SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Mindy Bunselmeyer’s goal is to be a booster shot for agricultural education.

“That’s want I want to do — I want to increase membership, but I also want the events we offer to FFA members to be high quality and realistic to their future,” said Bunselmeyer, the associate executive director of the Illinois Association FFA.

“That means we have to constantly look at what’s going on in the industry to make sure our events reflect that and provide the best opportunity for the kids.”

Working at the Illinois FFA Center has been a longtime goal for Bunselmeyer, who started there on March 1.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a section FFA president,” she said. “I was touched by the people there, and I thought it would be a wonderful way to give back to an organization that gave so much to me.”

Bunselmeyer grew up on a small grain and livestock farm near Farmersville and attended Lincolnwood High School, where Richard Watson was the agricultural teacher and FFA adviser.

“I wanted to be a veterinarian, so I took ag classes,” she recalled. “I probably knew about one-tenth of what FFA had to offer.”

Being involved in an active FFA program gave Bunselmeyer a new perspective.

“My ag teacher impressed me because he could hook kids into FFA that had various talents and abilities,” she explained. “FFA was life-changing for me because this organization has something to offer every student that walks in the door.”

As a young person, Bunselmeyer became quite active in the FFA organization, serving as a section president and the Illinois FFA reporter in 1989-1990.

The following year, she was elected by the FFA members as president of the state organization.

“By the time I enrolled at the University of Illinois, the vet idea had left my mind, and I wanted to have the same impact on students as my ag teacher,” the associate executive secretary explained.

She completed both a bachelor of science degree and master’s degree in agricultural education at the U of I.

Since graduating, Bunselmeyer’s career has focused on ag education. She taught agriculture at Monticello High School for eight years, and for the past 10 years, she was the district 4 program adviser for Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education.

“When this job was open, I was encouraged by friends and family to give it a shot,” said Bunselmeyer, who now lives near Decatur, where her husband, Mark, farms with his father.

The couple has a son, Gehrig, 6, and daughter, Emery, 4.

“It has been a fun, eye-opening and overwhelming experience so far,” Bunselmeyer noted. “But it is a fantastic opportunity.”

In addition to serving as the associate executive secretary of the Illinois Association FFA, her position also includes executive director of the Postsecondary Agricultural Student organization and executive director of the Illinois FFA Alumni.

“I know the least about these two organizations, so it has been really fun to learn what and how much they do and the important role they play in ag education,” she said.

“PAS is for college kids, and this group works to connect students to the ag industry,” she explained. “And the FFA alumni are volunteers that support the FFA and ag education, and I’m really impressed with the dedication and time they contribute.”

Working directly with students again has been invigorating for Bunselmeyer.

“The kids are doing such great things with their SAE projects,” she noted. “These projects have really progressed, and that’s a reflection of the ag education program.”

The agriculture industry is “screaming” to hire young people that have an agricultural background, Bunselmeyer said.

She would like to get more stakeholders involved with the ag education program.

“I want legislators to see how great these kids are, the difference FFA programs make in a community,” she stressed. “FFA chapters are doing coat drives, food drives and lots of things, and I’m proud of those programs.”

Another important aspect of her position, the associate executive secretary said, is to empower ag teachers, celebrate their successes and give them the support they need to do their jobs.

“What makes or breaks a FFA program is the teacher,” she explained. “Sometimes we are so busy doing what we do that we forget to recognize that teachers are doing great things.”

“This position excites me because I have opportunity to be involved and impactful for ag teachers and students,” she said. “I’m looking for ways to make a difference, and I have a lot to learn.”