There's more to the National FFA Convention than just attending sessions, the career fair, local tours or visiting local points of interest. Real learning happens in a week-long series of leadership and informational workshops that serve as break-out sessions for 50 to 100 FFA students and advisors at a time. Students are free to choose the sessions that interest them the most.
One session this year involved four lawyers from one of Indiana's biggest law firms, Ice Miller, sharing with students what it's like to be a lawyer. While they handle all types of law cases, Ice Miller has an aggressive ag law division, headed up By Beth Bechdol, formerly with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Bechdol grew up on a farm in DeKalb County.
One of the speakers, Sherry Abney, is a partner in the firm. She deals primarily in medical law. "Every hospital has their Dr. House, and sometimes that means there's a need for legal representation to resolve issues that arise," she says.
Abney serves as a role model for a lawyer who also has a home life on a working farm. Along with her husband, Doug, a farmer, cattleman and now real estate agent, she has three children currently in FFA. He oldest daughter, Angela, is a freshman at Purdue University, and was a district officer last year. Her middle daughter is current District 8 Secretary, and her son, Doug, is active in junior high FFA, including soils judging.
The family has a large purebred herd of Belted Galloway Cattle, and has been at the forefront of introducing that breed on a broader scale in Indiana. Angela's meat business features beef from the Belted Galloway herd.Sherry noted that while she puts in long hours and while being a lawyer at that level is a 24-7 job, she still finds time to attend cattle shows and be part of family activities. "I may have to step out to take a call from a client at a show, but it still works well," she notes.