As the agriculture industry readies itself for the 96th annual National FFA Convention and Expo this week, AEM caught up with Chris Bursiek, manager of enterprise product safety and standards at AEM member company John Deere, to discuss why he’s so passionate about championing the efforts of FFA as the organization continues to build upon its legacy of advancing a bright future for ag.

Bursiek and several other member company representatives comprise AEM’s FFA Fan Group, which works to accomplish a variety of goals aligned with the association’s support of FFA. Learn more about AEM’s FFA Fan Group.

AEM: Why do you feel it’s so important for AEM members like yourself to attend the National FFA Convention this week and show support for the organization?

Bursiek: Attending the National FFA Convention accomplishes two things. One, it energizes people. Every time I attend Convention, I can’t help but be excited and energized about the future of the ag industry. Two, it brings to light opportunities to attract new talent. Attendees get a chance to interact with young people, see the skills they bring to the table, and witness the open-mindedness they possess – all of which can help change our industry for the better and help organizations like John Deere deliver for our customers’ needs in the future.

AEM: In what ways do you try to participate in FFA these days and continue to contribute to its long-term success and longevity?

Bursiek: The first thing that comes to my mind is monetary contributions to FFA. Personally, what I like to do is amplify my contribution, whether it’s through community or company matches.

Another way I engage is through my participation in AEM’s FFA Fan Group, because it really pushes me to consider how best to engage with FFA in different ways. Also, it helps me function as a voice for how people in the ag and construction industries can support FFA in ways that are beneficial for the company and the FFA organization.

Ultimately, I like to think about FFA as a multi-layered organization. You can determine for yourself where the right place is for you to connect. Is it at the national level? At the state level? The community level? For me, my focus right now is communicating with folks regarding the successes I have seen and the ways in which they can engage and be successful.

I also participate in my local FFA community through opportunities such as fundraisers and volunteer events. FFA is making it easier for folks to participate in judging opportunities – whether those be local judging opportunities, state or national judging opportunities, or application reviews for supervised agricultural experience (SAE) funding.

To me, what is so great about FFA is there are so many different ways to contribute that you can tailor it to what your time and commitment allows. Earlier in my career, I would take days to go to an in-person event or take a Saturday morning and participate in judging a competition. Now, to maximize flexibility, I look for more virtual opportunities I can fit into my schedule, particularly early in the mornings or late in the evenings. Having the variety of options on how to volunteer to support FFA allows me to continue to engage in meaningful ways, regardless of where I am in life at that moment. 



"As I see where FFA is going, I’m excited about the growth and development of its participants. I’m excited about the breadth of opportunities it’s providing, and just the sheer mass of the organization. As you continue to see the number of students involved in FFA grow over time, it gives the organization a level of strength to help it make sure it lasts into the future." - John Deere's Chris Bursiek


AEM: Why do you feel it’s so important for young people in ag to get involved with FFA?

Bursiek: It’s not just young people in ag who can benefit from involvement in the organization. It’s all young people. I grew up on a farm, and as a third generation FFA member in my local chapter, and I just knew it was something I was going to do. But in retrospect, I feel now like it’s about so much more. It’s about the way we use ag as the vehicle to help people develop the skills that will change their lives.

AEM: What excites you most about FFA and where the organization is headed at this point?

Bursiek: As I see where FFA is going, I’m excited about the growth and development of its participants. I’m excited about the breadth of opportunities it’s providing, and just the sheer mass of the organization. As you continue to see the number of students involved in FFA grow over time, it gives the organization a level of strength to help it make sure it lasts into the future.

Agriculture affects us all. We all eat. We all live in a house. That idea of food, shelter and clothing – these things affect everyone. FFA is continuing to modify itself over the decades, and it’s been great to see it transition from that idea of production agriculture to the entire agricultural cycle and the sciences behind it.

It is also about the technical portion. And I think the model FFA is impactful. It’s about the supervised agricultural experience (SAE), it’s about the classroom and it’s about the FFA organization. Those three things really help give it stability and strength.

The fact that we’re seeing growth in what I would call non-rural communities is exciting for me.  Exposing more people to what opportunities  are available in agriculture and the different parts of agriculture, it’s exciting. I want to break the mentality that FFA is just for folks on the farm. You don’t have to be in a rural community to be in FFA. Anyone can be a part of FFA whether you grew up in a rural community or not.  Also, it’s great we’re seeing increasing growth in the number of females as well as collaborations with groups like MANRRS (, too. 

I think it’s so exciting that more and more people can find their voice in FFA. And there are so many opportunities and such an ability to craft your experience that there’s something there for everybody.

AEM: What specifically do you look forward to the most about Convention?

Bursiek: Thinking back on my own FFA experience, I never would’ve thought I would’ve worked for a Fortune 100 company like John Deere. I never imagined I would’ve have traveled to three different continents across the globe. But FFA prepared me for those opportunities, and it prepared me to take advantage when the time was right. So, that ability to see what’s more broadly available for folks at the career fair at FFA Convention is a great opportunity.

The other piece that always excited me was the sessions and the speakers themselves. Just the energy – to take young people who are excited about ag in general, put them into a stadium environment and just have it shake like it’s a College Football Saturday-type environment. Just to get that excited about it is so amazing to me. And the speakers, whether they are invited keynotes or the National FFA officers, the keynotes they would give and their ability to connect with young people, and their ability to drive home a message. Every time I would leave a General Session, I could reflect on those speakers – there’s something there that’s impactful and meaningful to me that I could take home and use. Those are the two things that get me most excited about FFA Convention.

So, for the folks that get a chance to go to Convention, commit yourself to the experience. It can be easy to drop out for a little while for a conference call, or other distraction. If you make the commitment to go, immerse yourself in it. If you don’t, you’ll miss some amazing opportunities.

If AEM members are interested, feel free to connect back to members of the AEM FFA Fan Club. We’re more than willing to share our experiences and share our thoughts. And just like FFA has a lot of different ways to engage with it, we can use our AEM FFA Fan Group to help other members understand how they can engage in a way that will be meaningful for them as well.

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