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NAAE Region I

44 posts

Hello Region I!


It was great meeting with everyone last week for a productive virtual regional meeting. We recorded the meeting in case you missed it or want to review what we discussed. Here is the link: YouTube 


Have a great summer!


Chad Massar

The Roads Are Closed

Posted by Chad Massar May 5, 2017

As I was enjoying a cup of coffee and finishing up my mid-term grades the other morning, so I could head out for Region I Conference, I got a text from the conference coordinator that said, “The Roads Are Closed!” So, just how do you hold a conference without the coordinator or the host state? Well, you do like we all have done when the technology glitches during a lesson, you adapt and improvise. Fortunately, the roads finally were cleared and our conference went extremely well. Sheridan, WY was our base for the week, and during that time it snowed about the entire time with the largest flakes I have ever seen. We were able to get out and about, though. We toured a family-owned wool mill, a greenhouse specializing in developing edible learning lab setups, the Sheridan College of Agriculture, Tom Balding Bits & Spurs, and the King’s Ropes. We offered several workshops for our members to gain knowledge from each other. Additionally, our committee and business meetings went smoothly, with great discussion to further our organization. We had Ideas Unlimited presentations from seven individuals, all of whom gave us awesome ideas to use in our classrooms.  For the second year, we offered a program for our preservice teacher student members, which is a great way to introduce them to the NAAE family.


Regional Conference is a great time for us to get together and share experiences, frustrations, celebrations, ideas, and build bonds. Our group was very well taken care of by the host state, with a prime rib dinner one night and a guest speaker who spoke on the importance of spreading the good message of animal agriculture. The next night, we traveled up into the base of the Big Horn Mountains to the Eaton’s Guest Ranch, the oldest dude ranch in the nation, where we were fed a Cajun feast! We took time to honor the memory of one of our former Region I Vice Presidents and NAAE Presidents, Tom Parker, who passed away this winter. All in all, our conference was a memorable one and we thank our Wyoming delegation that made it happen!  


When it feels like the road is closed, take a look for an alternate route, or wait for the storm to pass. As we near the end of the road for this school year and prepare for our next road trip, take time to reflect on your program successes and shortcomings. Set some goals to accomplish for next year. Also, take a break and recharge your internal batteries, so that you can be the ag teacher that your programs need.


Enjoy your last few days of school!

Chad Massar

Do I Have Enough Fuel?

Posted by Chad Massar Mar 16, 2017

If you are anything like me, you've been there. You jump in the truck and head out on the road, look down and see that the fuel gauge is just barely showing any gas. You press the button to see just how many more miles you can go. Then you think back to the last time you were in that predicament and mentally calculate just how far you can go. You probably neglect to factor in if the driving conditions have changed -- are you carrying the same load,  running the AC, is the wind blowing? There's a great feeling of relief when you pull into the gas station and fill up. You tell your buddies how you coasted in and put 25 gallons in your 24 gallon tank! I've been lucky enough to only run out a couple of times, but have pressed my luck many times.


As ag teachers, there are times throughout the year when we are running low on fuel. Spring, for many of us, is probably the time when we ask ourselves, do I have enough fuel to make it through the end of the year? With applications, state conventions, year-end orders, class projects, plant sales, banquets, summer contract plans, etc., the list goes on and on and the load is heavy. Unlike our cars that tell us how many more miles we have left before our tank is empty, we can only look at the calendar to see how many more days until the next time we get to re-fuel. In my experience, there are certain events we attend to get fueled -- National FFA Convention, NAAE Convention, state FFA convention, regional conference, and summer conference. Some of these activities are also the cause of the tank getting low, but it seems that if we can get there, the fuel we receive has some extra octane and boosts us to go back to our programs and continue our calling.


Just around the corner is a great opportunity for you to fill up your tank at the Region I Conference in Wyoming, April 25-28.   The Wyoming delegation has been working diligently to prepare a program sure to fuel us up to make it through the end of the year. The registration link and conference agenda can be found at Region I Information - WVATA. Early bird registration is due March 29th. I encourage you to attend this conference to partake in professional development workshops, NAAE committee meetings, industry tours, and professional networking.


