During National FFA Week (February 22-29, 2020), more than 700,000 middle and high school National FFA members are celebrating the role agriculture plays in our lives while sharing the message of agricultural education.

Shawn Miller, Wind Technician at our Miami Energy Center in Texas, with his grandson.

Before Lee Castleberry was climbing wind turbines at Invenergy’s Turkey Track Wind Energy Center (169.5 MW, TX), he was in the classroom teaching high school students agricultural science and serving as the advisor for his local National FFA chapter.  

FFA prepares its members for leadership in careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture through STEM education programming, career and leadership development events, local engagement, literacy, advocacy and more. The organization provides hands-on experiences that give members the tools to achieve professional success. 

“I’ve benefitted both personally and professionally from FFA,” said Lee. Before he was an FFA advisor, Lee was a member of the Coleman FFA chapter during his high school days. He was on the FFA Officer Team, Farm Skills Team, FFA Quiz Team and the Livestock Judging Team. “I learned public speaking, problem solving, how to conduct a meeting using the rules of parliamentary procedure, and so many other skills that I use in my role with Invenergy every day.”  

In July 2019, Invenergy made a three-year sponsorship commitment to support FFA chapters nationwide. More than half of Invenergy’s U.S.-based renewable energy projects are in the same zip code as an active FFA chapter. Given the proximity of FFA chapters to our home communities, Invenergy has a unique opportunity to make meaningful connections with like-minded people who believe in FFA’s mission. Our national investment reinforces our commitment to the development of rural communities and helps both Invenergy and National FFA share their values with a wider audience. 

“Invenergy’s success is intrinsically tied to the communities where we develop, build and operate projects,” explained Kent Truckor, Director of International Development at Invenergy’s Chicago office. “Many of the forthcoming leaders in these areas are active in their local FFA chapter. It only makes sense that we support and work with the future leaders of these communities.” Kent was a member of the Evergreen FFA chapter during his freshman and sophomore years of high school where he was active in meat and dairy judging and showed pigs.  

In honor of National FFA Week, Invenergy colleagues share their FFA experiences, how those experiences translated into their careers, and what Invenergy's FFA sponsorship means to them.

How were you involved in FFA?   

Shawn Miller (Wind Technician at our Miami Energy Center in Texas): I was in FFA through all of high school and held several local officer positions, in addition to being District Secretary. I showed sheep and swine and participated in the horse and livestock judging teams. I was on the Courtesy Corps at the Texas State FFA convention and achieved my State Farmer degree.  
Bristi Cure (Director, Renewable Development in Texas): I joined the Spur FFA chapter to broaden my educational experience. I began competing in parliamentary procedure, radio broadcasting and meat judging state competitions that improved my public speaking skills and allowed me to expand my network. 

How has FFA helped you in your professional and/or personal life? 

Kent: Although I grew up on a farm, it still gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of different parts of agriculture that I was not exposed to. This helped me connect with people from all different walks of life who are active in agriculture which has been critical to my role working in development at Invenergy as we never know who we are going to meet or speak with in a project area.  
Shawn: I learned multiple trade skills like welding, cutting, vehicle maintenance and carpentry that definitely come in handy. But I also learned about profit and loss and record keeping and improved my public speaking abilities. 
Bristi: FFA provided my first real-world experience in networking. Now, as a renewable energy project developer, I highly depend on this skill to build trusting relationships and get projects across the finish line. 

Why do you think it’s important for Invenergy to support organizations like FFA? 

Lee: Supporting youth organizations like FFA not only benefits the students by teaching them the skills and ability to be successful, but also benefits our future when these students enter the workforce.   
Shawn: Anytime we as a company can support an organization that gives our youth leadership, responsibility, vocational, and task specific skills, it is important that we do so. 
Bristi: I am thrilled that Invenergy recognizes the value of FFA and is sponsoring national programs such as their Alumni Platform, Blue Jacket Program and Extemporaneous Public Speaking Development Events. 

What is your favorite memory during your time with FFA? 

Shawn: I have many. I saw most of the state of Texas through FFA – from state conventions, stock shows, judging trips, and leadership conferences. One of my proudest moments was when my son joined FFA and was elected District President. 
Kent: The first time I tried to do meat and dairy judging I did not do very well. In the end though, I was able to successfully identify the milk from a cow that ate chives.  
Lee: Most of my favorite memories are from being an advisor. Being able to celebrate students wins with them or see them figure out how to improve if they fell short. Personally, I love to watch my kids work with and show their market swine.