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Karstyn Cantrell runs onstage as her name is called for a National FFA officer position. (Photo by Wales Hunter)

The Value of Saying Yes

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Media Contact: Kristin Knight | Communications and Marketing Manager | 405-744-1130 |

Saying yes can be scary.

Taking a risk and putting yourself in a position to be told no can be terrifying.

“I remember someone saying to just show up and say yes, and for me, I have taken that and said yes by being available to others,” said Karstyn Cantrell, the 2022-2023 Central Region Vice President of the National FFA Organization.

Through saying yes as a Skiatook FFA member, she found success.

“FFA is a big family tradition, so I naturally migrated to FFA after being in 4-H,” Cantrell said.

Her older brother, Parker Cantrell, was in FFA and inspired her, she said, but she wanted to find her own purpose in FFA.

“I tried to do competitions that he didn’t do,” Cantrell said.

Growing up in a family with deep roots in the agricultural industry, Cantrell said she tries to bring honor to her family by serving others well.

“At the end of the day, all the FFA jackets have the chapter and the state on the back, but it’s only my name on the front,” Cantrell said.

As a high school senior, Cantrell decided to run for a state FFA officer position to serve the organization that gave her so much, she said.

Each state FFA officer team has eight members from around Oklahoma who serve for one year. Cantrell was elected by her peers to be the 2020-2021 Oklahoma FFA Northeast Area Vice President.

After finishing her time as an Oklahoma FFA officer, Cantrell decided in 2021 to pursue a National FFA officer position.

Every state can nominate one candidate to go through the interview process with the nominating committee at the National FFA Convention.

The committee then selects the six members of that year’s National FFA officer team.

Cantrell was not chosen in 2021 to be an officer.

“It was a really humbling experience,” Cantrell said, “but it gave me a drive and passion to see what my life looked like outside of the blue and gold jacket. I found a deeper love for my community and realized my work in the FFA wasn’t done.”

Cantrell was selected a second time to be Oklahoma’s national officer candidate. This time, she sought mentorship from Ryan Best.

“Ryan served as a national FFA officer in 2012, so he truly knows what it is like to walk in my shoes,” she said.

Best, who is an agricultural education doctoral student, met with Cantrell multiple times per week as she prepared for the 2022 National FFA convention.

“Karstyn is incredibly talented and motivated, but when you get to know her at a deeper level, there is such depth in her character,” Best said. “She sees potential in others when they don’t see potential in themselves.”

When the officers’ names were called at the 2022 National FFA Convention, Cantrell was among them.

“As a national vice president, I take a gap year from school and travel the whole year to serve 850,823 FFA members across the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Cantrell said. “I work not only for the students, but also I serve as a member for our governing board of directors.”

During her travels, Cantrell has met FFA members and supporters who have a variety of backgrounds, she said.

“In Oklahoma, you meet a lot of people who were raised in agriculture and know what it is like to drive down the road and see a farm,” Cantrell said. “But, in visiting places like Miami, Florida, I met students who have never seen a production animal operation but still find success in FFA through things like STEM. It has been eye- opening to me.”

One of the first places she and her fellow officers traveled to was South Africa to experience agriculture in other parts of the world.

“I saw a lot of similarities in agriculture between South Africa and the United States,” Cantrell said. “It was cool to see the pride farmers have in their work and their involvement
in agriculture.

“You see the same kind of practices in irrigation and crop rotation,” she added. “There are so many similarities you wouldn’t expect when taking an 18-hour flight to another continent.”

One of Cantrell’s biggest goals as a national officer is to serve and be available to others.

“Knowing I get to have an impact at a national level and travel to four to six states a month to see other FFA members is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” Cantrell said. “It means the world to me to know I am serving others.”

Though Cantrell travels independently from her fellow officers, she has built a strong bond with each one, she said.

“Karstyn could be described in a lot of ways,” said Jessica Herr, the 2022-2023 National FFA Secretary. “She is dedicated, intentional, driven, and encouraging. She brings a great balance to the team.”

Cantrell is always ready to answer calls or make her teammates laugh, Herr said.

After spending the year away, Cantrell plans to return to Oklahoma State University in January 2024 to complete her agricultural communications degree.

“Throughout my time in FFA, I really fell in love with agricultural communications,” Cantrell said.

Through Associated Press style quizzes and photography, Cantrell found a “little spark,” she said. She is considering going into an agricultural law and policy career, she said, and hopes her agricultural communications background will help her pursue that goal.

“I want it to be known agriculture is something anyone can find hope in,” Cantrell said.

“Getting to wear an FFA jacket is a big deal, but I am not,” she said. “I am in a servant-minded position. I never want to forget that.

“My biggest piece of advice would be to say ‘yes,’” Cantrell said. “That’s the door to every opportunity.”

Story By: Allyson Eller | Cowboy Journal

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