27 October 2021, US: If there’s one thing Cole Ketterling values more than anything, it’s the importance of helping around the family farm.
Cole grew up in Wishek, North Dakota, a small town with a population less than a thousand. His family has rented and owned farmland. They use the land to grow sunflowers, corn, spring wheat and soybeans and feed over sixty beef cattle.
“I grew up on the production side of agriculture,” says Cole. “I have been heavily involved the farm operation ever since I can remember and loved every minute of it.”
While in high-school, Cole participated in his local Wishek FFA chapter. One of the required FFA projects was for the students to complete a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). SAE provides practical agricultural activities to students outside of classroom. It’s student-led and instructor-supervised with a focus on measurable outcomes.
For Cole, deciding his SAE project was an easy choice. He wanted to help the family farm, but he also wanted to use this as an opportunity to learn, experiment and become a more well-rounded farmer. Without hesitation, he purchased five steers and rented pasture, starting his SAE journey.
“This FFA experience was nothing short of outstanding,” explains Cole. “I learned a lot and developed skills that I continue to use today.”
Cole’s dedication to the SAE project, along with his expectational honors throughout high school, won him national recognition as the American Star Farmer winner in 2020. The prestigious award is given to a FFA member that demonstrates top production volumes and outstanding achievement.
Cole mentioned that the FFA program taught him the meaning of hard work and responsibility. Even today, he uses these skills as an agriculture loan officer and continued right-hand farmer to his dad. He attributes this success to his FFA experiences, mentors, coaches and advisors.
When asked about the “future” of agriculture, Cole explains, “It depends on our ability to be sustainable. The Ag industry needs to continue to take steps towards being more sustainable to be successful.”