I would also like to encourage you all to take some time and apply for the NAAE awards available, or nominate another member or stakeholder for one of the awards. These awards are recognition for you, your programs and your communities. Award information can be found at Members - Awards | National Association of Agricultural Educators .  All applications are due May 15th except the Ideas Unlimited for Region I, which is due to the NAAE office April 15th, and then will be presented and judged at the Region I conference.


As I said, there have been a couple of times that I literally have run out of fuel in my pickup on the side of the road, and luckily I have had good friends who were willing to bring me a jug of gas and help me get going again. Throughout my teaching career, I have also experienced times when I've run low on "fuel" as well. At these times, I've been able to count on my NAAE friends and colleagues to fill my tank up again. Please, at any time you feel your tank getting low, know that you can call on me, or any of the NAAE officers and staff, to come to your aid. Good luck with all of your spring activities and I look forward to seeing many of you in April.

Indianapolis or Bust!!!

Posted by Nick Nelson Oct 4, 2016

Cowboy Logic: "If everything seems to be going

well, you have obviously overlooked something."


Being from Oregon, I thought this title was a little iconic. One hundred seventy-three years ago, a huge migration sent pioneers from the Missouri River valleys to the famed fertile Willamette Valley of Oregon. This 2000 mile trip took many months and many lives, but eventually connected the East to the West and colonized this great country.  When I was a junior in high school, I made the reverse trip from Oregon to Kansas City -- it only took me on two airplanes and only about five hours of travel time. A few years prior to that, FFA members would take the train or buses as state delegations, and would be in Kansas City in two or three days. The pilgrimage would start on the west coast and pick up state delegations throughout the western states until full. There were many stories and fun had by all!


My fondest memory of the National FFA Convention has to be when I was serving Oregon as a State Officer. That year, we were able to stay in Kansas City with the other State Delegations. (Oregon is still banned from Kansas City hotels for reasons no one will talk about). I thoroughly enjoyed being down on the floor of the convention, yelling chants with the FFA members, and getting the convention hall fired up for the sessions. I have always been in awe of  the 50,000 plus students in their FFA jackets, their energy, the laser light shows, and the crisp professionalism of the National Officers. Seth Derner was the National President that year. I thought that he had "hung the moon" and he knew who I was. What else could be as exciting and as thrilling as watching that many high school kids with positive attitudes and a love for agriculture.


In my second year of teaching high school agriculture, it was my turn to take a load of students to the National FFA Convention. That year, it was in Louisville, KY and I had a big group. I will never be able to appreciate the alumni and parents enough that helped me on that trip. We took the crew to the Corvette Factory, the Kentucky Horse Park, Makers Mark, and to Churchill Downs. I absolutely enjoyed showing these students places and opportunities they had never seen before. I realized then that teaching ag and being the FFA advisor was something few people will ever understand -- but giving these kids that experience and seeing their excitement during a National FFA Convention session was worth all the time away from home and the trials of getting them there.  


I hope that your trip to National FFA Convention is as rewarding as mine were. I hope that you appreciate your students and share with them their success. These are opportunities that many of your students would not have without your time and dedication. As the planning comes to an end, and the trip finally takes off -- make sure you haven't overlooked something -- because you will!

COWBOY LOGIC:  "Live like someone left the gate open!"



As ag teachers we are called on to serve in many different roles. We call it the ag teachers' wall of hats. One of these hats is for professional development, which we get mostly from our state and national teacher associations. However, there is more than just professional development in NAAE, there also is camaraderie, idea sharing, solving state and national education issues, recruiting, fundraising, and the list goes on and on. Our organizations are so important to the livelihood of not just agricultural education, but agriculture as a whole. I have lived all of my life in agriculture and it is a lifestyle more than it is just a career -- ag education is not much different. The people who live in agriculture represent agriculture, there is no third party that speaks for us.  Our organization runs on service from its members -- if it was set up any other way, it wouldn't serve us very well! 


It is difficult to add one more thing to your plate, especially when we already feel that our job has come first and family second. How do we balance our lives and keep those hats on the wall in good shape? I wish I knew the answer because I have found it difficult to serve NAAE, my school, and my family all at once. All I know is that after a NAAE function, I feel inspired and grateful that I took advantage of the opportunity. The fact that remains is that we need your leadership and your service to keep this organization rolling on. 


Why Serve?


