It all started with a chicken biscuit in seventh grade.
Ian Heath, who will graduate Saturday from Madison County High School, was intrigued when a classmate walked into math class with the savory breakfast item. Heath found both the biscuits and a pathway into the Future Farmers of America (FFA).
Fast forward to today, Heath has been elected president of the Georgia FFA.
"I asked him (the classmate) where he got the chicken biscuit, and he took me to the ag room," said Heath. This seemingly trivial event sparked his interest in the FFA and led him to try different activities within the organization. He eventually found his passion in livestock judging.
Heath's dedication to the FFA didn't stop there. He set his sights on running for office after attending a state convention in middle school.
"I saw that officer team get elected and thought, 'I want to run on that stage right there,’" said Heath, who worked his way up, running for smaller offices before aiming for the state office.
The process to become a state officer is rigorous, involving a nominating committee process that Heath prepared for over two years. Candidates must take a 50-question multiple-choice test about the FFA and the agriculture industry, undergo personal interviews, and participate in a group interview.
Heath's hard work paid off when he was elected as one of the six members of the officer team. He then gave another speech to run for president and was voted into the role.
"I was fortunate enough to be voted on as president," he said.
As president, Heath will lead the 80,000 members of the Georgia FFA. He will conduct conferences and workshops for students of all ages, teaching them leadership qualities that could benefit them in their future careers.
"We get to go and do all these different activities with all of these different people and really make as big of an impact as we possibly can," said Heath.
Despite not growing up on a farm, Heath believes that the FFA is an organization that embraces everyone.
"I always tell people that there's something in the FFA for everybody, no matter where you come from, or your experience in the past," Heath said.
As he steps into his role as president, Heath is ready to make a difference in the lives of the members of the Georgia FFA.
"I've been in your shoes and I'll help you out. I'll be where you need me to be," Heath told FFA members during his campaign speech.
Heath's journey with the FFA doesn't end with his high school graduation. He will attend Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in the fall, where he will pursue a degree in agribusiness. However, his role as a state officer will require him to take a smaller class load to allow for flexibility to travel across the country and state for various FFA workshops, conventions and conferences.
"I'll probably be a little behind the normal freshmen just because I'm taking such a small class load, but I do plan to get a degree in agribusiness," Heath said.
His goal is to run his own business in the ag industry, and he already has some experience in this area.
Heath currently works with Chapman Trading Company and their Support Georgia Agriculture initiative, which donates 25% of every purchase to the Georgia FFA Foundation.
"As of right now, we've donated over $145,000 to the Georgia FFA Foundation," said Heath, the son of Mark and Ginny Heath and brother of Gavin. He hopes to one day have a business like that of his own.
In addition to his aspirations in agribusiness, Heath also has a passion for breeding show pigs.
"I'd love to own my own show pig operation,” he said. “That's something that I work with right now, and I'd love to do that full time one day."
Heath's journey from a curious seventh-grader intrigued by a chicken biscuit to the president of the Georgia FFA has been marked by dedication and hard work. As he prepares to take on his role as president and embark on his college journey, Heath is ready to continue making an impact in the agricultural world.
MORE ABOUT SUPPORT GEORGIA AGRICULTURE
Of course, Health’s connection to the Chapman family out of Sandersville and their Support Georgia Agriculture initiative (supportgeorgiaagriculture.com), will continue.
Zeke Chapman, the 26-year-old owner of Chapman Trading Company, has been an entrepreneur since he was 11. He started his entrepreneurial journey by selling produce and raising cows. He was able to buy his own truck with the money he earned when he turned 16.
Chapman Trading Company, which has been in existence for eight years, is a full-scale printing and promotional products company. This includes Magnolia Loom, a line of apparel made from 100% Georgia-grown cotton. The cotton is “Georgia grown and sewn.” The idea came about when Zeke realized that while they were promoting Georgia agriculture, the T-shirts they were printing on were made overseas. The Chapmans decided to create a truly Georgia-grown product, and after some research and development, Magnolia Loom was launched in the summer of 2021.
Scott Chapman, Zeke's father, is proud of his son's achievements and helps him make decisions and communicate as the business grows. He believes that Zeke's success is a testament to the value of hard work, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit.
At the invitation of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the Chapmans sold their “Georgia Grown” shirts at the Madison County Harvest Festival this past fall and have merchandise for sale at Home Grown Market in Colbert.
Meanwhile, Madison County nonprofit, HireSmart Cares, has also purchased shirts from Magnolia Looms with “You Have Choices” printed in red on the back of the blue shirts, which are being distributed for free to local youth. HireSmart encourages students to consider learning a trade while still in grade school and not just accept that post graduation should involve acceptance of deep debt for college. Mark and Anne Lackey, owners of HireSmart, encourage youth to develop entrepreneurial ambitions and plans, as exhibited by the Chapmans.
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