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  Letter to the Members
By: State FFA President Dausen Duncan
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Hello, Arkansas FFA!

In case most of you didn’t know, your 2012-2013 State Officer Team took our Goodwill Tour last week over Spring Break. Of course, there were tons of laughs, jokes, and great memories, but with all of that came various learning opportunities and experiences throughout the week.

One of the many stops we made was in Center Ridge, AR, where we visited a 1,300 acre cattle and hay farm. We saw about 350 head of commercial cattle as well as 150 head of registered Ultrablack cattle. We’ve all heard the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and in the DeSalvo Family’s case, this quote proves true.

The DeSalvo Family from Center Ridge, Arkansas has been named the 2012 Arkansas Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year. Tony DeSalvo and his son Phillip have been farming their entire lives and as we pulled up to their farm, two words came to my mind instantly—hard work. It’s obvious just by stepping back and viewing their farm that an incredible amount of hard work was spent on that farm. Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of this farm is the family atmosphere, Phillip’s wife Beth and their two children, Ben and Isabella, have certainly put in their time and effort into proving that their farm continues to succeed.

Now, back to the quote “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” the DeSalvo Family has encountered several setbacks such as the event in which Pilgrim’s Pride sold out around 2008. Before the DeSalvo Family Farm was deemed a cattle and hay operation, the farm was actually contracted with Pilgrim’s Pride and had been using two older chicken houses before building two more new ones in 2004. When Pilgrim’s Pride left, this left the DeSalvo’s with four chicken houses, two of which were only in operation for about four years. With a family to support and a farm to maintain, Phillip, Tony, and Beth, were faced with a crucial decision: continue raising chickens or completely switch gears and engage in beef cattle production.

Not only did the DeSalvo’s have to overcome a major loss in income after Pilgrim’s Pride sold out, but as some of you may remember, May of 2008 brought a devastating EF4 tornado through Conway, Faulkner, and Van Buren counties—a day that brought destruction, turmoil, and loss to many families across the state. The tornado ran right along the edge of the DeSalvo’s farm, taking everything in its path. Luckily, the DeSalvo’s didn’t lose any of their facilities to the storm, but the debris from other structures that were demolished by the tornado was scattered all across the 1,300 acre farm.

As you can see, the DeSalvo Family has been faced with several setbacks, but they didn’t let these instances get them down. They kept going with determination and perseverance to take their farm to the next level. Now, only about four years after their major setbacks took place in 2008, their farm is a successful operation that has enabled them to become the 2012 Arkansas Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year and it’s because of their hard work and their willingness to overcome any obstacle placed in their way.

I think we all can relate to this family in some way—maybe not with our family farms, or damage to property after a storm, but with our everyday lives. Every day, we are faced with obstacles and setbacks that we have to overcome. We have the choice to lie down and give up, or we can look up and become a stronger individual in the face of our struggles. I challenge YOU, Arkansas FFA, to look up from whatever trial you may be facing and GROW. Grow as a person, as a family member, a friend—grow as a leader and be the bold individual who takes a negative and transforms it into something positive!

Until next time, take care and God bless.

Dausen Duncan
State President

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