Bailey Ruen, a native of Lanesboro, Minn., and current student at the University of Minnesota, is a pinnacle example of a strong advocate for the agriculture industry. She not only brings her passion to the table, but also a great deal of experience and knowledge.
On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, Ruen testified in front of the Minnesota Senate Transportation Committee along with two other U of M students in support of passing a bill that would permit the production of an agriculture-themed license plate. The proceeds from the sales of these license plates would be allocated to the Minnesota FFA and 4-H organizations, comparable to the Minnesota critical habitat license plates.
Ruen grew up on a farm two miles outside of Lanesboro where her parents, Eric and Kristi, and the family raise hogs and beef cattle and grow corn and soybeans. “This is the same farm my dad grew up on,” Ruen states proudly.
They also own show lambs and pigs in the spring and summer that they train to exhibit in open shows and at county and state fair, which is a yearly tradition they look forward to.
Ruen became involved in 4-H and FFA at a young age, saying, “Both my parents’ families have been involved in 4-H for generations. So naturally, I grew up in 4-H, attending meetings (Lanesboro Livewires 4-H Club) since kindergarten.”
“My siblings and I spend our whole summer working with our animals to prepare for county and state fair — the highlight of my summer,” explains Ruen.
“One of my favorite memories is staying five nights in the “4-H Hilton.” This is a nickname for the 4-H Building at state fair where the third floor houses hundreds of 4-H members. There’s a boys dorm and girls dorm — each are one huge room with bunk beds as far as the eye can see,” notes Ruen.
“I have entered many non-livestock projects too, like photography, food and nutrition, consumer education, and fine arts. I have had many media opportunities similar to my recent testifying experience, like speaking at State Fair on live WCCO-TV about 4-H and the sheep project,” she states.
“I joined FFA as soon as I could,” says Ruen, which was in seventh grade. “My mom is an agriculture teacher/FFA advisor, so I have known what it is my whole life and knew I would join,” explains Ruen.
“I could talk forever about the activities I’ve enjoyed! Narrowing it down, I loved the simple day-long events of traveling to a school to participate in CDEs (Career Development Events) like Farm Business Management, Small Animal, and General Livestock Judging,” she says.
“I also loved the trips, whether it was to St. Paul for State Convention, Hackensack, Minn., for state leadership camps, Indianapolis for National FFA Convention, FFA has even brought me to Nashville, Tenn., for a week-long trip learning about agriculture there,” explains Ruen.
“I also love hosting Ag Olympics and Ag Day with the officer team at our school. My passion for youth development was sparked as I served as the Region VIII vice president and taught FFA members leadership skills and how to advocate for agriculture,” she says.
As this is her last eligible year to be a member of 4-H, Ruen is looking back on her experience including the friends she has met through both of these organizations and the agricultural community in general.
“The impacts of 4-H and FFA are lifelong, and I don’t say that lightly,” states Ruen. “Through both of these organizations I’ve learned countless skills like communication, teamwork, public speaking, organization, responsibility, and have met so many valuable people along the way,” she says.
Ruen was asked to testify by a member of the State FFA Foundation, as she knew Ruen through her role as a region officer.
When asked what she spoke about during her testimony, Ruen said, “I basically talked about the impact that 4-H and FFA had on me,” explaining that two other students spoke before her, one was in 4-H and one was in FFA, “but I was in both so I tried to pull a summary of the two organizations into my testimony,” and why being a member of both organizations has been beneficial to her.
“I ended by giving a statistic about how in 2050 the world population is supposed to reach nine billion — two billion more that we are now in 2019. This means we need to continue the strong pursuit of agriculture and feeding our world — which starts by educating the youth platforms like FFA and 4-H to keep them interested,” states Ruen.
Most people who were standing before the Senate Transportation Committee would be nervous but Ruen says she wasn’t. “Honestly, I wasn’t that nervous! Right as we walked into the Senate building everyone was very friendly and introduced themselves,” she states.
“When my two other friends spoke the committee was very supportive in their comments, so when it was my time to speak I felt pretty comfortable and confident,” explains Ruen.
After testifying before the Senate Transportation Committee to support the passing of the bill on license plates with agricultural themes, all Ruen can do now is wait for the results.
“Though almost all of the feedback after my testimony was supportive and positive, there are currently about six of these bills working to be passed so we will have to wait and see what the committee decides is in the people’s best interest,” says Ruen.
When asked what advice she would give young people considering joining 4-H and FFA, Ruen states, “If you are thinking about joining 4-H, FFA, or any other extra-curricular, you should pursue it. There is something special for each individual in 4-H and FFA, and being active in the organizations at a young age will not only help you to gain skills and experiences, but it will also help you discover passions you may have not uncovered without these experiences,” and what you learn will be carried with you the rest of your life.
After graduating from Lanesboro High School last spring Ruen is now a freshman the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where she is studying agriculture education.
“I am so thankful for the experiences I have gained from growing up surrounded in agriculture,” says Ruen. “Growing up doing tasks like getting up in the early, cold mornings to go feed animals has taught me how to work hard and put in effort to reach my goals. I owe so much to my family for getting me involved and sparking my passion in the great industry that is agriculture,” states Ruen.