MARSHALL - When Marshall native Dennis Schroeder found out he was going to be inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame recently, he was honored, but firmly believes he was just doing his job.
Schroeder's teaching career in agricultural education has spanned more than 40 years. While his efforts have had a huge impact on a great number of people during the years, Schroeder said he has thoroughly enjoyed serving people.
"I just tried to do my job," he said. "It's very rewarding to help people. Receiving recognition is just frosting on the cake."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Dennis “Red” Schroeder was recently inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame at the Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. Schroeder, an agricultural educator for more than four decades, joined seven other Class of 2011 inductees who were recognized at the 82nd State FFA Convention.
Schroeder was honored at an induction ceremony May 2, during the 82nd State FFA Convention, along with seven other individuals, including the late John (Jack) Larson of Slayton.
"We were looking for individuals who have been influential and supportive of Minnesota FFA and who have demonstrated a high level of service and long-standing commitment to agriculture, agribusiness and/or education in agriculture," said Steve Olson, co-chair of the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame committee, in a press release.
Schroeder began teaching in 1969 in South Dakota. From 1973-85, he was the ag teacher at Marshal High School as well as serving as the adviser for the Minnesota FFA Marshall chapter.
"When I started in agricultural education, it was at the high school level," Schroeder said. "Working with the FFA was my life. That's where I focused my attention, along with my family and the church."
In his first year at MHS, Schroeder expanded the vocational agriculture program to include agricultural mechanics and horticulture. In 1975, he worked to have wildlife and natural resources added, and later was involved in seeing the construction of a new ag mechanics shop and horticultural greenhouse.
"The ag programs back in the '70s were basically production agriculture programs," Schroeder said. "When I came to Marshall, my goal was to add the mechanics, horticulture and natural resources programs. We were one of the first in the state to provide these types of programs to high school students."
Under Schroeder's guidance, the Marshall FFA chapter received the National Chapter award, Building Our American Communities (BOAC) award and safety award each year. Participants were highly competitive, winning state contests in horticulture, livestock and farm management during Schroeder's tenure. More than 50 members also earned a state FFA degree.
"Agriculture isn't farming," Schroeder said. "It's big. It's business. It's industry. There's an awful lot of jobs. Minnesota relies heavily on agriculture and the people that are involved with it, from the producing to the processing. There are a lot of great opportunities for kids."
Another big difference Schroeder has noticed over time is the participation and impact that women have had in agriculture. Schroeder said he's also seen a lot of women come back and serve as ag teachers, like Colleen (Wichern) Duba, who teaches agriculture at MHS, along with Paul Lanoue.
"It used to be all males in FFA, but now, about half of the FFA students are girls," he said. "There are great opportunities in ag business for women and in production ag. You take all the big businesses, like Cargill, they're looking for quality people. There are a lot of women who are in leadership roles and find rewarding careers in ag education."
Schroeder believes that the FFA programs in southwest Minnesota are currently very strong and he's proud to have been part of its history. His list of accomplishments and involvement is long, and he's still and active participant.
"I've been in ag forever," he said. "I'm still on the advisory board for the Minnesota FFA Alumni Association and I still help the high school program out."
In addition to serving on the state FFA contest committee and board for many years, Schroeder was also the president of the state ag teachers association. He also received the national association of career and technical education Region 3 national teacher of the year recognition in 2002.
Currently, Schroeder works with farmers at Farm Business Management. There was a point, when he was working at MHS, when the farm management program was added. That was back in 1980.
"We had multiple programs and I was doing three jobs, really," Schroeder said. "At that point, the decision was made to go full-time management and leave the high school program with qualified people. I miss the younger kids, but I love what I'm doing now. There's been a lot of families I've worked with over the years. It's been very rewarding."