorms, and my folks would come be a part of that with us,” he recalls fondly.
Though his father had a job in town, his sons’ FFA projects eventually led him to cattle and sheep farming. “Our farm really was born of proficiency awards,” says Halvorson. “We started with a sheep herd and then ended up also having a few hundred beef cattle.”
Fast forward to the present and Halvorson continues singing the praises of FFA. “It provided a foundation for a successful career, without question,” he says. And now a member of the National FFA Foundation Sponsors’ Board, Halvorson wants others to share these experiences. “I appreciate how FFA engages with young people, and the lengths to which it goes to help with leadership development and social development,” he says. “There are a lot of positive experiences that can really help form their young adulthood. It’s wonderful.”
This story originally appeared in Spring/Summer 2018 Blue Jackets, Bright Futures.