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Posted on Sep 24, 2015

FFA president looks to make her mark in ag

Compared to some other Quincy-area teenagers her age, Liz Neilson is a relative newcomer to agriculture.
While she’s lived in Quincy all her life, she didn’t grow up on a working farm or ranch. She didn’t even go to the Grant County Fair for the first time until about five years ago.
But something ignited inside Neilson, a senior at Quincy High School, around the eighth grade when she joined 4-H. The following year, she joined FFA at the high school.
“It sparked and from there it just took off,” she said of her passion for agriculture.
This year, Neilson will lead about 70 of her peers as the president of the high school’s FFA chapter. The budding leader also is the president of the state’s District 9, which includes FFA chapters from 16 high schools.
Mike Wallace, FFA advisor at QHS, has much faith in his new president. He described his student as a charismatic young lady who shows much poise and confidence.
“She’s pretty energetic,” Wallace said. “If she makes her mind up to do something, there isn’t going to be a whole lot that stands in her way of getting it done.”
The daughter of Dan and Frances Nielson, Neilson’s face is a familiar one around the high school. She is playing varsity volleyball and expects to play basketball in November. She’s also the president of the high school’s DECA club.
As president of both FFA and DECA, Nielson knows there are many stereotypes for both clubs. She’s hoping she can influence the two sides and bring them together.
“I am hoping to kind of bridge that gap,” she said.
In sports, you’re only as good as your weakest link, Nielson added. FFA is more individualized, which means there’s lots of room to excel – if you want to, she said.
“There’s no limit to how good you can be,” she said.
Nielson has had a positive attitude since she was young, said Kaye Baumgartner, a longtime family friend.
“Her spirit is positive and willing. I think she’s mature beyond her years,” Baumgartner said. “I see her as a problem-solver and a peace-maker.”
Often times, the FFA president is the figurehead of the chapter, the person who determines how active the chapter will be, Wallace said. Nielson will be an asset to the officer team and motivate the younger members, he said.
“Liz is going to do a great job of that,” Wallace said.
Looking ahead to graduation, Nielson has her sights set on Washington State University or the University of Idaho. She’s wanted to be a veterinarian for many years. In fact, she and her older brother had a pig-breeding business, selling piglets to other FFA members or locals for meat.
However, the energetic Nielson now is considering studying ag communications and politics so she can help the “whole ag industry in general,” she said. She wants to be someone who initiates change, she said. In her time in FFA, she’s also learned how far reaching the industry is. There are few jobs or industries that are not impacted by agriculture, she said.
“You can always relate it back to agriculture,” she said.
Wallace is anxious to see where life takes Nielson. “She’s going to be one of those people who makes a difference in the world,” he said.


— By Jill FitzSimmons,