At the age of 22, Oklahoma State University student William Maltbie has already built an impressive resume.
Maltbie has competed in almost every major livestock show in the United States, owned his own business, and in the next three months, will earn his college degree in agriculture business with a minor in agronomy.
Maltbie attributes his success to his experience with the National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. Growing up in the small town of Burlington, Okla., a town with a population of 152 people, there weren’t a lot of activities for kids to do when he was a teenager. “You either joined FFA or played basketball,” says Maltbie. “Even though I was involved with both, basketball could only get you so far. Being an FFA member set me up for my future career.”
Agriculture has always been an important part of Maltbie’s life. Both of his parents grew up on farms, and today they run a 1,000-acre wheat operation. In high school, Maltbie’s FFA advisor, Travis Bradshaw, encouraged him to get involved with the local chapter at his school. He got involved and Maltbie says this helped shape him into the man he is today.
“When I signed up in 2008, I was the first person in my family to be a part of FFA,” says Maltbie. He soon became interested in showing sheep. “I came home one day and asked my parents if I could pursue my interest in showing livestock. My mom and dad looked at me and said, ‘sure, let’s do it.’ They really encouraged me to follow my passion.” Using the skills he learned through FFA, Maltbie traveled across the country, attending every major agriculture show while showing sheep. “It taught me how to take care of something other than myself,” says Maltbie.
FFA also taught Maltbie numerous other skills, like problem solving, time management and how to actively give back to the community. Maltbie became more active with the organization over time, participating in contests and eventually winning a trip to Costa Rica.
“When I won the turf grass proficiency, I was also awarded a ten day trip to Costa Rica. I traveled throughout the country, learning about another culture and their agriculture practices. The experience was life changing,” says Maltbie, who had never even seen the ocean before, much less another country. “FFA provided me an opportunity to see a world beyond Burlington.”
When he was 12 years old, Maltbie started his lawn care business, Maltbie Mowing. He credits his FFA experience with playing an integral role in how he managed his company. Initially, Maltbie started mowing lawns during the summer as a way to earn money and to help elderly people in his community. Eventually, his business grew from mowing one yard to more than 50. “My experience in FFA taught me how to manage time, keep records and balance a budget,” says Maltbie. Additionally, FFA helped him to become a better communicator and salesman, two skills that allowed him to rapidly grow and maintain his customer base.
Throughout college Maltbie made the two-hour trip back to Burlington every weekend for several months, maintaining his business while pursuing his degree. It was challenging to balance his business and school, but it taught him responsibility and business management, he said.
In 2015, Maltbie was honored with the Star of Agribusiness award. A part of the FFA American Star Awards, four finalists receive this prestigious award each year. “To be a finalist is a big deal. Each state submits their best FFA member. So to stand out among 50 other exceptional candidates is a great honor,” says Maltbie. “I’ve been working toward this since I first became involved with FFA in 2008. It’s a dream come true and it made the hard hours spent away from my family worth it.”
Post-graduation, Maltbie will achieve another dream of his: becoming a John Deere employee. As a marketing representative, Maltbie will support turf customers out of John Deere’s Cary, N.C. office. He plans to carry his FFA experience with him and mentor a local chapter in the future. He also hopes to encourage young people to pursue a career in agriculture and to take advantage of programs like FFA.
“FFA has opened so many doors for me and enabled me to be a well-rounded person,” says Maltbie. “Students can learn so much through FFA, and it can provide a springboard to a career in agriculture. We need programs like FFA to enhance the industry, and to cultivate the next generation of agricultural leaders.”