Ag Ed Alumni Spotlight: Kirby Schmidt
With a background in agriculture, Kirby Schmidt was not exactly sure what FFA consisted of or that agricultural education courses were offered in high school. Kirby’s interest in agriculture came from growing up on a farm near Marshall in southwestern Minnesota, where he and his family raised and marketed breeding stock for the lamb and wool industry. However, during his sophomore year of high school, his agriculture teacher persuaded him to participate in his first FFA event. Despite his initial resistance, that is when his involvement in agricultural education took off.
“My involvement started with contests, and then lead to leadership positions and higher degrees including my American Degree and serving as a State FFA Officer.” Agricultural education had helped shape the person Kirby soon came to be. “I honestly didn’t have the U of M as a top choice for college. I wanted to get out of the state. But in the end I chose the U because I thought about pursuing the Pre-vet track and because of my duties associated with being a State FFA Officer.” Once those duties would be fulfilled, Kirby had made up his mind that he would transfer. As soon as he got involved on campus though, making the decision to leave was nearly impossible. “My involvement with FFA and Ag Ed during my freshman year exposed me to a lot of different programs. I sat down with my academic advisor, Gretchen Rozeboom, and she told me basically that she was waiting for me to transfer into the Ag Ed major. I’m glad I did.”
During his time at the University of Minnesota, Kirby went above and beyond when it came to activities. Freshman year, he was overwhelmed at the amount of free meals, grill-outs, and activities that were provided by CFANS clubs so he chose the cheapest meal plan at Bailey Hall and followed his stomach to learn more about the organizations on campus. As a result, Kirby participated in Collegiate Crops Judging, the National AgriMarketing Association, Collegiate Livestock Judging, Ag Ed Club, Gopher Dairy Club, and was a member of the 2012 Homecoming Royalty. He also served as Noble Ruler, Recruitment Chair, and Membership Development Chair for the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, as well as on the executive teams of Block and Bridle, Minnesota Royal, and the St. Paul Board of Colleges. In addition to his already busy schedule, Kirby worked as a teacher’s assistant for the Introduction to Animal Science and Livestock and Carcass Evaluation courses. He also completed internships with CHS, The Schwan Food Company, and the University of Minnesota Extension Service.
Kirby graduated from the University of Minnesota in the spring of 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Education and minors in Applied Economics and Animal Science. He currently works at the Deer River High School in Deer River, Minnesota as the 7-12 grade Agriscience teacher. This was the inaugural year for the program, and it was highly successful thanks to his awesome students. His favorite aspect of teaching is, “being able to build relationships with students and watch them develop their own personality, purpose and individual passion.” In addition to teaching, Kirby still remains connected with the National FFA Organization and travels nationally as a facilitator of State FFA Officer Programs.
Without the positive influence of his high school agriculture teachers, Mr. Lanoue and Mr. Sawatzke, Kirby would have never considered a career in agricultural education. However, the best teachers he ever had were his own parents. “They taught me so much about being curious, craving knowledge and above all going above and beyond to give to other people.” Kirby’s leadership experiences on campus also helped prepare him for his professional and personal development. Some of the most important skills he developed include, “learning how to take command, building self-assurance as well as the ability to formulate ideas and strategies for overcoming obstacles, or creating the next opportunity.”
Some of Kirby’s favorite memories of his time at the University of Minnesota include building floats for Homecoming, riding the Campus Connector with the Jazzman, and participating in Minnesota Royal. His favorite, however, was the series of events that led to the “Battle of Carter Avenue” between AGR Fraternity and Beta of Clovia Sorority.
Kirby’s Top Three Tips for Present and Future U of M Students:
1. BE CURIOUS. “Ask questions; to your professors, academic adviser, friends, random strangers on the Campus Connector, or to yourself. Stay curious, and take advantage of the wealth of knowledge, experiences and talent found on campus while you are here. You don’t know everything, and taking challenging classes outside of your strengths area of knowledge will humble you.”
2. BE SERIOUS. “I believe that you are in college to be serious about two things; your education, and having fun. Take your education seriously, take challenging classes and avoid taking the easy route. When you are in class, be more than just “there.” Be present and involved. You will look back and think, “I wish I would have paid more attention in ________ class.” At the same time, never pass up the opportunity to have some serious fun with your friends; venture over to Minneapolis and don’t confine yourself to only St. Paul campus/Bailey hall/your apartment.”
3. BE YOU. “There is only one YOU (whoever you are potentially reading this) on the entire campus so you might as well be pretty darn good at it. Be the best version of yourself. Let people feel the weight of who you are with everything you do.”
Song: None; he loves nearly all genres of music.
Book: “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge
Quote: “You can choose to throw rocks, to stumble on them, to climb over them, or to build something with them.” -William Arthur Ward
Food: Lamb shanks
Hobby: Drawing on his whiteboard for hours