“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Mahatma Gandhi


“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
Gordon B. Hinckley


“I slept and dream't that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Rabindranath Tagore


My service as Region I Vice President is coming to an end. I have truly enjoyed the last three years and am very proud of the unity that we have in our region, but out with the old and in with the new. Region I needs you to step out and continue to serve this truly great organization. If you have any questions about serving NAAE, my door is always open to discuss the roles of the positions. Region I needs both a secretary and a vice president.  The secretary position is elected each year and is primarily responsible to serve at the NAAE and regional conferences. The vice president position is a three-year term that also includes being a committee advisor, service on the executive board that meets twice a year, and representing NAAE at state conferences in our region. To run for a NAAE Region I office, you will need to fill out a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and submit it by September 15th. I highly encourage you to take the risk and run for one of these two offices, you will be glad you did!

Cowboy Logic: "If everything seems to be going

well, you have obviously overlooked something."

I don't know about you, but I have been looking forward to summer break since February. Every spring seems to get busier for my program and my family. For the past two months there has been something going on every weekend. I know that everyone thinks they are busy, so I made a simple survey to sort out the pretenders:

  1.   The yard will yield two tons to the acre.
  2.   The kids use the couch in the living room as a community clothes dresser.
  3.   You haven't seen the bottom of the sink in a lustrum (Lustrum--Refer to John Wayne in Rooster Cogburn).
  4.   The kitchen table has orderly stacks of unopened mail sorted into weeks (thank you autopay).
  5.   The stock trailer has been hooked to the pickup since the middle of March and you still have part of the groceries in the boot, along with a half bag of shavings from the last show.
  6.   Oscar Meyer is the food staple, whether at the ball field, stock show, junior rodeo, and/or when you finally make it home at 10:00pm  (My family refers to them as tube steaks).
  7.   Your prep period is now called "nap time."
  8.   You are about out of FFA banquet paper plates and plastic ware (refer to #3).
  9.   All of your finals this term are now take-home exams or are online so they can be auto graded.
  10.   Your calendar has so much ink on it, it has become toxic to the touch.

As I was grading my lab exams the other day, a social science teacher stopped by my office to talk about some union news.  As she talked, I was entering grades and half-hearted listening to her. Then there was a sudden long pause, I looked up to see an interesting expression on her face. "What is that green stuff on those papers?" she asked.

It got me thinking, would other teachers in your school grade papers with cow manure on them? Would their students wait patiently while they drove the tractor around and hooked up to implements prior to lab?  Would they be willing to come to the school farm at 11:45pm because a calf snuck through the fence and the police department can't put it back in? I know you are all busy and only ag teachers would do these things. That is what makes them such special teachers. As the school year comes to an end, an ag teacher's job doesn't. It is important to reflect on the year -- that is when we truly learn, and it is important to get re-energized. Take the opportunity to go to your state ag teachers' conference -- this is a perfect time to reflect and talk to other ag teachers about what worked and what will be round-filed. I have always found our state conference to be full of good information, good humor, and rejuvenating to the soul.

April was when the Region I Conference was held in Coeu"r d'Alene. The Idaho Association did a tremendous job organizing and putting this conference on. It was a huge success in my mind and had 135 teachers in attendance, the largest Region I Conference I have seen. There are several resources on the Region I page of CoP for you to review if you were not able to make it. I would like to thank the Idaho Association again for a job well done, and continuing to step up and make each conference as good or better than the year before.

"That One Cow"

Posted by Nick Nelson Mar 29, 2016


"The trouble with doing something right the first time
is that no one appreciates how difficult it was!"


I hate her. She calved on a cold Sunday night in the most difficult place. She had troubles and got hip-locked and ultimately pinched a nerve. Dad and I had invented this hip sling method to be able to get cows up and get circulation to their legs. However, this cow calved on top of a steep hill covered in lava rocks -- no way to get the tractor up to her, so Dad gave me the task of getting that cow up and moving. She hated me as much as I hated her. I would tease the cow to lunge at me -- her hind legs didn't work, so I was always in a safe position. I would get her to lunge all the way down to the creek to get water -- I wanted to leave her there, but my conscience got the better of me because I knew she would probably drown. This went on for a week, twice a day, me teasing a cow to get her to take me up the hill and down the hill to water. It was a Friday afternoon when I went to play our game of cat and mouse -- since to this point she still couldn't stand on her own four feet, I was pretty confident she couldn't get at me. She hated me, by the way. I walked up, took my glove off and stretched out and slapped her in the face with it. Her eyes got big and steam came from her nostrils, but she didn't move a muscle, just stared with hate and contempt in her eyes. I slapped her again, she threw her head at me, but nothing else. The third time I got right up to her head and rubbed her top notch, but this time the cat set her trap and lunged to her feet. I found my self square on my back with that red Saler ready to pounce on my head. I rolled and ran like a shortstop with a play to first. I looked for a tree to climb into, but on that patch of hill there was nothing to hide in except for blackberry patches and hawthorn bushes -- I hated that cow!


