You must not go out much if you haven't yet met or heard Joe Kelsay, executive director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, speak at a local meting. One of the goals of ISDA is to be visible and be an advocate for agriculture, and Kelsay fulfills it, giving speeches all across the state to various types of groups.
He may have never been sharper than when he spoke to the Indiana FFA proficiency winners and their advisors at a luncheon at Purdue at the Indiana State Convention last week. He was motivated because he felt back at home, amongst the blue jackets. Kelsay himself was an Indiana FFA State officer.
His roots run deep. "My grandfather Joe was the first president of the Whiteland FFA Chapter, or at least that's what they tell me," Kelsay grinned. His grandfather, now deceased, was a businessman who loved his family, trading trucks and agriculture, not necessarily in that order!
Joe's dad, Merrill, now a dairyman along with Joe and Merrill's son and Joe's brother Russ, was Indiana's first Star Farmer of America. His recognition was bestowed upon him in Kansas City, Missouri, when the convention was still help there every year.
Kelsay spent more time inspiring the young winners to do something with their potential than talking directly about ISDA. The theme of the convention this year, the 82nd annual Indiana FFA Convention, was infinite potential. That was also the theme of the national Convention held in Indianapolis in October, 2010.
The director urged them to follow the FFA motto, which states learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve. He believes that's a good formula for anyone, but especially for young people, to follow in life.
Kelsay was primarily responsible for moving the director of the Indiana FFA Association plus his or her assistant into ISDA. Previously, it was in the Indiana Department of Education. Kelsay believes the move gives the FFA more stability and more freedom.
DOE is still tied to vocational agriculture and FFA. The new person at DOE, Chris Kauffman, former ag teacher at Whiteland High School, by rules, serves as the Indiana FFA Advisor.
However, his relationship to the state officers is mostly ceremonial. They are shepherded by program specialist Lisa Calhoun. She is employed by the Indiana FFA Foundation Board.