Set Seven Extra Plates for Dinner

Hoosier Perspectives

It's an honor to host Indiana's finest youth.

Published on: July 13, 2009

If you're the parent of an Indiana FFA state officer and you want to see him or her, the best way to do it is invite them to dinner. These fine young people are suckers for food, almost any kind, but especially home-cooked food.


It's a pleasure to have my son, Daniel, serving as Indiana FFA state treasurer this year. In Indiana that means a year away from college, living at the FFA Center near Trafalgar, and devoting his entire time to doing projects and being a goodwill ambassador for the FFA.


My wife, Carla, and I, got an inkling of how this 'invite the officers and they will come' thing worked last year when my niece, Ann Bechman, was state reporter. Jokingly, a couple of their parents said we probably saw them more last year than they did. Except for holidays, that's actually probably true. Out of it we've made fast friendships.


Our 'advantage' is the FFA Center is barely 15 minutes from our house - 30 for young state FFA officers, without Daniel as a guide, the first time they try to find us. It's down to probably shorter than I want to know once they figure out the shortest way to get here and hear the famous words, "Would you like to come for dinner or supper?'


In their defense, they can't always get away. They put in long hours, preparing speeches and details for camps, the state fair, workshops, chapter visits - the list goes on and on. But if they have a couple hours free, a home-cooked meal in a real home seems to perk up the spirits.


So this past Sunday Daniel and his new team found time to come for dinner, a ham roast out of a pig we raised, plus all the trimmings. The pig didn't fare too well, but everyone else went away full and happy.


Besides Daniel, there's Travis Martin, from Carroll County. Just as you would expect him to be as president, he's the level-headed, organizer of the bunch. Then there's Joe Rust from Jackson County. One look at Joe and you know why he was a football player. But he's also one of the most polite and engaging farm boys you'll ever meet.


Then there's Emme Kratz. Actually, we only set six extra plates this last Sunday, even though I'm sure either Daniel or Joe would have readily agreed to eat Emme's portion  too. They do get to go home for their county fair if it fits the schedule, so Emme was back in LaGrange County. And by the way, her sister, Laney Kratz, one of our fast friends from last year's team, was named first runner-up and Miss Congeniality at the LaGrange County Fair queen contest over the weekend.


When it comes to Miss Congeniality, the other girls didn't have a chance. Laney is the most bubbly, engaging young leader you'll ever meet. She'll get a chance to prove that this fall when she interviews for a National FFA officer position. Laney was selected this past week to be Indiana's candidate for National Office. The convention will be held in Indianapolis in October.


Let's see - oh yes, Heidi Melton. She's a perky, helpful young lady with plenty of spunk, hailing from Henry County. She was headed off to her home county for her county fair, but had time to help chow down on the pig first. So did Blair Boyer, an engaging, witty farm girl from Tipton. And then there was Kyle Malcolm, who was dressed to impress, with a tie. He's another farm boy from DeKalb County.


One reason Kyle was wearing a tie is because the six of them attended church at Franklin Memorial Christian Church before coming for dinner. They're well on their way to becoming a family - one that will serve FFA this year. Hoosier farm families go to church, they eat big Sunday dinners together, there may be a squabble or two, but they work it out and go on. They get the job done. I'm confident these kids will too. And both Indiana and each of them will be better off for it.


By the way, if you've got extra China you're itching to try out, or even a few extra paper plates, I'm sure they wouldn't turn down a meal if they're going to be in your area. They may not be starving college students, but they're soon-to-be college kids on a mission, and they still get might hungry!