A Lasting Connection

Laying the foundation for a better world starts with hard work & shared values. It’s what John Deere and the National FFA Organization are all about.

Meet Aaron Wetzel, current Vice President of the Global Crop Care Platform at John Deere and FFA alumni from the Charleston, IL FFA chapter.

Common Ground

For the past 73 years, John Deere has worked alongside the National FFA Organization to foster the next generation of agricultural leaders. But for FFA alumni and John Deere employees Aaron Wetzel, Amelia Martens and Jon Miller, this partnership isn’t only special … it’s personal. For these three, joining FFA as young adults sparked a lifelong relationship with both organizations. “It really speaks to the level of support that John Deere has placed in developing future leaders,” says Jon Miller, now a Portfolio Manager with the Enterprise Parts division. “It’s a commitment that really makes me proud.”

As a young man, Miller worked on a dairy farm. “I started showing cattle when I was 10 years old.” This passion sparked interest in joining the National FFA Organization in his hometown of Hamilton, NY. “[Plus], I had a lot of friends in FFA.”

Aaron Wetzel was also focused on personal growth when he joined the Charleston, IL chapter. Now the Vice President of the Global Crop Care Platform, Wetzel grew up on a farm and felt a deep connection to farming. “I raised sheep when I started high school. I was able to learn how to improve my business through FFA. Being able to show my animals was a factor, and my friends were also involved.”

For Amelia Martens, a Sales Support Analyst in the Construction & Forestry division, it was only a matter of time before she joined her chapter in Orion, IL. “I would flip through my dad’s yearbooks and see that he was a part of FFA. I wanted to be just like my dad, so I always knew the FFA organization was something I would join. At the time, I didn’t know the impact it would have on my life.”

Picture taken at Ag. Legislative Day in Springfield, IL, May of 2013. Amelia was Miss Illinois County Fair 2013, and gave a speech to the Illinois State Senate on the importance of 4-H, FFA and agricultural education, an experience she will never forget.

The impact included career development opportunities, agri-science fairs and the expansion of their education. Plus, each learned important skills that would later serve them in their careers, like public speaking. ”Being able to articulate your thoughts with confidence … I think that’s where FFA has a really great asset,” says Wetzel. Martens agrees, as she used these skills as a member of FFA teams in the areas of Parliamentary Procedure, Agricultural Communications and Agricultural Issues. “All of the contests I participated in involved speaking … I also participated in the job interview contest every year.”

But what truly makes the National FFA Organization unique is that it brings together students from all across the country. It’s this collaborative nature that represents John Deere and the National FFA Organization’s relationship, marked by inclusivity, hard work and the vision of a brighter tomorrow.

John Deere Portfolio Manager of Enterprise Parts, Jon Miller, during his time in Hamilton, NY FFA chapter.

A New Frontier

As they progressed through high school and college, as well as their FFA experiences, Wetzel, Martens and Miller were being shaped for their future careers. “It made me aware of all the different opportunities in agriculture. FFA helped me get to where I am today,” says Miller.

So, when it was time to start working, heading to John Deere felt like the natural next step. Miller’s journey began in college. “My senior year, I was able to interview for a full-time position and 23 years later, I remain proud to be a part of a truly great company.” Martens started out as an intern. “I interned with John Deere’s Brand Management department and then began as a Marketing Representative in Construction & Forestry after graduation.” For Wetzel, the decision was multi-faceted. “I chose to work for Deere … most importantly [for] the values and people. Deere [also] presented opportunities to work globally and I had always wanted to work in different countries.”

But the driving force is the powerful link between John Deere and the National FFA Organization. Wetzel credits the success to the strength of shared values. “[FFA] is developing the next generation of leaders and that’s why [Deere] is interested in continuing support there.” And it’s this support that will continue to help the organizations achieve their shared purpose for years to come.

Words of Wisdom

As for words of wisdom for current members? “Life presents you with a ton of doors,” says Wetzel. “Go through them all with gusto.” Miller agrees. “Get the most out of it as you can!” Because ultimately, no one knows their full potential until they give it their best effort. “I tried to do it all in FFA,” Martens remembers. “I would definitely recommend that. Say yes to every opportunity.”

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A Lasting Connection

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