By Sydney Snider, OCJ FFA reporter
Ryan Matthews became involved with FFA almost on a whim. When he joined as a young, shy high school freshman he was simply looking for a way to fit into his new school and connect with his older brothers, both former FFA members. But the organization has taken him further than he could have imagined.
“Sitting through the class I realized I really enjoyed learning about agriculture,” said Matthews, who is an alumnus of the Fairfield FFA Chapter in Highland County.
Matthews didn’t grow up with an agriculture background so his freshman “intro to ag” course was his first exposure to the industry. His interest in FFA took a little longer to develop.
“It was FFA camp going into my sophomore year where I got hooked,” said Matthews, who attributes his experience as a camper at Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum to opening his eyes to his own ability to lead. “It was that moment, and that week, that I realized that I could stop sitting in the back and listening and start being up in the front and trying to be a leader.”
Matthews’ involvement with FFA took off from there. He was involved with public speaking, soil judging, floriculture, leadership conferences and more.
“So everything,” he said with a laugh, as he listed off the numerous events he has attended over the past several years.
That week at FFA camp served Matthews well as he later took on several leadership positions for the Fairfield FFA Chapter. He also served as a 2016-2017 Ohio FFA State Vice President At-Large and the 2017-2018 Ohio FFA State President.
Matthews believes his hefty involvement with FFA events has prepared him for his latest goal: becoming a national FFA officer.
“It’s because of all those experiences that I can relate to a student and help a student find something new for them to try,” he said, confidently. “There’s a lot of potential in those events. Personally they helped me become someone I didn’t think I could become.”
Matthews said the idea of “paying it forward” is one reason he desires to serve at the national level, but it’s not his only driving force.
“It is also about having a chance to share those little moments with students and to represent this amazing organization,” he said, with a smile and pause as if remembering significant moments he has already had with FFA members and stakeholders.
Preparing to run for national FFA office is no small task. Matthews has spent the past few months attending events, talking with mentors and business leaders, studying the latest agricultural trends and individually reflecting on his personal growth.
Leading into the 91st National FFA Convention and Expo, the national FFA officer interview process started Saturday, Oct. 21 in Indianapolis. This week, Matthews will participate in a writing exercise, several personal interviews, a media practicum and more during the long and strenuous interview process. The 2018-2019 national FFA officer team will be announced on Saturday, Oct. 27 during the final convention session.
“It’s hard to describe,” said Matthews, referring to the moment they will announce the new officer team. “That moment and that afternoon is something I’ve looked forward to for a really long time.”
This will be the sixth National FFA Convention and Expo that Matthews has attended as an FFA member and representing the Ohio FFA Association is something Matthews is no stranger to.
“It means the world that Ohio FFA is trusting me to represent our state,” he said, adding that he is proud to yet again represent more than 26,000 Ohio FFA members.
With a humbled voice, Matthews said, “I will always represent them. That’s where I call home.”