SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gage Miller plans to make every second count during the upcoming year while he works with FFA members across the state as president of the Illinois Association FFA.
“To have this opportunity is once in a lifetime,” said the Cambridge FFA member moments after the delegates to the 91st Illinois FFA Convention elected him as the president for 2019-2020. “It has been a dream of mine to become a state officer.”
Miller was elected to his first leadership position as chapter sentential during his sophomore year in high school.
“My adviser said I should run for a chapter officer, and I said I didn’t want to, but he convinced me to turn in an application,” said the FFA member who is advised by Trenton Taber. “I was president the next year and I couldn’t get enough.”
Serving as the Section 3 president during the past year, Miller said, was amazing.
“The experience with the other section presidents across the state is life-changing,” he said.
Miller is from a corn and soybean farm that also includes some livestock.
“I did a little showing, but I didn’t really find what I liked in agriculture until I got in FFA in high school,” said the son of Travis and Starla Fransene and Justin and Amy Miller.
For his FFA project in wildlife production and management, the president completed conservation work.
“I worked on some of our property to make it better for different species of wildlife,” he said. “For my environmental science and natural resources project, I did practices to help protect the environment like preventing soil erosion, helping water quality and I did a community oil drive.”
One of Miller’s favorite FFA activities was competing in the ag sales contest.
“Our team members have different backgrounds, but we came together and were successful,” he said about the team.
As the president of the Illinois FFA, Miller’s goals include continuing the legacy of past state officers.
“I want to make sure FFA members are getting great opportunities like I was provided as a chapter member and section president,” he said.
“Don’t be afraid to try to do everything you can,” said Miller, who was a member of both the football and baseball teams in high school. “It was tough at times and I didn’t play as much as I wanted to, but if you’re determined, you can do anything you want.”
Following his year as the FFA president, Miller will attend the University of Wisconsin and plans to study either agricultural education or agricultural business.
“I am super happy and blessed to have this opportunity, and I can’t wait for the year ahead,” said Lane Harvey after he was selected the state vice president.
The Fairfield FFA member remembers attending the state convention as a sophomore in high school.
“I watched the state officers that I thought were superstars, and during our three-hour drive back south, I told my adviser it would be so cool to be one of those guys up there,” said Harvey, who is advised by Curt Robbins. “I kept talking about it, and he said, ‘Why don’t you just be one of those guys?’”
That’s when Harvey started working towards the goal to be a state officer.
“It’s taken three years and hard work,” he said. “I’m super blessed to have this opportunity, and I want to make an impact on as many members as possible.”
Harvey did not think he would become a state officer.
“I never planned to be where I am today,” he said. “When I joined FFA, I was told FFA members got to miss a lot of school, but it turned out to be so much more.”
The vice president lives in a rural area and has spent a lot of time raising and training horses with his grandma on her farm. His FFA project for ag mechanics repair and maintenance has included working for a local oil company.
“I helped service motors with my grandpa,” he said.
Harvey’s family has been involved with the oil industry for many years.
“My dad is a welder and contracts with the Department of Defense, and my grandpa has spent 50 years in the oil industry,” said the son of Patrick and Jennifer Harvey.
After his year as a state officer, Harvey will attend Wabash Valley College and transfer to Southern Illinois University or Murray State University to complete a degree in agribusiness.
“I’d also like to minor in finance and work at a financial company,” he said.
As the state FFA reporter, Brodee McCormick knows he has a big responsibility.
“My job is to report to Illinois FFA and 19,000 members about what’s going on in the organization,” the Athens FFA member said. “I think that’s pretty cool that I have this opportunity.”
McCormick raises and sells Boer goats, and he has competed in rodeo competitions with his horses since he was in kindergarten.
“My mom was involved in high school rodeo, and my dad grew up showing cattle,” said the son of Will Tomlinson and Mandy McCormick-Tomlinson. “I’ve shown cattle, goats and pigs, but the last couple of years, the Boer goats have been my main focus.”
Competing in rodeo events also is important to McCormick who is the state champion in team roping, reining cow horse and cutting.
As the state reporter, McCormick plans to help students grow to become leaders.
“The FFA has shaped me into the individual I am today, and it can do the same for whoever is involved as long as they put their heart and minds to it,” said the FFA member who is advised by Mike Butler and Kiersten Edgar.
McCormick will attend the University of Illinois to study agricultural education, after his officer year.
“I plan to be an ag teacher,” he said. “My teachers have left an impact on me, and I want to leave the same sort of impact for students in the future.”
Collin White loves to meet people, and he will have lots of opportunities to do that in the upcoming year as the state FFA secretary.
“I ran for my first officer position because a few of my friends ran,” the Midwest Central FFA member said. “I fell in love with the organization and everything it had to offer.”
White is the sixth generation of his family to farm near Forest City, where they grow corn, soybeans, popcorn, pumpkins, green beans, as well as raise goats and cattle.
“The Whites moved to Mason County in the mid-1800s and have lived on the same homestead,” said the son of Eric and Jennifer White.
As the FFA secretary, White plans to focus on tradition and family.
“I want to continue the tradition of excellence as this officer team has left a great legacy, and I want to keep up with how great they’ve been,” he said.
“And I want everybody to feel like a family because at the end of the day that is what FFA is. If it didn’t stand for farmers, it would stand for family.”
Competing in career development events is one of White’s favorite activities.
“I love ag sales, and we went to state this year,” he said. “I love talking to people and problem solving and also the team I worked with are three of my best friends. Contests are the thing that first roped me into FFA.”
White’s advisers are Mitch Miller and Lynn Coers.
“For my first two years in FFA, my adviser was DeAnna Thomas, who helped with my poster and flyer,” he said.
At the completion of his year as FFA secretary, White will study agricultural business at Illinois College, where he also plans to be a member of the cross country and track team. His career goal is to farm with his family, as well as become an auctioneer.
“My grandpa took me to auctions when I was 7 or 8 years old, so I’ve been around that for a long time,” he said.
“It’s just sinking in now that this is really happening,” said Emma Freebairn, after she was elected the state FFA treasurer. “I’m so honored, humbled and blessed to be given this position and opportunity, and I can’t wait to see where this year takes us.”
The Serena FFA member’s family operates a beef feedlot and diversified crop farm.
“I raise and show Simmental cattle,” said the daughter of Scott and Heather Freebairn. “I show with my two siblings at the state and national level, which will be hard to leave behind for the next year, but my siblings will take care of it.”
Freebairn received encouragement from her chapter to run for an FFA office.
“I told my chapter I didn’t think it was possible, and I told them no for months,” she said. “Then chapter visits rolled around this past fall, and that’s when I decided this is something I want to spend another year doing — making connections with FFA members.”
Serving as the Section 7 president, Freebairn said, provided her with many experiences.
“Those experiences have prepared me for this moment,” said the FFA member, who is advised by Chad Mahler. “I really felt the passion this past year.”
As the state treasurer, Freebairn plans to focus on working to improve the FFA discovery program.
“I want to keep it growing because I think we can get those members involved more at the seventh and eighth grade levels,” she said. “I look forward to talking with the boys and coming up with ideas for camps or workshops for discovery members and to get more discovery chapters started.”
After her year as state officer, Freebairn plans to attend Lake Land College to study agricultural communications.
“I am interested in public relations and working with agricultural companies to fix miscommunications about agriculture,” she said.
For more information about the Illinois Association FFA, go to www.illinoisffa.weebly.com.