Future Farmers of America, better known as FFA, is a dynamic youth organization that changes lives and prepares their student members for leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. The goal is to develop student’s potential and help them to discover their own talent(s) through hands-on experiences. Hebron High School’s Ag Teacher and FFA Advisor of 10 years, Riston Zielke, aims to do just that.
Hebron’s FFA program is extremely active and extremely successful. Making it to the national competition year after year as well as attending the FFA Washington Leadership Conference, the students are able to gain a lot of experience through travel and competition. Zielke mentions though the experiences are wonderful for the students, they aren’t cheap. “It costs a lot of money to get up and down the road. We try to elevate as much expense on the parents and families as we can, while providing opportunities,” says Zielke.
One of their biggest fundraisers is an annual labor auction. “Dakota Community Bank & Trust has been a huge supporter of that from day one. For me it was the first one, I can still remember, Dale Pahlke being at. He was taking bids for us and I was the last to sell. He started bidding on me while taking bids. You could tell he wasn’t going to stop bidding until I was bought by Dakota Community Bank & Trust. They buy me every year and they are very generous.” The labor auction not only is a benefit financially with little margin or overhead cost taken out, but it also gives great exposure of the FFA program to the community of Hebron.
Zielke continued on by mentioning that Dakota Community Bank & Trust (DCB&T) has also been a financial supporter outside of the labor auction, including travel and participation costs for activities throughout the year. “To see the support, obviously financially, they are always extremely supportive. The other part is the involvement that Dakota Community Bank employees have in our community. How you see them being involved, that it’s encouraged, that the bank employees are involved within various aspects of the community. With all of the skilled people at the bank, it’s nice that they lend themselves to being involved within the community, to serve the community.”
Hebron’s FFA program usually consists of about 35 members seventh through 12th grade. To put that into perspective, the entire high school enrollment encompasses roughly 50-55 students.
Zielke’s personal passion is driven from seeing the students succeed within FFA and also outside of FFA. “When you see the impact that the organization has on the students, that is why you do what you do. When they come in as seventh graders and you watch as they evolve, and you see the change, the positive evolution of a person, to me – that is why I do this job. It’s to get those students equipped with needed skills so that they excel once they leave the school.” There are two achievements he is most proud of. The first achievement happened when one of his students became a state FFA officer in 2017. The second achievement is a direct result of Glen Ullin’s newest ag teacher being a former student of his. “He is the first student of mine that has returned to ag education. It is pretty cool to be a teacher of someone who went on to teach.”
Living by the FFA motto, Riston and his students are ‘Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live and Living to Serve.’ For more information on FFA, please visit: https://www.ffa.org/.
Written by Lindsey Hefta, Marketing Director