The FFA offers students opportunities for growth, for leadership and for development. Students work their way up through the local, district and state levels for a chance to compete at the National FFA Convention. There is one competition, however, that allows just one student from each state to compete in, and that is the chance to become a National FFA Officer. The second his name was announced, the joy on his face was unmistakable. Brennan Costello, Gothenburg, Neb., had earned his spot on the team.
“FFA is known for its values, tradition and the quality of individuals who wear the blue jacket. My experiences, drive and desire to serve make me a valuable and effective asset to the organization as a National FFA Officer,” said Costello said in his application.
He continued, “My mission as a National FFA Officer will be to engage the potential — for individual growth; for agricultural education and FFA; for a nation literate in agriculture; and engage the potential of FFA members to learn, serve and lead.”
Costello, the son of Steve and Becky, grew up on a family farm, raising sheep, hogs, cattle, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, dogs and cats. They also had a large family garden that he worked in.
In addition to his family’s farm, Costello worked for a neighbor, Anderson Farms, owned by Jo and Britt Anderson. On this farm, Costello helped with field work including irrigating, and helped with the cattle operation as well.
“Britt and Jo have always held me accountable for producing quality work. Being in the outdoors, caring for livestock, and producing a food supply for America motivated me to put forth the effort to be successful in the agriculture industry. Seeing the effort that the Anderson’s display daily inspired me to do the same, and to use this work ethic in all areas of life,” he said.
This placement, as well as Costello’s time in FFA, helped him develop life skills. “FFA has taught me the importance of utilizing communication and networking skills. My advisor often told me the value of having effective communication skills, and the role they play when working on a team or pursuing a career. I have met, and connected with talented FFA members across the country, and have gained a better understanding of our agriculture industry and the complexities of leadership,” he said.
What Costello likes most about the FFA is what the organization can do for people. “I like the caliber of young people that the FFA creates. We have a tradition of helping young people learn respect, values and develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success,” he stated.
As a national officer, Costello is focused on helping all members reach their potential. “During my service as a National FFA Officer, I will focus on engaging the potential that FFA members, the agriculture industry and the FFA organization hold. I will enable others to continue that engagement. Roger Williams may have put it best, ‘The greatest crime in the world is not developing your potential. When you do what you do best, you are helping not only yourself, but the world,” he said.
This goal developed for Costello when he served as an officer in his home chapter, and for the state of Nebraska. “As I served the FFA on local and state levels, I realized the magnitude of potential that FFA and its members have to explore.”
To him, engaging is more than just meeting with students. “My purpose as a National FFA Officer will be to engage the potential of FFA members. That means I want to do more than simply help. Help is often focused on something a person cannot do on their own. Students have the potential; they need to be actively involved in maximizing it. And it is more than inspiring others. Inspiration steers the focus and attention on the person who is doing the inspiring. To engage is to simply involve and encourage a young person to the level of what they are capable of doing,” he said.
Engaging students is a way that Costello feels he can help them grow through the FFA. This is something that he has been doing long before he earned a spot on the team. “Living to serve” is the last part of the FFA motto, and this connects to engagement for Costello.
He explained. “We often hear and talk about what it means to serve. I believe it is more than just doing something for someone. It is about engaging other’s potential in the process. And it goes one step further — it is about empowering all people for lifelong growth and improvement. When my time to ‘serve’ is complete, my hope is that the people I’ve served and worked with will not only have engaged their potential, but also be living with the purpose to engage the potential in others.”
He also has a passion for agricultural education. He stated, “My mission is also to engage the potential of agricultural education and have more students involved in classroom learning, SAE (supervised agricultural education) and leadership development. It is also essential to engage the potential for all people to be literate in agriculture.”
Last spring, Costello attended an event that allowed him to talk with people about agriculture. “I advocated at the Husker Food Connection, which was a day-long event held on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln city campus. University agriculture clubs, Nebraska business and industry representatives and students majoring in agriculture spent a day talking with UNL students and engaging them in conversation to connect the students to where their food originates,” he said.
One student in particular caught his attention. “One student approached a live calf from Praireland Dairy, and asked ‘What is that?’ We then explained the purpose of a dairy calf and how it connects to the milk and dairy products the student uses each day.”
This day on campus allowed Costello to see how many people view agriculture, and some of the misconceptions that they have. “The majority of the students we found to be either illiterate in where their food comes from, or had incorrect information. This was eye-opening for me as I realized the critical need to engage the potential for agriculture literacy in our communities. Whether through personal conversations or large marketing efforts, it is vital for me and all FFA members to continually serve the agricultural industry and educate people on local, state and global levels,” stated Costello.
He is currently a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He will take a year off to serve as a national officer, and will then resume his collegiate career focusing on agricultural sales and agricultural communications.
Costello knows that this next year as a national FFA officer will take him all over the country, and is proud of where he has come from.
“I feel very honored to represent Nebraska this next year. I take pride that our state is very agriculturally driven, and is a center hub for current agriculture issues. I will use the experience I have gained from Nebraska agriculture, to advocate for agriculture on a national level. I have an incredible support group from Nebraska, and I would not be in this position without the quality people from Nebraska. I take pride in representing them this year,” he said. ❖
I feel very honored to represent Nebraska this next year. I take pride that our state is very agriculturally driven, and is a center hub for current agriculture issues.
~ Brennan Costello, Gothenburg, Neb.