Susan Parrish
The La Grande Observer

About the series

Real People stories are about people volunteering, doing good deeds, achieving, performing, enjoying the outdoors ... making the most of life in Union and Wallowa counties. Do you have a story idea or photo for this feature? Email .

UNION — Wade Rynearson, a senior at Union High School, was elected to the 2017-2018 Oregon Future Farmers of America officer team at the state FFA convention in Redmond during spring break.

For the next year, Rynearson, 17, will serve as treasurer for the state FFA.

After Rynearson graduates on June 3, he will be gone about 300 days of the next year. He will get a week off in the summer, and at Christmas. But most of the time, he and the other state FFA officers will be teaching time management, leadership, teamwork and other skills to FFA students around the state.

He will postpone college for a year while he serves his term. His duties include traveling to all 12 FFA regions around the state to represent Oregon FFA at leadership camps. He will teach workshops to student FFA officers and will meet FFA students, advisors and business members. Last week, he traveled to Sisters to teach mentorship workshops at the FFA Central Oregon District leadership camp.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Rynearson said. “My goal is to meet many Oregonians and hear their FFA stories. Oregon is so agriculturally diverse.”

Rynearson, who lives on his family’s small farm in Union, has raised commercial Black Angus cattle since fourth grade. He currently has four cow-calf pairs, a yearling heifer and a market steer. He will sell the steer at the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show in June.

“In FFA terms, my supervised agricultural experience is beef production,” Rynearson said.

His agricultural sciences teacher and FFA advisor, Chelcee Mansfield, said “the Union FFA chapter and community are extremely proud of Wade being elected to the 2017-2018 Oregon FFA Officer team.”

Throughout high school, Wade was an officer in the school’s FFA chapter. For the past two years, he has served as chapter president. But he had not considered running for a district FFA office until Mansfield encouraged him to apply. Then he was selected as FFA president of the Eastern Oregon district encompassing Union, Baker and Wallowa counties.

This year, Mansfield encouraged him to apply for a state officer position.

“Miss Mansfield is always encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone,” he said.

Wade’s parents, Tim and Tammy Rynearson, accompanied him to the state FFA convention to support him during the three-day nomination process which included speeches and multiple interviews. At the convention, 25 students competed to be a state officer. On the final day, he and the other finalists gave speeches to an audience of more than 200 FFA officers. In the end, he was one of six students chosen to represent Oregon State FFA.

The other state officers are Kourtney Lehman of Baker City, president; Jenson Kemble of Ontario, secretary; Gaby Santa Cruz of Hood River, sentinel; and Less Wesenberg of Sutherlin, reporter.

A commitment to FFA runs in Rynearson’s family. His dad, a La Grande High School graduate, participated in FFA. His older sister, Courtney Rynearson, was president of Union High School’s FFA chapter in 2013-2014.

After Wade completes his state FFA duties next spring, he will attend college. His top choices are Oregon State University in Corvallis or University of Idaho in Moscow. Engineering appeals to him, and he has had the opportunity to hang out with civil engineers at Oregon Department of Transportation, where his dad works.

“But I grew up on a farm, and I’m attracted to agriculture too,” he said.

Rynearson is considering a degree in agricultural engineering, which he described as “developing technology and practices for promoting activities in agriculture.”

But the influence of his teacher, Mansfield, has started him thinking about getting an agriculture education degree and becoming an agriculture teacher.

Mansfield is an Enterprise High School graduate who served both as an FFA district officer and a state officer. She has built a robust FFA program at Union High School. Of the high school’s 132 students, 96 are involved in FFA. Her classroom walls are lined with banners for FFA awards for advanced shop skills, parliamentary procedures, public speaking, digital scrapbook, swine herdsmanship and many more.

“Wade exemplifies what a selfless, hardworking, motivated person is,” Mansfield said.