I had the opportunity to work on my FFA Officer skills as a sophomore in 1958 when “Leadership Camp” was held at Camp Merrill near Fullerton.  The organizational structure was in some ways determined by the facilities.  Bunk House style living quarters allowed you to be placed in a herd and you had the opportunity to make a new set of friends with a Cattle Breed name.  It was a lot easier to cheer the “Angus, Angus, Angus”, that it was “Blonde d’Aquitaine, Blonde d’Aquitaine, Blonde d’Aquitaine”.  As part of the State Officer Team, it was our duty to assist the State Staff and State Advisor in carrying out the agenda set out for the officers of most of all the Chapters in Nebraska.

As a teacher I was privileged to take my officer team to Fullerton one year and then to UNSTA in Curtis.  I also had the opportunity to exercise my vote as a member of the Nebraska Ag Teacher Association as we considered the purchase of a roller rink and leaking swimming pool in Aurora for the purpose of developing leadership skills.  As we sat in session in Omaha, a group that basically was living hand to mouth with maybe 117 members and a modest treasury, had a lot of discussion about the wisdom of purchasing real estate.  The discussion was favoring the conservative “no” vote until one of the elder statesmen of the organization stood up.  Max Stamen stood and offered his council.  To paraphrase, “I will be retired before this gets into use, but you need to think about the future of Nebraska FFA and the need for a home for leadership development.  I have confidence in Irv Wedeking, Norval McCaslin, teaching in Franklin and Ruben Epp, teaching in Henderson.”  The vote taken shortly after this was a clear majority in favor of this purchase.  These three officers, and current teachers all pledged their homes when they signed the mortgage for what is now TLC.

During the early “lean years” there were other friends of Ag Education that stepped up to the plate.  Creative fund raising ideas included the opportunity to purchase trees and even come help plant them.  Many of us purchased the full rights to a single square foot of TLC real estate.  Those rights include being able to stand on your property and declare that you “own this land”.  On one occasion, I looked up my property and actually stood on it but I am not sure anyone else heard me make my claim to ownership.

“Team Ag Ed” was not a term yet, but you could see that it existed when the entire Ag Ed Faculty and State Dept. Staff members gathered for a full day of re-staining the first of the three cabins at TLC.

That discussion in Omaha are also the reason that the Nebraska Vocational Agricultural Foundation is a “foundation without members” but wholly owned by the members of what is now NAEA.  The concern focused on liability issues that could come back to haunt the Ag Teacher Association.    NAEA’s constitution and by-laws were created at the same time; those organizations became legal entities and registered Non-Profit groups.

The fact that TLC exists it a testament to the faith that Team Ag Ed has in the future leadership needs for Nebraska.

That is about all I have.  Forgot most of the rest.

Rich Douglass,

Past NVAF Board Member, Ag Teacher and College Instructor

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