As time went on, that cow was my nemeses. If I wanted the cow herd to go through a particular gate, she would head them off and throw her head and chase them out -- she made the simplest task impossible.  I remember when it was time to take her to the sale, Dad told me that when she goes in the trailer, slam the door, even if she is the only one in there. "We will only get one chance" he said. It was worth it to take a separate trip just for her. After that working cows was easy, never a problem. The cows moved where they were supposed to go, always went into the right gate, never held up the squeeze chute. I felt a little sadness, with my enemy gone there was no challenge in my life.  Isn't that the way of it though?  We like challenges, maybe not at the time, but when we look back at our memories we tend to identify the things that were tough to accomplish and relish those achievements.


May 15th is the due date for NAAE award applications. I encourage you to fill out an award and submit it to NAAE. Remember these awards are as much for your program and community as they are for you. I had the opportunity to teach at a really exciting program at Hermiston. We had increased the ag program to have three teachers, we had 750 students taking agriculture classes, and there were 225 paid FFA members. On top of that, we had an outstanding FFA Alumni of over a 100 strong to help us with this monster. The success that this program brought to the community was really something that I was proud of.  We submitted an application for Outstanding Middle/Secondary Program and won at the state level. The community brags on their agriculture program still to this day!

"We don't rent pigs"

Posted by Nick Nelson Jan 28, 2016

Cowboy Logic: "Most folks are 'bout as

happy as they've made up their minds to be."


     "Well we don't rent pigs, and the man that does, he's hard to stop."

     This is one of my favorite lines from the best movie ever made; Lonesome Dove.  I may not rent pigs, but I do now raise goats.  Which is something I never thought would come out of my mouth.  I am a sixth generation cattlemen, and all those years going to the county fair, I avoided the goat barn like it had a plague.  Now my family at one time did raise a lot of sheep, and then moved to commercial cattle, then eventually purebred cows--never was there a plan to downgrade to goats.   But here we are-- "goat farmers for the sake of our kids," is how I make the excuse.  The reality is, they are a lot of fun.  Never in my life have I been around an animal with so much personality and the ability to get out or into anything they wish.  The dang goats make me laugh every day, I just don't tell my friends about it.


     The cowboy logic is very true, we are as happy as we've made a decision to be.  I have a student that is constantly mad about something.  I asked her the other day if she was ever happy.  "What do you mean?"  I took that as a NO!  Emotions are as much a state of mind as anything.  We make the decision of how our day is going to go from the moment we roll out of bed.  I think that is particularly evident when you evaluate your own kids.  My son is still wrestling and has had a pretty successful season, but this year more than any other it has been about coaching the brain.  He is eight and has been wrestling for three years.  He has lost some really close matches against some really savvy kids.  Convincing him that the next tournament is a new day and could have a different outcome has been difficult.  When he has made his mind up that he can win, he has been the one raising his hand at the end of the match, but every day we need to have a coaching session on the mental aspects of wrestling.


     The Western Region Conference is coming soon.  You can register for the conference in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho at  The dates are a week later than normal; April 26-29th.  The Idaho delegation has been working a great deal on some awesome tours and fun activities, you can find a copy of the draft agenda on both the Idaho website and in CoP under Region 1.  The price has been kept really moderate and it would be awesome to see 70-100 teachers there.  The early bird registration ends March 1, 2016.


     Also it is a goal of mine to get the state profiles updated on CoP.  California, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada and now Arizona have gotten their state profiles uploaded.  This information could be very useful for ag teacher recruitment, understanding each state's educational benefits/shortfalls and would be very important as we start to dig deeper into the "Vision 2035" data.  As you communicate with your state leadership teams, put the state profile document as one of your goals to complete this spring.

Cowboy Logic:

"Don't go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail."


