Growing up on a dairy farm in Zumbrota, Minnesota, self-described farm girl at heart, Sarah Betzold, always knew that agriculture was in her future.
“I had an older brother who was in FFA, so I watched him and his close-knit group of friends go from being just normal high school boys to taking on leadership roles and really becoming a leadership team within FFA, and I wanted to be a part of that leadership, too.” Betzold says of her introduction to the organization that would play a defining role in her future.
As a freshman, Betzold shares that her FFA advisor asked her and a group of peers to participate in a chapter greenhand competition, little did she know that competition would be the accelerant that pushed her out of her comfort zone and onto a pathway that would become a now 20-year career.
“We had a competition amongst our chapter, and the top four got to represent the chapter at National FFA Convention in Kansas City. The four of us ended up winning the national competition that year. And that was it—that was the start of my FFA career and the drive to do more within the organization. Being able to win something on a bigger platform right from the beginning really lit a fire in me. The four of us went on to be partners in crime for a multitude of other career development events and served on the chapter leadership team together. We were inseparable throughout high school,” she says, adding that the friendships still endure today.
Along with friendships, Betzold’s love for communication and agriculture continue. Sarah had found her calling in parliamentary procedure, dairy judging, and extemporaneous speaking…a trio that provided well rounded experience for her future positions in agriculture and laid a solid platform for her run and ultimate service as the Minnesota State FFA President.
“I knew that I always wanted to be in the field of agriculture, I just didn’t know the direction I would take,” Betzold laughs, recalling a conversation with a friend that helped to shape where she is today. “As I was trying to choose a college major, one of my friends said, ‘Well, you really like plants and you talk a lot, so what can you do with that?’”
Marketing and communications became a natural fit and the experience gained from meeting conduction, public speaking, and networking skills took root to grow into the position Betzold serves in today.
As National Sales Director (West), Betzold travels the country, presenting and providing clarity on the Taranis AcreForward solution that equips retail agronomy teams with the tools they need to best serve their customers.
“Networking and communication are the most important part of my skillset,” Betzold says. “Everything else can be learned, but those skills are honed and essential for success in any position. Whether I’m presenting to leadership or having a conversation with a colleague, the ability to articulate my thoughts and effectively listen to actually hear, retain and have the ability to share a message is incredibly important. FFA helped to lay the foundation for those skills that are truly applicable in all aspects of life.”
Betzold shares that she has yet to visit with an individual who was actively engaged in FFA who doesn’t feel the organization helped to shape who they’ve become or where they are today. She shares this advice for students contemplating agricultural courses and FFA membership.
“No matter what your background is, you will never regret trying something new. FFA is a resource that will help you develop personally and professionally. I still can’t believe that my friend nudged me to pursue public speaking and now it’s an important part of my daily role,” she says and encourages students to think outside the box.
“Join the club, get outside of your comfort zone, build the friendships. The only regrets you will have are the opportunities you never pursued!”
In honor of National FFA Week, our team at Taranis is catching up and sitting down with employees who were former FFA members to learn more about what the organization means to them.