Cultivating an Agriculture Leader
January 3, 2020 Ohio Soybean Council
By: Courtney Heiser
A flood of emotions filled the Lucas Oil Stadium as the lights dimmed and sea of blue cheered during the final session of the 92nd National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis. Twenty-five candidates nervously anticipated the moment they would hear their name called to serve on the 2019–20 National FFA Organization officer team.
After the election of four regional vice presidents and the national secretary, 20 candidates remained, including Kolesen McCoy, of Springfield, Ohio, intently listening to who would be elected to serve as the organization’s national president.
McCoy patiently awaited his fate. It was now or never, all or nothing and then it happened. “Your 2019-2020 National FFA president, from the state of Ohio: Kolesen McCoy,” was called out from the podium and McCoy became the third Ohioan in history to serve as the National FFA Organization’s president.
McCoy followed an unconventional path to obtain this leadership position, but his experiences with the Global Impact STEM Academy (GISA) and GrowNextGen (GNG) have cultivated his abilities and shaped him into the young agricultural professional he is today.
The Early Years
Early in his high school career at the GISA, McCoy was approached by his agricultural education teacher with an offer to be a part of an initiative to start an FFA chapter. McCoy was struck with curiosity, as, prior to this opportunity, he had never heard of the National FFA Organization.
“The unique pathway in leadership, personal growth, and the potential careers set before me sparked a passion that has stayed with me ever since,” McCoy said.
In cooperation with GISA, the GrowNextGen (GNG) program, funded by the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff, has been dedicated to providing opportunities to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders for the everchanging industry that feeds the world.
“Kolesen’s willingness to try new opportunities presented to him is one attribute that has stood out to me as he has developed as a young leader,” said Rachel Sanders, FFA Advisor at GISA and a teacher leader for the GNG program.
In addition to McCoy’s notable contributions to GISA’s young FFA chapter, he also served as a high school ambassador for the GNG program. As an ambassador, McCoy showcased how agriculture is a STEM-related field by helping run bio-based STEM outreach events at local elementary schools and the Clark County Fair. He also conducted activities at the GNG Booth during State FFA Convention.
Finding His Purpose
“The first trip I ever took to Farm Science Review in London, Ohio, was sponsored by GrowNextGen,” said McCoy. “It was the small but very impactful moments like these where I saw GrowNextGen invest in myself as a young agriculturist that have stood out.”
Growing up, McCoy spent time on his grandparents’ farm in northwest Ohio. He learned about machinery and common practices of a corn and soybean operation, but his immediate household was not involved in production agriculture.
“GrowNextGen served as a great vehicle for myself to become involved in the reality of agriculture in the 21st century,” said McCoy. “Becoming involved in the mission to feed the world and invest into the communities around us has completely reshaped not just my personal outlook, but my professional outlook as well.”
As McCoy became more involved with his studies of agriculture at GISA and his experiences with GrowNextGen, he connected the dots and realized his potential to make a positive impact within the agriculture industry.
“The GrowNextGen program is set apart in its focus on student success through educational outreach and resources,” said McCoy. “The practicality of its mission to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders for the changing industry of agriculture will always be present as our world grows. Every resource and initiative created is done so with the intention to fulfill the mission, and GrowNextGen delivers.”
Leaving His Legacy
“Kolesen’s aspiration for new opportunities led him to new adventures that allowed him to reflect and discover his purpose,” said Sanders.
In 2017, McCoy was elected to serve as the Ohio FFA state secretary. Throughout his year of service as state secretary, he was exposed to many opportunities and experiences which enhanced his leadership abilities and passion for agriculture and serving others.
Building upon his involvement with GNG, his impact on Ohio FFA as state secretary led to his election as the 2018–19 Ohio FFA state president and now the current National FFA president.
“What makes this organization what it is, is the people involved,” said McCoy. “The classmates beside you, the agricultural educator behind you, and the supporters all around you encouraging you every step of the way. I genuinely am thrilled to be able to be an authentic advocate for the agricultural industry, a voice for our student body at the national level, and a kind friend to all both in and out of the blue jacket.”
“Kolesen is a very genuine young man who serves for the greater good,” said Sanders. “He truly has a positive outlook on life and will make the most out of any opportunity.”
In a short three years of service to both the Ohio FFA and National FFA Organizations, McCoy has humbly left a legacy and continues to make an impact as a leader in agriculture. Through his many opportunities to serve others, McCoy has made it a priority to grow with every new experience.
McCoy also represented Ohio in the 2019 American Soybean Association Ag Voices of the Future Program. This program is designed to expose young people with a farming connection to an education on major policy issues and advocacy.
“Ultimately, what makes the greatest impact is when you seek to serve and learn from the people around you,” said McCoy. “Learning this was what catapulted my growth as a leader.”
“It was because of the programs like GrowNextGen that I became more invested in the industry of agriculture, further influencing my decision to pursue both a degree and career in agribusiness,” said McCoy.
As a second-year agribusiness student in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Science at The Ohio State University, McCoy looks forward to pursuing a career that is connected to his passion of working with people and the agriculture industry. He is interested in agribusiness management, international trade and policy, organizational leadership, public relations and education.
“Through the intentional growth of my professional network sought after in these experiences, I hope to be a sound advocate and contributor to the agricultural industry and those in the rural community,” said McCoy. “Genuinely, I can say my experience with GNG served as a catalyst for opening my eyes to the incredible diversity and unity within the agricultural industry.”
GrowNextGen is the Ohio Soybean Council’s checkoff-funded program that brings agriculture science to the classroom by providing real-world educational tools to engage the next generation workforce. GrowNextGen helps expose students to different career fields in a thriving industry. To learn more about this program and other ways GNG is preparing the next generation for careers in agriculture, visit grownextgen.org.