LAKE VIEW - An opportunity to attend an FFA state convention during his middle school years inspired a Sac County teen to accomplish what only a selected few FFA'ers get to achieve.
It was during that trip that Brad Pickhinke set a goal of becoming an Iowa FFA state officer.
"I knew then I wanted to be a state officer," said Pickhinke. "I told my advisor that and she said I had to work had, but that it wasn't impossible."
-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Brad Pickhinke, Iowa FFA reporter, left, assists Will Rupnow, a freshman at East Sac Community High School, with his extemporaneous speaking contest preparation recently.
He said he began focusing on public speaking: competing in several FFA contests, eventually running for offices at the chapter and district level. Pickhinke finally achieved his dream last April when he was elected as the Iowa FFA reporter during the state convention in Ames.
Pickhinke, who is majoring in agricultural biochemistry at Iowa State University, was raised on a farm near Sac City and admits that despite his strong agricultural background, he never intended being a part of FFA.
But through some encouragement from his mother and learning a little about biotechnology during those middle school ag classes, he decided FFA would allow him to have the opportunity to further his education in agriculture, specifically biotechnology.
In addition to helping him pave his path to a career in agriculture, Pickhinke said, FFA has given him the outlets to learn how to be an accomplished public speaker.
"FFA was probably the best thing for me," he said. "It continually puts you outside of your comfort level through public speaking and those types of challenges with contests."
Pickhinke said he has focused on public speaking throughout his FFA career and now has the ability to give a public talk, whether prepared or spontaneous.
One way of working on his public speaking talent has been competing in contests through FFA.
Beginning as a freshman in high school, he was a member of his chapter, East Sac High School, FFA's conduct of meetings team where they earned fourth in the state.
His sophomore year in high school, he earned first in public speaking at the state level and competed nationally that fall.
"It was amazing to watch him compete at the national level," said Larissa Rupnow, agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor at East Sac Community High School.
While a junior in high school, he was elected to an FFA district office and earned second place in the extemporaneous speaking contest.
As a senior, in 2013, he was elected the state FFA reporter.
In that post, Pickhinke said his duties have required him to help facilitate leadership events such as chapter visits, state leadership conference for district officers and state career development events.
He has assisted with the production of two electronic news outlets - the Iowa FFA Today, the assocition's electronic magazine, and the Super Talk or (s)Talk, an email newsletter.
He also regularly updates the Iowa FFA Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Networking with fellow FFA members has also been a big plus to being active within the association at the state and national level.
"It is easy to walk up to fellow FFA members," he said. "You can talk to them like you've known each other all of your lives, because of the atmosphere with agriculture, those strong roots - they are always willing to share their stories."
Pickhinke will end his time as FFA state reporter during the state convention on April 29.
"Being a state officer has given me the chance to give back to the organization that has given me so much," he said.
"I do plan to be involved in some way as alumni," Pickhinke said of his post-FFA years. "I would love to be involved on the state level someday, but that will also depend where I put my roots down upon graduation."
Rupnow said Pickhinke has been one of the most dynamic students she's worked with, having watched him evolve into the leader he is today from a seventh-grader.
Although he is now in college, she said she appreciates all he continues to do for his chapter.
Pickhinke has kept busy serving on other committees outside of FFA in and outside of high school.
He has served as Iowa's representative for the National Leadership Youth Council through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
During his tenure on the council, Pickhinke said he traveled to Washington, D.C., where he attended several meetings, leadership training and met with local politicians.
Pickhinke says there are many reasons for students to join FFA.
"The obvious ones are for professional development; development of crucial skills such as leadership and communication, and to prepare for a successful career," said Pickhinke. "But students who join FFA join a family of over 500,000 members across the nation.
"The reason I use 'family' is because we are all united through our passion for agriculture and often will find ourselves sharing these passions with people from another state and will talk with them as if we have known them our whole lives.
"FFA is a unique organization that develops bonds across the nation that last a lifetime, and that is why a student should join FFA."