Alayna Harrell, a 2020 Annville-Cleona High School graduate, is continuing her service to the agriculture community as an officer for the Pennsylvania State FFA organization.
Harrell was one of 22 FFA members interviewing for the “reporter” position. Her appointment to the state leadership team was announced during the state FFA convention in June. She likened the role to that of a liaison with local chapters and the public.
“It’s a year of service,” Harrell explained. “I’ll be visiting chapters throughout the state, conducting workshops and doing industry tours. I’ll also be an advocate for FFA and ag education.”
State leaders serve for a one-year term, so she’s putting her career plans on hold. After her year of service, Harrell said she plans to attend Penn State University, majoring in agriculture with a minor in communications.
“I want have a career in the ag industry, perhaps agri-business or agri-marketing. I’m not sure what specific area, so the ag industry tours may be very helpful to me,” she said.
Harrell’s family operates a pig farm on Mount Pleasant Road, South Annville Township. The family farms about 120-acres on the farm and also rents additional farmland, so they farm a total of 300 acres. The family’s farm is next-door to the farm where her mother, Andrea, grew up. Her father, John, is a first generation farmer.
Harrell joined the Little Dutchman FFA chapter in eighth grade.
“My FFA journey was different than most. My mom had participated in FFA in school. She had encouraged me to join FFA earlier, but I was a bit rebellious,” Harrell explained. “I finally joined in eighth grade because a lot of my friends were joining, so initially I joined for the social aspect. A year later, I began to realize there is so much more to FFA.”
Harrell described herself as very quiet as an eighth grader, but as a high school freshman, she began to step out of her “comfort zone.”
“That’s when I began participating in FFA’s leadership development programs,” she said, adding that although the ag-ed program at Annville-Cleona is not huge, there are a lot of members in the FFA chapter.
“People have a misconception about FFA — they think it’s all about plows and cows, but it’s so much more. It’s diverse and touches on all aspects of life,” she explained. She’s attended national FFA conferences three times — twice as a competitor.
FFA provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to more than 700,000 student members who belong to one of the more than 8,600 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Harrell said there are about 13,000 FFA members in Pennsylvania.
Harrell said she began participating in the junior prepared public speaking activities in which she had to give a three- to five-minute speech on agriculture.
“I gained a lot of confidence and overcame my fear of speaking to people I didn’t know,” she said.
She also served as president of the Little Dutchmen FFA chapter during her junior and senior years at Annville-Cleona. Harrell said since she was a high school junior during the first year she served as president, she worked with FFA members who were older and those who were younger than her. She called the first year a “learning experience.”
“I wanted to help younger members step out of their comfort zone as I had done,” she explained. “I think of FFA as a family. My goal was also to help connect members to one another.”
During her two years as president, membership grew. When she graduated in June, the chapter had about 120 members, and there were about 100 members when she took office as president. At Annville-Cleona high school, she was also involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters, Dutchmen for Christ, and the varsity field hockey team.
Harrell served as Lebanon County Teen Miss Agriculture USA in 2018.
“I was prompted to serve [in that role] because of the misconceptions the agriculture industry faces. My goal was to use my title to educate the public/consumers about an industry I am passionate about. From the experience, my eyes were opened to the various opportunities that agriculture holds. Also, my love and confidence in agriculture blossomed during my reign,” Harrell said.
She said her mom continues to be one of her biggest supporters and encouraged her to run for state FFA office.
“She didn’t have that opportunity [to run]. She encouraged me to take the step to become a state officer since she felt it would be a great way for me to learn new things,” Harrell said. “I was also inspired to run for state office by a friend Jared Kline, who served as a state officer. Seeing him speak before all the members of a state conference made me realize that was something I could do, too.”
Harrell said the Little Dutchmen FFA chapter plays a big role in the Lebanon Area Fair. A number of members show animals or volunteer at the fair — most often at the French fry stand. Some have been candidates for Fair Queen. Harrell has shown dairy beef, and plans to show dairy beef again this year even though this year’s fair will look a bit different in light of COVID-19.
This year’s Lebanon Area Fair is scheduled for July 25 through Aug. 1.
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