Story by Katie Harbert, freshman (ACJ)
Beth Gaines, executive director of the Kansas FFA Foundation, experienced a change of heart her junior year of college. This occurrence was frightening at first, but allowed her to realize her true passion and started her on the track toward her current career.
“Follow your heart and your passions, they will take you where you need to go,” Gaines says.
Throughout her childhood and early college years, Gaines was solely interested in utilizing her Kansas State degree (’91) in agricultural communications and journalism for radio broadcasting.
“As a junior in college, I had an internship with a radio company and realized very quickly that was not what I wanted,” Gaines says.
Getting an opportunity to experience the reality of working in the radio industry allowed her to gain new insight and understand what to expect from a career in broadcasting. Although the internship caused her to drift from her original plan, it led her to her true passion within agricultural communications.
Gaines has an extensive background in agricultural communications, which prepared her well for her current position. Her diverse set of experiences range from working at the Texas Hereford Magazine to being the editor of the Grass and Grain newspaper and the Communications Director of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
As the executive director of the Kansas FFA Foundation, Gaines’ overall responsibility is to communicate the value of FFA. Since she has only worked in this position for a short period of time, she has initially been dedicated to training and becoming oriented with the work of the foundation.
“Each day is very unique,” Gaines says. “Handling invoices and bills typically takes up one day, communicating with donors and writing thank-you notes takes up another, and I spend the rest of the week traveling to different events representing the Foundation and trying to recruit new donors.”
The wide variety of tasks associated with Gaines’ position makes determining which of these tasks are most important challenging.
“There are a lot of tasks that are critical to the success of the foundation,” Gaines says. “Meeting individuals who are interested in financially supporting the Foundation and sharing with them the many benefits that FFA provides student leaders ranks toward the top of the list.”
Gaines noted finding and developing new sponsors to the Kansas FFA Foundation as the most rewarding aspect of her position. Working with youth is another significant part of her responsibilities.
“I get the opportunity to introduce members, mostly state and district officers, to various businesses and foundation donors around the state during business and industry visits. I also get to introduce state award winners to their award sponsors,” Gaines says.
The youth involvement is Gaines’ favorite part of her job and is a quality she makes evident in her daily endeavors.
“Beth’s passion for our youth and leadership excellence shines through, and her vast network in Kansas is second to none. She is one of our own and bleeds blue and gold,” Melanie Mainquist, Kansas FFA Foundation Treasurer and Board Trustee, says.
As she continues this new position, Gaines is most looking forward to learning new skills, most importantly the art of fundraising.
Being directly involved in the Kansas FFA Foundation is special for Gaines because of her background in the organization. Having been a member herself, along with being a mother of three FFA members, the importance of her work and her passion for the organization are very apparent.
Gaines commented, “I started in FFA and it’s really cool to think I could finish there, too.”