Rooted in farming

Third generation FFA alum wins national contest



DES MOINES — From the time he was three years old, Andrew Lauver was not only “farming the carpet” in his family’s home with his toy tractors; he was getting a glimpse of his future.

“I only wanted to be one thing–a farmer just like Dad and Grandpa.”

Today, Lauver, 28, is a 5th generation farmer who helps with his family’s farming operation in Calhoun County. He’s also an ag law student at Drake University and the grand prize winner of Firestone Ag’s national Rooted in Farming contest.

To commemorate its 75th year of supporting the National FFA Organization, Firestone Ag launched the Rooted in Farming contest earlier this year. FFA members and FFA alumni nationwide were encouraged to share in a 500-word essay how their family’s farming heritage has driven their passion for agriculture.

Lauver received $2,500 towards a set of new Firestone Ag Tires, thanks to his winning essay, “The Blue Corduroy that Binds Us.”

“My foundational understanding of FFA began at the dinner table as a child, where my father discussed his role in generating funds to build a new shop for the FFA program in town,” wrote Lauver, a third-generation FFA alumnus. “He knew its development would be critically important to the future of our community by enhancing the learning environment for future farmers, mechanics, welders, electricians and so many others. A strong FFA means a stronger local community.”

Speaking up for ag

Farming and FFA taught Lauver the importance of hard work, community involvement, personal tenacity, time management, negotiation skills and a strong sense of land stewardship.

“His story comes full circle with his grandpa, who was one of the charter members of his local FFA chapter,” according to publicity from Firestone Ag Tires.

Strong rural communities with active FFA chapters help grow a strong crop of future leaders rooted in agriculture, added Lauver, who will earn his Master of Jurisprudence in Agricultural Law and Sustainability from Drake University in December 2019.

“Developing a servant leadership approach through FFA has empowered me to believe I can create considerable change to enhance rural quality of life,” said Lauver, who serves as manager of industry relations for Syngenta. “I never want to be more than one step away from the farm as I engage in agricultural policy throughout my career.”

Lauver is also an appointed member of the National Cotton Council Foundation Board of Trustees, Next Generation Leadership Institute Advisory Committee, First the Seed Foundation, and the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) Future Seed Executives Committee.

Through it all, a sense of history and a solid foundation in FFA motivate Lauver as he helps guide the future of American agriculture.

“When it was finally my turn to wear a blue corduroy jacket as a freshman, I recall viewing the dusty plaques along the wall of the FFA classroom. My father told me one was especially important and to look for Grandpa’s name. I found it, realizing Grandpa was one of the charter members of the local FFA chapter to truly be the first to dawn the blue corduroy in our community,” he said.

Lauver’s involvement with FFA creed speaking inspired him to get more involved with FFA. He served as the chapter president, a role his father, Kevin, and his younger brother, Jacob, have also held.

“FFA provided me with the confidence to stand up and speak out beyond the walls of the classroom,” he said.

As an Iowa State University student, Lauver began writing for the Iowa State Daily, the campus newspaper, composing articles to provide insight into industry issues affecting his family’s farm. His passion for creating opportunities for aspiring agriculturalists prompted him to get involved with the new Iowa Corn Growers Association’s student group at ISU.

As an undergraduate, Lauver also capitalized on an opportunity to learn from leaders on Capitol Hill by serving as an intern in the U.S. Senate. After graduating from ISU, he pursued a master’s degree from Kansas State University.

“This opportunity allowed me to develop a thesis, which resulted in investing in long-term conservation practices,” he said.

Drawing inspiration from the past to guide the future

Taking the long view to connect the past with the present and future is important to Lauver as he grows his agricultural career and works on his family’s farm between Lake City and Rockwell City.

“The opportunities to capitalize on the achievements of those who came before us inspire me about Iowa agriculture,” he said. “Henry A Wallace, Norman Borlaug and George Washington Carver are just a few of the leaders who have addressed challenges and opportunities to enhance quality of life not only within the state, but also beyond our borders.”

Family farms across Iowa and beyond also inspire Lauver.

“My grandfather, his father, and my father all have worked extremely hard to build our farm through sustainable practices to ensure it can be passed onto the next generation. Now, as my brother and I both work to carry on the tradition, we are inspired by the tradition of the family farm and the commitment to building upon the foundation they have created for us,” he said.

Lauver envisions a future where family farms continue to play a vital role.

“America’s future hinges on our ability to improve the cultivation of crops and care of livestock on family farms that make up the fabric of this country. I’m extremely thankful to have grown up in Iowa and look forward to remaining ingrained in the agricultural community for years to come,” he said.