Among the six newly elected officers was a young dairyman with dreams to better the future of FFA and contribute to innovations in agriculture.
High school senior Zachary Schilter of Chehalis, Washington was elected State Sentinel on Saturday, May 12.
“Being elected to state office was everything I had been preparing for throughout my FFA career,” he said. “Every choice and action I made throughout my climb affected me every step of the way.”
Schilter has been a devoted member of FFA since his freshman year and credits his success to both FFA involvement and life on his family’s dairy. Growing up on their 250 cow Organic dairy farm, Schilter learned how to apply life lessons on the farm to everyday life and finding success off the farm.
“Experiences throughout my life on the farm such as being able to operate our new chopper, being the one to read the manual from front to back, to really understand something – to turn something I don’t know into something I do know, is unbelievable,” he said. “Those are the experiences I’ve been able to learn how to take advantage of and turn it into everyday life.”
He is the third generation in the United States to carry on the family’s dairying legacy that began decades ago in Switzerland. Milking cows is nothing new to Schilter, and when not attending FFA workshops, or Farm Bureau Legislative days, he is sure to be found working alongside his family, often taking long shifts in the milk parlor.
Schilter is fueled by a confidence and determination, that few his age have. He says this come from his mom.
“Somebody who’s really inspired me and influenced my viewpoints and how I view the world has been my mom,” he said. “Everybody has a voice and everyone can use their voice and that is something that my mom has taught me; that’s what has inspired me.”
“Beginning to understand that if you have an idea that you believe is innovative, and cutting edge, and can change the future, that there is a place where you can take that idea and run with it.”
Attitude is everything to the 18-year-old who spends every free minute on the family farm. His determined and positive outlook on life has pushed him to grow, turning negatives to positives and learning to strive for the future.
“It’s not as much about a big skill that you learn on the farm,” Schilter said. “It’s about all of the little things that push you towards the bigger goal, the big objective.”
That attitude and a will to work harder than those around him brought him to the stage where he addressed a packed coliseum at the 88th Annual Washington State FFA Convention.
“Honestly it felt like I finally conquered my first big goal in life,” he said after being elected.
Schilter takes every step he’s made in FFA as a chance to learn and seize the moment.
“FFA is the ultimate opportunity to participate in investing in your future. It gives you the opportunity to make your own decisions,” he said. “Beginning to understand that if you have an idea that you believe is innovative, and cutting edge, and can change the future, that there is a place where you can take that idea and run with it.”
Schilter received encouragement from state officers when he was new to FFA and remembers the lasting impact that had on his life. Encouraging younger members is something close to his heart.
“Your ideas do matter. People are listening.” Schilter said. “You just have to make sure that they can hear you.”
With 2018 ahead he is looking forward to a year of leading with this year’s state team.
“I am on an amazing team with amazing individuals who I know share a passion and drive for FFA just like I do,” he smiled.
Following a year as State Sentinel, Schilter plans to attend Modesto Junior College in California to be on their dairy judging team before transferring to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo to finish up a degree in Ag Business where he would also judge.