No Vermonter has ever won the National FFA VIP Citation. Leave it to Missisquoi Valley Union agricultural sciences teacher Jim Messier to blaze a trail.
After 50 years serving students in the Swanton-area, Mr. Messier earned the citation at this year's National FFA Convention in Louisville.
The award honors people who have dedicated many years of service to the FFA and Ag-education.
He's a modest man, even though his name is on the Ag building at MVU.
"Getting that at this point in his life is a very big deal to him," said MVU Ag Mechanics teacher Devon Karpak. "Even though he can't necessarily put that into words."
"I like to establish goals." said Messier. "I thought that 35 years was a good length of time to be teaching. I got to 35 years and it was going pretty smoothly so I thought well, maybe 40, then 45, then 50. New teachers coming along can look at that and say if he can do it, must be I can do it."
Mr. Messier built the Missisquoi Valley Union Ag program up from a 1 classroom, 1 instructor program at the old Highgate High School in 1965 into the award-winning department it is today.
Students do everything from Ag mechanics to raising hogs.
Mr. Messier's Ag students were doing farm-to-table before it was the phrase du-jour.
"We have raised animals on campus here since '74." Messier said. "We've had laying hens. Students have sold eggs. Right now we produce pork and beef and we sell beef to the hot lunch program."
He's stepped back a bit. Leaving his role as head of the department. Moving to part-time and mostly supervising seniors as they intern out in the community. But he's not ready to leave teaching entirely.
"As long as I feel I have something to offer a student." said Messier about how much longer he plans to teach.
"It's more than teaching just agriculture. It's teaching leadership through the FFA, building community spirit, various things like that. I think that's why it's important." Messier said.
"I think that this program has given students of MVU and the surrounding area a place where they can feel that their lives really matter." Karpak said. "And that they're really able to fulfill their dreams."
Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.