At the final session of the 80th FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Keith and Shelly Kinne anxiously waited — among a crowd of nearly 55,000 — to hear if their son, Zach, had been named a 2007-2008 officer for the National FFA.
“When we heard the Central Region vice president announced and it wasn’t Zach, we knew he still had two chances,” Shelly Kinne said.
Kinne was still vying for the positions of secretary and president.
“We heard them announce the secretary, and it wasn’t Zach, and the anticipation and suspense in the following moments were almost unbearable,” Shelly Kinne said.
The announcer then revealed the name of the president.
“We went nuts when they said Missouri,” Shelly Kinne said. “We didn’t even hear his name.”
Kinne is from the North Harrison High School FFA Chapter in Eagleville and is the second National FFA president from Missouri. Leslie M. Fry of Louisiana was the first National FFA president from Missouri, serving in 1930-1931. The last national officer elected from Missouri was Doug Kueker of Sweet Springs, who served as vice president in 2000-2001.
“While Missouri is proud of Zach and his accomplishments, we know he has an exciting year ahead of him, and he’ll be a great role model for young men and women all across the nation,” said Terry Heiman, Missouri state FFA adviser and director of agricultural education for Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We’re not only proud but very pleased that Zach is a Missourian and that we’ve had the opportunity to work with him for so many years.”
Kinne joined the FFA in 2001. He was president of his high school’s FFA chapter and was Area II vice president in 2004-2005. He served as the 2005-2006 Missouri FFA president and as past president in 2006-2007, providing additional experience and advice to that year’s state officer team. Kinne’s supervised agricultural experience is producing and selling registered Angus seed stock bulls.
Kinne’s teammate from the 2005-2006 state officer team, Miranda Leppin, was at the national convention with him.
“I talked to him throughout the week and got to hear how his interviews were going,” Leppin said. “Having ran last year, I know how intense the process is.”
Leppin and his parents both said that although Kinne wasn’t overly confident, he wasn’t necessarily nervous either. His parents agreed that he handled the campaign better than they did.
Leppin, on the other hand, was very confident.
“I believed in him,” Leppin said. “I actually was so confident that I had already drafted a text message in my cell phone, saying that he had gotten president. There’s no one else I’d rather see serving the FFA.”
Kinne’s primary responsibilities are to provide personal growth and leadership training to students, set policies that will shape the organization’s future and promote agricultural literacy.
“I believe it is the purpose of a national officer to plant the seeds of knowledge, hope and inspiration in others,” Kinne said in a news release from the National FFA. “There is nothing I would rather do than to have this opportunity to commit myself to the betterment and growth of the FFA, its members and the American agriculture industry.”
As National FFA president, Kinne will take the next year off from college at MU where he is a junior majoring in agricultural economics.
“We had planned for the possibility that he might be selected for a national office and arranged his course schedule to accommodate,” said Jan Dauve, Kinne’s academic adviser. “This is typical of Zach. He plans ahead and allows for opportunities. From the beginning, he was clearly an overachiever, even though he is modest and matter-of-fact about his own accomplishments.”
In the next year as head of a 500,000-member organization, Kinne will travel more than 100,000 miles, visit more than 40 states, meet top leaders in business, government and education and participate in an international tour of Japan.
“It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Kinne said in a Web cast with the Brownfield Network, a Jefferson City-based agricultural news service.
The selection of national FFA officers is an intense process that begins at the state level. First, nominees must qualify to represent their state association. Next, they must submit an in-depth application that includes accomplishments and contributions to their community along with an essay describing their desire to be elected to the position. When they reach the National FFA convention, the candidates participate in five rounds of interviews, take a written test about the organization and agriculture-education topics and complete two writing exercises. Kinne was among six people in a pool of 40 candidates to earn a national FFA office.
“I’ve been working for the last four months to prepare for this process, but it really starts from the moment you join the FFA,” Kinne said. “I still remember getting off the bus my freshman year with my FFA jacket. My dad had taught agriculture education for 13 years, and he had me try it on before I went in the house.”
The corduroy FFA jacket is part of a member’s official dress. It is national blue and corn gold — the official colors of the organization — with the national emblem on the back.
“There was just something about when I put on that jacket,” Kinne said. “It gave me a little more confidence to try something new, a public speaking contest or a leadership position. Eventually I gained a little more confidence and realized what the FFA could do.”
The National FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of more than 500,000 students, with chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The organization works to prepare FFA members for leadership roles and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture.
The organization changed to its current name in 1988, in recognition of the growth and diversity of agriculture and agricultural education. The FFA’s mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
National FFA officers are typically on the road about 330 days of the year.
“We’ll miss him, but we’re so excited for him,” Shelly Kinne said of her son.