Host Aaron Alejandro and Dan Hunter share insights on life lessons learned in FFA, leadership skills, and the difference one can make working in agriculture.
The National FFA Organization works to strengthen science and agricultural educational opportunities for students across the country. The Texas FFA Association and Texas FFA Foundation are the largest state organizations in the country.
On this episode of Growing Our Future Podcast, Aaron Alejandro introduces Dan Hunter, Assistant Commissioner in the state of Texas’ Department of Agriculture. Hunter’s extensive experience in agriculture, trade, research, water, and policy development, at both the state and national levels, helps listeners understand the fundamental nature of agriculture and the importance of leadership.
“Three Letters: FFA”
As a kid in rural West Texas, Dan Hunter often found himself working in his grandfather’s cotton fields. “I learned a lifetime of lessons at the end of a garden hoe,” Hunter says.
Furthermore, Hunter attributes his long and fruitful career in agricultural leadership to his experience in his school’s chapter of FFA. “What I learned as a kid in Roscoe High School FFA was that you have to be willing to address people and address them effectively,” he says. Today, Hunter’s work has taken him to every continent except Antarctica, and the public speaking and chapter-leading skills he gained in FFA help him interact with leaders around the world.
“It does give our kids a competitive edge,” Alejandro says, especially when students are seeking internships in agricultural policy. Hunter agrees: “If a kid has been involved in FFA, their professional skills are above and beyond their peers.”
Watch Full Interview:
The Secret to Successful Leadership
Hunter’s leadership philosophy stems from a sense of generosity and humility. He tells the story of the first flight he took after 9/11, a ghostly, nearly-empty plane taking off into what Hunger calls “a different world.” A woman on that plane was the sister of a pilot killed in the attack on The Pentagon. She told Hunter that she knew her brother had done all he could to save the passengers on the plane. To this day, Hunter tells his audiences: “Do all you can while you can, and do all you can for those who can’t.”
Hunter firmly believes that focusing on the success of those around you–partners, employees, and collaborators–is the path to effective leadership. He often tells his team: “My job is to work for you.” Hunter also encourages listeners to embrace failure and opportunity in equal measure.
“If we’re afraid to fail, we’re afraid to try,” he says.
Growing the Future
“Every job is related to agriculture,” Hunter says. Whether you work in technology, shipping, the automotive industry, the hospitality sector, or finance, to name just a few, your success is heavily dependent on two things: “food and fuel.”
As such, Hunter says he is glad to be influencing a new generation of farmers. “I am grateful to live in a country where kids are free to make choices in school and be a part of the [FFA] program.” Alejandro agrees–one of the things that differentiates FFA students from other student organizations is the fact that the world depends on folks working in agriculture in myriad ways. “If we don’t do our job, something dies,” Alejandro says. “The world around you depends on doing a good job. This responsibility creates a positive core value that can open a spectrum of career opportunity.”
The Texas FFA Foundation purpose is to strengthen agricultural education and the Texas FFA program, so each student can develop their potential for personal growth, career success and leadership in a global marketplace.
Learn more about the Texas FFA Foundation at mytexassffa.org.
Learn more about the Texas Department of Agriculture at https://www.texasagriculture.gov/