As the National FFA Convention approaches I am reminded of all the memories I have gained from the experience. When I was in school, it was the main goal of my FFA career to get to the convention. My dad was the ag teacher in the neighboring school and he would only let me go to the convention if I earned my way there -- meaning I had to be on a state winning team or be a proficiency winner, etc. The problem was, was that everything that I liked to compete in, my dad also liked to coach and time and time again I found my team second to my dad's. So my buddies and I devised a plan to find a CDE that we could be successful at without the competition of Sutherlin. In 1994, we became the Oregon State Poultry Champions. It didn't matter that there were no live chickens in the county, we figured out a way to prepare. Our ag teacher let us have at it, and told us he would be the bus driver if we took it serious. 


When I became an ag teacher later, I found myself in a similar position as my ag teacher did when I was in high school. I had an outstanding student that was a tremendous speaker. She quickly got to the point where I didn't know how to help her any more. She won the state prepared contest and we were off to national convention. She had the topic of plant-made pharmaceuticals, which only a handful of farmers were actually raising at the time. Now most kids would email or maybe call their speech sources, but I don't know too many that would raise money to fly into Iowa from Oregon to meet with their sources, she did!  Kari won the National Prepared CDE that year, and a year later was elected to a national office. I could easily claim that I helped her succeed, but the truth of the matter is she would have succeeded without me. Every once in a while, we get students that are simply awesome and they make our life extremely easy!


The neatest thing about the National FFA Convention is being able to give students a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially for many west-coast kids -- this maybe the first time they will ever get east of the Mississippi, or ride on an airplane, or be awed by 50,000 kids just like them in one stadium all wearing the blue corduroy.


I look forward to seeing you all in New Orleans in November. Take care and enjoy your time with your students in Louisville. 

Cowboy Logic:

"Don't expect the scenery to change any if you're sittin' on the fence."


In my teaching career, I have lived in two awesome agriculture communities. The first community I taught in (Hermiston), is a community that is relatively young, but boy are they progressive.  Most of the agriculture producers came there from somewhere else, and when they were developing their farms they invested in the newest irrigation technologies. This allowed them to experiment with different crops.  Irrigation was a must because the soil is extremely sandy and rainfall amounts to 10 inches or less per year. The community has a thriving economy, and it is growing by leaps and bounds -- businesses are always there to support non-profits and the fundraisers are always breaking records.

The community that I now live in is only 20 minutes east from Hermiston, but has a totally different outlook on things. Pendleton is rich in tradition, many of the farms are a century old, and have been in the family for three to five generations. It is all dryland farming here -- the soil is a rich, silty loam and we get 12-20 inches of rain a year. Change in Pendleton is not well received like it is in Hermiston.  The population in Hermiston is growing every year, while it drops in Pendleton. Pendleton still farms much the same way as "Grandpa" did it, with the exception of the equipment.  We have a historic downtown and a rodeo that has been here for 105 years and still operates the way it did in 1910.  I am an outsider to both of these communities, so it allows me to watch what happens as we progress through time.  Change can be a hard thing to wrap your arms around.


Have you ever heard that busy people make the best leaders? You are probably already aware of this statement because you recruit the most active and busiest students to be on your FFA officer team.  They tend to be the most organized because they are involved in so many different activities. 


As we near the NAAE Conference in New Orleans, I would like to remind you that we will have a secretary's position that will need to be filled. MOU's are due to the NAAE office by September 15th, if you are interested in running for a NAAE office. The secretary position is a one year term of service. NAAE pays your National and Regional Conference expenses. I would also like to encourage you to be thinking of running for the Region I Vice President position. My term will be up in 2016, in Las Vegas. Serving in these positions has been a wonderful experience, and I have fully enjoyed my time getting to know and serve the ag teachers in the western region. I would highly recommend running for these positions, you will not be disappointed.


The regional award recipients have been announced. Thank you to those who served on an award selection committee, we had a great turn out of people that took their time to score this year's applications.  Fifteen students were selected for the NAAE Upper Division Scholarship, two of which were from the western region. These scholarships help ag education students during their student teaching experience. Please continue to encourage the ag ed majors in your state to apply for these scholarships. Don't forget to register for NAAE conference, the registration fee is now $375 until October 16th. The conference will be at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, and rooms could be limited, as we are sharing this hotel with ACTE. However the ACTE conference will not start until Friday this year -- this will make our last NAAE business meeting on Saturday go later, so if you are a delegate, please plan ahead.

