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College student sitting on a desk holding her FFA jacket.
This summer, Maddie Smith is working in Washington, D.C., as a legislative intern with National Farmers Union.
C magazine

This FFA leader is always learning

Maddie Smith is grateful for the lessons her seven years in FFA taught her about leadership, farming and herself.
Jun 13, 2022

Despite her success as a chapter, regional and state FFA leader, Maddie Smith has a dark secret in her past: She used to sneak forbidden poultry into Fillmore Central High School in southeastern Minnesota.  

“As part of our FFA community service program, we’d take animals to visit people in the local senior center. I’d have to put my box of ducklings somewhere before I went home, so I would just sneak them into school,” she says, laughing.  

The University of Minnesota junior no longer brings farm animals to class but remains deeply grateful for the lessons her seven years in FFA taught her about leadership, farming and herself. “As you grow and mature, you realize it’s not the awards you receive or the speeches you make,” she says. “It’s really about acknowledging the issues that are facing us and having the hope and earnestness to pursue something better.”  

Smith learned those lessons through some personal setbacks her first two years of college, including running for national FFA office twice without getting elected. The upside, she says, is that she now has more time and freedom to focus on academics — she’s majoring in applied economics and communications studies, with minors in horticulture and international agriculture. This spring, she’s studying in Chico, Calif., so she can see agriculture from a different geographical perspective.  

While Smith is still considering career options, she knows agriculture will always be part of who she is. “You don’t have to be working in agriculture to gain value from learning about it,” she says. “It’s something I will always care about, no matter what my job is.”   

Check out the full Spring 2022 issue of C magazine with this article and more.

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