Words and deeds earn Rist family FFA Family of the Year Award

FF Editor
Farm Forum

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National FFA Organization

BROOKINGS — The South Dakota FFA Foundation named the annual FFA Family of the Year award, honoring a family’s long term involvement in the South Dakota FFA/Agriculture Education program. The 2018 recipient of this award is the John Rist family, including John, along with his children and their spouses, Noelle and Andrew Swanson, Jenna, and Ali as well as future FFA members Stetsen and Corbin. The award was presented on April 15, during the State FFA Convention in Brookings.

“The purpose of this award is to recognize a South Dakota FFA family that has gone the extra mile for the FFA at the local and state levels through their words and deeds. The actions of the entire Rist family through multiple generations have modeled the FFA mission … developing premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agriculture education. We are proud to recognize them with this special award,” said Gerri Ann Eide, South Dakota FFA Foundation executive director.

The Rists have been active at the chapter, state, and national levels of FFA. They put the phrase from the FFA Creed, “a faith, born not of words but of deeds” into action. As a parent of three past FFA members of the Viborg and West Central FFA chapters, and John a past FFA member himself, their association with the blue corduroy jackets spans decades. John has been the agricultural education instructor/FFA advisor at Viborg-Hurley since 1999, where the FFA chapter is the go to organization when something needs to be done in the community. Prior to that, he taught agriculture education in Bowdle, S.D., and in Minnesota, and spent time in ag business, while continuing to support the local and state FFA. Noelle is also an ag instructor, currently at Northwestern where she helped start a program. Ali has served as a long-term agriculture education substitute and chaperoned countless FFA events. Jenna teaches young children, including curriculum on gardening and small animal care.

The Rist family has shown leadership at the state level in countless ways. John developed an electronic SAE record book utilized state wide by thousands of FFA members earning their State and American FFA Degrees, hosted and lead many teacher training sessions, organized state event service projects and leadership retreats, and supported teachers and students state wide with projects, conferences and leadership. Both he and Noelle are active members of the South Dakota Association of Ag Educators and South Dakota Association of Career and Technical Education organizations, serving in officer positions and being recognized with various awards. They also serve as liasons for FFA Leadership and Career Development events.

The 2018 FFA Family of the Year has had all members serve in chapter and district leadership positions, four State and American FFA Degree recipients, two state officers, four state winning proficiencies, two national proficiency finalists, a national Agri-Entreprenership winner, State Star Farmer finalist, District Star Greenhand, an FFA work Experience Abroad to Australia participant, National Leadership Development Event participants, State Foundation board members, district FFA advisors, and advised five past state officers, a PALS and Food for America programs, and numerous teams and individuals that advanced to national competition. Focused on community service, John has been a national finalist for the Carl Perkins Community Service Award for ACTE, received the Honorary State FFA Degree, and while in Bowdle, they received the Governor’s Citation for Community Development twice. The family fully embraces the 3-circle model and are great advocates of Agricultural Education and FFA.

FFA is a way of life for the Rist family. Noelle, Jenna and Ali all grew up in the FFA world and have many fond memories of those experiences. Family bonding revolved around SAE projects and FFA events. “Joining and being active in FFA was one of the easiest choices we could make growing up. We saw other students grow and develop through their time in FFA, and we were able to realize our own potentials through this organization, thanks in large part to the consistent support and mentorship we had both at home and at school,” shares Jenna Rist. In addition to their own personal successes, the family has also been great about sharing their knowledge and supporting others – whether that be sharing curriculum, hosting student teachers, encouraging students to become teachers, mentoring a student with an SAE project, or providing assistance with something FFA related. They have volunteered for years at county and state fair, helping with shows, registration and judging.

The Rist family not only gives their time to the FFA – they give it to several other organizations, including: 4-H and open class shows, state and national level Suffolk and Hampshire Sheep Associations, many church and community activities and serve as volunteer firemen. They are all active in production agriculture or the agricultural industry, and all actively seek ways to help educate and support agriculture education and FFA chapters through their careers.

The South Dakota FFA Foundation presented each Rist family group with an FFA Family of the Year photo frame and thank you for their tremendous impact on agriculture education and FFA in South Dakota. The FFA Family of the year award is sponsored by the South Dakota FFA Foundation.

The John Rist family receive the FFA Family of the Year award during the State FFA Convention April 15. Front row: Jenna Rist, Ali Rist, Noelle (Rist) Swanson, Stetson Swanson, John Rist, Corbin Swanson. Back row: Eric Valasek (Jenna), Ben Blair (Ali), Andrew Swanson. Courtesy photo
State FFA President Dalton Larson presents John Rist the Family of the Year award. Courtesy photo