Baerlocher reflects on year as National FFA president

The 2021-2022 National FFA President is reflecting on his year at the helm of the organization.

Cole Baerlocher says getting familiar with the unfamiliar is one of his biggest lessons from his time as National FFA president.

“When I look back to my national officer year that’s what I’m going to remember. I’m from a town of 2,000 people in southeastern Washington. This year took me to places I never would have imagined. For example, I was in Louisiana, Florida, Texas, California, New Hampshire, and those places were really unfamiliar to me,” he says. “That’s become part of my year and what I know to be true and real and it’s shaped me into who I am more so than I think anything in my life. I‘ve learned some valuable lessons and skills that are pointing me in that direction. Even at this level FFA is still pointing me in that direction and I’m so grateful for the unfamiliar because those are the moments, I had the best experiences and that’s where I grew the most. You can’t grow in your comfort zone and that’s what this year did for me—it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I proved myself wrong a lot because there were times when I thought, ‘I’m not sure I can do this,’ but I did it and I went through it and came out on the other end alright. Looking back, I’m grateful for all that I’ve experienced, especially the unfamiliar.”

His advice for FFA members is find their niche.

“Lean into who you are and what you enjoy,” he says. “That is what I’ve taken away from FFA. The more you’re able to capitalize on what you’re passionate about, the more you’re going to grow, the more you’re going to experience and that’s going to benefit you.”

He says the National FFA Organization provides experiential-based opportunities for students within agriculture.

“That is so prevalent to today’s day and age. Students get opportunities to work with their hands whether that’s in plant science class planting a garden or whether it’s in an ag shop class welding. That’s something our world needs. We need students who are tactical who can utilize their resources and skills to solve problems, create solutions, and create a better future for all of us. I think that’s exactly what FFA is doing through our hands-on learning experiences.”

Baerlocher says he benefited from hands-on learning through livestock projects and starting a graphic design business.

“Those hands-on skills were so tangible, and they were a direction. They were pointing me toward my future,” he says. “That’s a truth for 850,000 students across the country. FFA is helping point them in a direction toward their future and it’s through those hands-on experiences. During my senior year I started a graphic design business as part of my supervised agricultural experience (SAE) project. That opened so many doors for me in the sense of where I wanted my career and future to go.”

The Washington state native will study agricultural communications at Texas A&M University.

“I know I’m on the right path because of the experiences I had in FFA,” he says.

Baerlocher says his year of service wouldn’t have been the same without his teammates.

“I’ve had an incredible support system around me. A big support system is my five teammates- Josiah, Jackson, Mallory, Cortney, and Erik. Those five individuals have helped me grow in so many ways and I really couldn’t imagine this year without my teammates, without their love and support, without their encouragement, their sense of humor, their compassion. Those five people are incredible humans and I’m so grateful that God brought them into my life because I couldn’t imagine this year and my life without them.”

Baerlocher will give his retiring address during the seventh general session on Saturday.

Audio: Cole Baerlocher

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