The Mellon family boasts three FFA members who served as Arizona state presidents: Dad Colin (pictured, left) in 1986-87; son Tanner (pictured, right) in 2013-14; and daughter Mckenna (pictured, center) in 2016-17. FFA leadership involvement and training get credit for many of their accomplishments.
NH: Why have you all been so active in FFA leadership?
Colin: I think we all had the desire to become leaders and help develop leaders for the next generation in agriculture. In our area, farming in the desert, we definitely need advocates for agriculture.
Tanner: I was attracted to the fact that FFA is a student-led organization. There are lots of good activities you can get involved with in school, but FFA is different in that it gives you so many opportunities to step up and be a leader.
Mckenna: When you run for a state office, you don’t run for a specific position. It’s to be a part of the leadership team. So our goal was not to be state president, it was to be a servant to the FFA organization and other students. Being in leadership is a way to give back to this great organization.
NH: What has FFA given to you?
Colin: It is the relationships with people. FFA leadership taught me how to be part of a team. I use those skills on the farm every day. It’s carried over to my community involvement through numerous boards and committees in my farm career.
Tanner: I now work off the farm for a business start-up in California. I use the things I learned in FFA every single day in my job – the work ethic, the problem solving, the budgeting and the communication skills. I use the business skills that I learned from my SAE.
Mckenna: It’s not just the hard skills you learn, it’s also the soft skills. The most valuable lessons are what I learned about communications, teamwork and sharing ideas. I’m in college now at Cornell University, majoring in communications and international agriculture, and those are the lessons that I use the most.
NH: What do you tell young people who are getting involved in FFA?
Tanner: I tell them to think outside the box because the possibilities in the food and agriculture industries are endless. We need engineers, programmers, scientists and whatever it is you like to do. The field is wide open.
Mckenna: Give FFA your all. Run for office, join a committee and get all you can from it. FFA is an overflowing cup of opportunity. More than ever, we need your brilliant young minds to stay in our industry.
Colin: We host groups on the farm often, and I love interacting with young people. I try to encourage them to be advocates for agriculture. There’s no better place than FFA for that to happen.