The 80/20 Rule

Posted by Nick Nelson May 26, 2015

Cowboy Logic:

"The trouble with opportunity is that it often comes disguised as hard work."


I don't remember my parents being as busy as I have found myself being in the spring.  Over the past two months, I feel I have been home maybe a total of 24 hours. Between junior rodeo, baseball, livestock shows, auctions, community Events, and of course teaching, there has been no time to even clean the house.  I think my parents are smarter than I am. At a young age, they made my siblings and I choose our favorite past-times and limited us to the activities that would best serve us in the future.  That is a tough thing to do when you have to choose what opportunities you would want to present to your kids. 

There is a thing that I have noticed since I have been teaching......I call it the 80/20 rule -- 80% of the people watch 20% of the people do the work.   You could apply this rule to almost everything -- your classroom, church groups, rodeo committee, athletics, 4-H clubs, the highway department, etc.  I also believe that those 20% that do 80% of the work are the ones that are given the most opportunities in life. As the school year winds down and exhaustion sets in, you have to keep on truckin' because those opportunities you have been waiting for will present themselves to you.

In April, the Region I Conference was held in Tempe, Arizona.  It was an awesome conference that had us moving all the time.  The tours had us out to Arizona nurseries, then to a carrot processing plant, we visited a small dairy, and then went to a feedlot that feeds only black and white cattle -- and they looked good!  The program tours were also incredible.  We visited three schools in the Phoenix-Tempe area that were all very unique.  We saw one program that works with the local historical museum and leases out ground to students to grow crops, one program has a complete meat processing program, with another inner-city program that has a complete school farm.  The neatest thing about these tours was that the students presented their programs to us and did a wonderful job.  Lastly, we were able to tour an olive mill that was made famous by "Dirty Jobs" and Mike Rowe.

The business portion of the conference was also very successful.  The committees came up with several great ideas to be sent to the summer virtual meetings. You can view those committee reports on the CoP home page under each committee space.  I believe the state reports were highly successful, and were able to get states together for some outstanding cooperation on initiatives. Thank you to all the members that were able to come to this conference, the work that you completed was tremendous!  I would also like to thank the Arizona delegation for putting on a truly outstanding conference. Thank you all for the work that you did to host the Region I Conference!


I look forward to seeing you at your state summer conferences and hope that this time of year can get you recuperated and rejuvenated for the next year!




The Humble Profession

Posted by Nick Nelson Mar 25, 2015

Cowboy Logic: "If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place."


A few years ago I was at a livestock sale.  I have always loved the atmosphere, the smells, the food, and the company of a sale barn.  I sat down next to a friend of mine that ran a few head of cattle.  Allen was a tremendous horseman and a good cattleman, but he was as cheap as a seized up tractor.  Allen would never go to a bull sale and buy a bull, he would rather take his chances at the sale yard.  As the auctioneer was making the rhythmic sounds of his chant, a set of two year old Red Angus bulls came into the ring.  The auctioneer started them at 50 cents a pound and Allen jumped right in.  I leaned over to tell Allen that he didn't want those bulls.


"Sure I do, they are Lorenzen bulls!"


At the time, I couldn't think of the procedure that had turned those bulls from functional to non-functional breeding bulls, so all I could think to say to Allen was that the bulls were vasectomized.  Allen responded to me that it was alright because he already had every other disease on his place, one more wouldn't matter.


In our state, we encourage our ag teachers to fill out award applications, but sometimes have a hard time getting every award represented.  I understand ag teachers really are humble people and they sure do not think that they are deserving -- even though they really are.  However, the one award that is the most coveted in our state is the one award no one wishes to receive.  If Allen were an ag teacher he surely would have won this award for his bull purchase.  Now, no one is perfect and if we truly are doing our jobs things will happen -- lots of great things, and every once in a while, some not so great things.  We will spend 15 minutes presenting our mistake award, but only spend two minutes each giving out the meaningful awards.  I, like so many others, get a kick out of this award and I understand the philosophy of "not letting the truth get in the way of a good story".  I think that this process and having these fun awards justifies that we are a humble group of people and that we would rather tell each other about our mistakes than our successes.


