As Minnesota FFA President, Fulda's Pagel enjoys busy year
FULDA — All freshmen have to adjust to college life, learning to juggle their studies, other obligations and social life. For Mallory Pagel of Fulda, her freshman year at the University of Minnesota has included an additional responsibility — serving as president of the Minnesota FFA.
“Right away it’s a little bit of a shock, because the whole college experience is new and then having this to go with it,” explained Pagel while home for the U of M’s winter break. “But now I’ve gotten used to it. I usually don’t have a full week when I’m at school, but it seems to work, and the people at school seem to understand that.”
Pagel, the daughter of Mike and Theane Pagel of Fulda, was elected to the state’s top FFA post in May during the Minnesota FFA convention in St. Paul. Her second-in-command, Vice President Stuart Schumacher, also hails from southwest Minnesota, the son of Adam and Chris Schumacher of Heron Lake and a graduate of Southwest Star Concept School. The rest of the leadership team is: Secretary, Brooke Wente, Morris Area; Treasurer, Dylan Antoff, Winona; Reporter: Brandon Roiger, Sleepy Eye; and Sentinel, Heidie Sloot, Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop.
“Five of us go to the U together, so we can really easily meet up a lot,” noted Pagel. “Dylan goes to SDSU (South Dakota State University, Brookings) but we make it work.”
The state FFA officers started their duties with summer leadership conferences and camps, including the FFA State Presidents Conference in Washington, D.C., where Pagel and Schumacher helped determine issues that would be voted on at the national FFA convention in October.
“Stuart and I were the spokespersons, and we had to present an issue that we could all vote on at the national convention,” Pagel explained. “Six issues got chosen, and we had to vote on all those issues that are about how we go forward as an organization.”
One of her most memorable presidential experiences so far was a brush with a well-known musical performer.
“This September, Minnesota FFA had the great privilege of hosting ‘The Easton Corbin Experience’ at the Miracle of Birth Center on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds,” detailed Pagel. “It was sponsored by Ram trucks and was part of their ‘Year of the Farmer Campaign.’ You may have seen the ‘God Made a Farmer’ Super Bowl commercial. This was a series of mini concerts that Easton was giving to the FFA state associations as he was on tour with Blake Shelton this year. We invited all of the Minnesota FFA chapters to attend, and about 200 members showed up.”
Pagel and the other state officers got to meet Corbin before the concert.
“He told us all about how he used to be in FFA and how important it is to him,” Pagel recalled. “The concert was very interactive: He had a member say the FFA creed, played a few games and told us all about how important he thought education was. He actually went to college and graduated with a degree in agribusiness from the University of Florida before beginning his musical career. It was an awesome experience, and we were so glad that Easton Corbin took the time to hang out with us and promote FFA.”
As the school year got under way, Pagel and her leadership team began to do chapter visits. Each year, they focus on two of the eight FFA regions in the state.
“This year our regions were Region 2, the northeast, and Region 4, which is the metro area,” Pagel said. “We split up in groups of two and hit every chapter in those regions. We spent a week doing that. We got to see what different ag programs were like other than the ones that we were used to.”
Pagel was especially intrigued by the differences between the metro FFA program and what she had experienced in southwest Minnesota.
“The ag classes had different names,” she noted. “A small animal class would be called ‘Pets’ or ‘Domestic Animals’ to draw students in. There’s no ag mechanics, because people aren’t used to that. We saw how tough it was for some ag programs to survive in the metro area. One we visited had to have their classroom in a portable unit outside the high school, and the adviser said the janitor didn’t even come out there.
“It makes you thankful for your own chapter,” added Pagel, whose father is the longtime Fulda FFA adviser. “It made me realize how much better we have it than in that area.”
During the National FFA Convention in October, the Minnesota state officers served as convention delegates. Pagel had attended the convention before, but had a completely different experience this time around.
“You feel like you’re more involved and are maybe making changes that people will look back on in 20 years and say, ‘That was a great change,”’ she said.
Pagel was asked to give a speech at the Minnesota Farmers Union annual meeting in November. She was in good company, because Gov. Mark Dayton was also on the program.
“What I didn’t realize was that I would get to sit by him for the entire banquet,” she said. “It was amazing. He was very down-to-earth and genuinely curious about the goings-on of Minnesota FFA. I can honestly say I probably would have never had the opportunity like that if it hadn’t been for my involvement in FFA.”
Although she claims to be shy, such experiences have helped Pagel come out of her shell and be much more outgoing.
“FFA has definitely made me get out of my comfort zone,” she said. “People always say to me, ‘Mallory, you didn’t used to talk!’ and I say, ‘Yep, I talk now.’”
With a few months left in her term, Pagel anticipates many more new experiences ahead and more opportunities to spread her wings. The rest of the leadership team recently returned from a trip to South Africa, and she was anxious to hear their reports about the agricultural opportunities there.
“Coming up, we actually have a state officer retreat at the end of the month,” she noted. “The six of us and our leadership development coordinator will go away for three days and have bonding time and prepare for the state convention. It’s hard to imagine that the state convention is almost here, and it’s kind of sad, because our year is almost over.”
When Pagel begins her sophomore year at college next fall, she will not have the extra responsibilities of state FFA leadership, but she will have lots of memories of her year as president and her involvement in FFA. She encourages all young people to get involved in the organization.
“Even if originally you look at FFA and think it’s not for you, talk to someone,” she said. “FFA has a place for everyone. It’s such a diverse organization with so many outlets that anyone can find something. You get a great feeling of belonging to something that’s so much bigger than yourself, and that’s something so many students struggle with. FFA is the biggest student organization in the nation, and you get that awesome feeling putting on that corduroy jacket, knowing that so many other kids are wearing it, too. You will find your passions in FFA. There’s always a spot for everyone.”
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers may be reached at 376-7327