Sibley's Brockshus reflects on 'crazy journey' after FFA honor
AMES, Iowa — One week after being elected National FFA Vice President representing the Central Region, rural Sibley native Steven Brockshus has returned to his home state of Iowa, if only for a little while.
Brockshus has until Thanksgiving to wrap up his semester of study at Iowa State University in Ames before embarking on a whirlwind year-long adventure representing the national student organization formerly known as the Future Farmers of America.
A graduate of Sibley-Ocheyedan High School, Brockshus served as Iowa FFA President in 2012-2013, the first from his school’s FFA Chapter elected to the top post. He is now is the chapter’s first National FFA officer. The last Iowan to serve on the National FFA Officer team was Lisa Peterson, of Osage, in 1998.
“It’s been a crazy journey,” Brockshus said Thursday evening, recalling his first day of freshman agriculture at Sibley-Ocheyedan with FFA advisor Mike Earll.
Sitting on the desk and looking at his students, Earll (now retired) said, “You guys are way off the charts in good looks and superior in intelligence,” Brockshus recited.
“Ever since that first day, just his encouragement, his love, his willingness to drop whatever it was he was doing and help someone out, it really wore off on me throughout high school and just really helped shape me into who I am,” he said.
The son of Jason and Shanise Brockshus, he grew up helping on his grandparents’ dairy farm in rural Ocheyedan. Brockshus credits his parents with instilling the values that have brought him this far.
“My parents, really from a young age, ingrained in my (three) brothers and I two main values: Once you start something, you have to finish it to the best of your ability, whatever it is; and second, we have to take full responsibility for our actions,” he said.
Brockshus recently read a blog noting students today have a hard time taking responsibility or losing a competition because their parents always stepped in, not wanting their child to hurt.
“I think taking responsibility really has helped make me the person I am,” he added.
After his selection last May as Iowa’s candidate for National FFA office, Brockshus worked with three mentors, including Lisa Peterson, the former national officer from Iowa, Laila Hajji, now of West Des Moines and a former National FFA officer hailing from Oklahoma, and Dr. David Frazier, an agriculture education professor at Tarleton State University in Texas.
“They walked me through the process and what to expect,” Brockshus said.
Peterson, who spoke with Brockshus frequently, had three questions for the northwest Iowan to end every conversation.
“‘Who is Steven Brockshus?’ ‘Why do you want to be a national officer?’ and ‘What makes you stand out from all of the other incredible individuals that are running?’” he recited. Those questions led not only to reflection on the past, but preparation for the future.
In August, Brockshus applied for national office, and began interviews just days before the start of the 86th National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky. From Oct. 27-31, he interviewed with the nine-member nominating committee, spoke with ag educators and stakeholders, presented workshops, took a test and writing exercise, and presented an advocacy speech. Each activity was ranked on a point system leading to the selection of the officer team.
The six-member team was announced at the final session of the National FFA Convention last Saturday. For the first time in 21 years, it is an all-male team.
With little time to celebrate — he called his grandparents Saturday night in Ocheyedan and Melvin, who had watched the proceedings on RFD-TV — Brockshus awoke Sunday to a full day of orientation with the retiring officer team.
The next several days were spent in Indianapolis, Ind., the headquarters for the national FFA.
Now that he is back in Iowa, Brockshus will wrap up his classes as a sophomore agriculture education and global resource systems major at ISU. He will take the next year off to serve the FFA.
“I like to say my formal education takes a pause, but education itself does not stop,” Brockshus said.
In the coming year, he will participate in numerous trainings, travel to Japan for an international agriculture experience with host families, give state FFA convention speeches, meet with business and industry partners, host trainings for newly elected state FFA officers and state FFA presidents, and then prepare for the 2014 National FFA Convention.
Much of his time will be spent traveling.
“We’re headquartered at Indianapolis, Ind., but we don’t really have a place or a house that we stay at, because we’re on the road so much,” he said. “We look at a map of America and say this is our office for the next year.”
Brockshus is excited for the year ahead and the opportunity to meet people.
“I’m passionate about people … being able to help them in whatever walk of life they’re in,” he said. “I thought national office would be a great platform just to go out there and help create a sense of belonging for people, no matter who it is I run into, if it’s an ag teacher, an FFA member or even business partners.”
The message he hopes to deliver to those he meets is simple — to live in the moment and be yourself.
“Today, we’re in a world where I’ve got my cell phone on me 24/7, but I truly believe that the most important person you can ever be with is the person that’s right there in the room with you, not one that’s hundreds of miles away, over the phone,” Brockshus said.
He also will take with him in his travels a message of agriculture advocacy.
“There are so many misconceptions in agriculture and all we can do — as the future of agriculture, the voice, as people working on farms and working in business and industry — is just to tell our story with all aspects of agriculture,” Brockshus said. “In all aspects of agriculture, whether it’s big or small … we need to make sure everyone is telling their story, everyone is transparent.
“I think the new generation, with technology, with science, can help share our story and help make agriculture as efficient as possible,” he added.
After his year as National FFA Vice President wraps up, Brockshus plans to return to college and pursue his career goals.
“I want to live and work overseas in a developing country in agriculture, whether it’s agriculture Extension or agriculture business,” he said. “What a better opportunity to be able to work with people than overseas, in an educational setting.”
As he makes plans for his future, Brockshus is ever mindful of his past and the people who have shaped him into the person he is today.
“It’s such a blessing and an honor to represent Iowa, which is such a strong agriculture state in the Midwest,” he said. “FFA has really given me a lot of opportunities to be confident in myself and express myself. I speak on behalf of the organization when I say it can do that for anyone, no matter what background you’re from.”
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.