It took me a while to understand that the NAAE Awards are not for us.  They are for our programs, our schools and our communities.  I encourage all of you to keep this in mind when you do decide to fill out an application.  If you are hesitant to apply, then think of this: your students put in work right alongside you, and your community supports the program.  They all would be ecstatic if you were recognized at the state and the national levels.  I also encourage those of you that know someone who deserves an award to push them, and if that doesn't work, fill it out for them -- some times that may be the only way.


All NAAE awards competing in Region I are due May 15.  The new system allows you to save your information and upload it when you are ready, and then send it directly to the NAAE office through the website.  The system is very user-friendly, but you must create a log-in account to access the information.  Another opportunity that you have is to serve on a selection committee for our region.  If you would like to learn how to fill out these applications, there is no better way than to evaluate current, state winners -- as well as a way to see the neat things that others are doing.  The NAAE is looking for 8-15 volunteers to serve on an award selection committee.  You will be able to evaluate and score other regions' applications in the comfort of your own home or office.  If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact Alissa Smith at I truly believe that we have an awesome profession and that you need to be recognized for your hard work in your program.  Remember that if you don't make any mistakes, you aren't doing anything!

The Short Days of Winter

Posted by Nick Nelson Jan 22, 2015

Cowboy Logic:

"Anyone who says marriage is a 50/50 proposition

knows nothing about men, women or fractions."


This time of year is often the busiest for myself and my family.  Cows are calving, everything needs feed, I am constantly counting bales of hay and hoping it will get me to April.  Meanwhile, my kids are wrestling, taking English riding lessons, swimming, and my wife finally got me excited about horses.  Now I have a love-hate relationship with horses -- the way it goes in my house is the cows are mine (they make money) the horses are hers (they lose lots of money).  I usually feed everything, and it always seems to be in the dark; the cows seem to appreciate me, but the horses try to run me over.  My wife has been searching for years to get me involved in horses -- she finally succeeded.  Welcome to "Mounted Shooting".  It is aaaaaaaawesome.........blazing away at targets at a full run, with single action .45 caliber Colt replicas.  I am trying not to look at the expense that this new found activity will accrue.  Oh well, I get new guns!


I realize that this is also a busy time of year for all ag teachers, the days are short and there is a lot going on.  Hang with it and find an activity to escape with your family.  I know that it is hard this time of year, but it is needed.  This is also a good time to get your students out of the classroom and to do some tours.  So much is happening with livestock; from bull sales to calving, processing lambs and baby pigs. Before you know it, those fall seeded crops will be up and the snow will be gone.


This is also a great time for NAAE!  Many of you are serving on committees and will be a part of the new restructure process.  In the next couple of weeks, all seven of the committees will be meeting through a webinar program, and will be creating new topics for regional and board discussion and action.  This is an extremely important job, and one that I know you will find value in.  I believe this will make our organization more grass roots, but will also allow us to move faster on action items.  Look for emails scheduling the meetings over the next couple of weeks and definitely take part in the discussion.  All committee information will be on Communities of Practice and will be available for all to view.  This is also an opportunity for anyone to be a part of NAAE at the regional and national level -- no longer do you have to serve on your state's officer team to be on a committee, due to the fact that most of the meetings will be done virtually.  If you would like to serve on a committee, send in a resume and cover letter to the NAAE office and/or let your state team know of your interest.  Each region must have three members per committee.


Other NAAE items to look out for are state award winners need to be looking at completing applications, and we are looking for volunteers to serve as selection committees to look over applications from other regions -- this is an excellent way of learning what other teachers are doing and what makes their application great.  The Region I Conference will be coming up quickly as well.  This year the conference will be in Tempe, AZ; April 15-17.  The Arizona crew has their website up to register and for more information on the conferenc -- Early bird registration is due February 1.

NAAE--Nashville, TN

Posted by Nick Nelson Oct 6, 2014

Cowboy Logic:

"Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand."


Getting back into the swing of things is tough!  The thing that I enjoy about summer is that you can kind of set your own schedule -- consequently, the thing I hate about summer is not having an organized schedule.  I hope that all of you have been able to transition back into the day-to-day grind that is the life of an ag teacher.  It always surprises me how mentally draining it is to be in the classroom following a break.  Eventually, it becomes the norm and life is good.

NAAE Convention is just around the corner, so please be sure to get registered for what will be an awesome experience in Nashville, at the Opryland Hotel.  This year both NAAE and ACTE will be held at the same location--that's how big this hotel is!  It is also a time for your leadership at the regional and committee meetings.  There will be a policy change that will be voted on by the entire delegation -- the Board Restructure. I encourage you to look at this document and have questions ready to discuss at the regional meetings.  My view is that this is a win-win for our profession and association as it includes all the stakeholders involved in agricultural education. 

We also need a third member for each of the seven committees.  This is a great opportunity for you to take an active leadership role in NAAE.  We will take volunteers at NAAE Convention and put you into that position. If you are interested in a particular committee, email me before and I will put you on the list -- first-come-first serve.  This third committee position would be encouraged to serve a three year term -- President-Elect would be the ideal position for this, but not necessary.

Finally, congratulations to all of the award and scholarship winners.  It is very neat to see agriculture teachers and programs be recognized in their communities.  Agricultural education is so very much a community program, not just a school program -- these recognitions remind the community of that very fact.  Those of you that are able to attend through Teacher Turn the Key or the XLR8 program -- you will have an awesome time and take advantage of every opportunity.  Be sure to still attend the regional meetings, so that you can make the close-to-home connections.

Cowboy Logic: "You can catch more flies with honey
than vinegar -- assuming you want to catch flies."



I have seen many changes in my home state's ag teacher dynamics in the last 12 years.  I have seen our state move from an average experience level of 25 years to five years of experience, with over 50 percent of our teachers retiring.  When I first started teaching, I could count the female teachers in our state on one hand, and now the state is very much equal in the male to female ag teacher ratio.  The dynamics have definitely changed, and I believe that it has fed new life to our organization. However, there is one thing that does trouble me -- why is it so hard to convince teachers to become members, and why is it a struggle to get our members to serve in a leadership role?


I have been able to attend three different state conferences this year, and at each one of them the same problems arise:  teacher shortage, membership, and a willingness to step up and become a state leader.  I believe the solution to each one of these problems is the same -- we have to instill a passion for agricultural education in our teachers!


In the west, "teacher shortage" is rampant and is a tough problem to handle for a teacher organizations. However, I think that there are several states in the west that may have found the solution.  Idaho, Montana, California, and now Oregon have put forth or are working on incentive grants for agriculture programs that I believe will turn the tide in winning the war on the shortage of agricultural educators.  These states had to get political and advocate, they had to come together as an organization and put their Team Ag Ed groups to work to get bills recognized and they needed key friends from alumni, state departments, universities, congress, and other affiliates to make it work.  None of this would have happened, though, if not for the state teacher association's organization!


Membership is the frustrating problem.  Why would you not belong to your teacher association or the national association?  This has always bothered me---our strength is in our numbers and I view both the state and the national association as not just associates, but as family and friends.  I look forward to going to the Oregon Ag Teachers Conference every year because it is like a family reunion to me and in many cases those ag teachers are closer to me than a lot of my own family.  Recently, a cow was killed by wolves in my area.  The producer of the cow was not a member of the Cattlemen's Association.  The Cattlemen's Association has been and will forever be the first line of defense against predation and is willing to go through legal battle for its members against the government and special interest groups to fight for the rights of its members.  The Cattlemen's Association fought for this cow producer even though he had not paid his membership--he now is a member.  Why did he wait so long to belong to the organized group that represents him?  What are you waiting for?  Again, our strength is in our numbers!  Don't wait for the problem to arise, be the solution when it comes.


I can understand why it would be difficult to serve as a leader for your state or your region  because I have had to come to grips with the same difficult questions.  I did not run for the VP spot willingly, my arm was twisted.  In fact, with every leadership position I have held, my arm was twisted (maybe I have a low pain tolerance).  I have enjoyed many parts about the job, particularly getting to meet so many ag teachers and seeing so many awesome things that they are doing for their programs and for their states.  I have never regretted serving ag teachers.  As far as my family is concerned, I try to do the same thing my dad did with me.  My family is included not separated from our teacher association.  Family is a vital part of our organization--you can serve a leadership role and have a family included.  Every great experience, every trip I have ever had has been because of FFA, OVATA and NAAE -- all of these represent ag education!  Serve your fellow teachers, it is a worthwhile experience and it is needed from you!

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