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thumb JamesFlatt1James Flatt is not good at slowing down.

After finishing the spring semester at Tennessee Tech University, the junior agritourism major will start a pick-your-own-berry patch with a neighbor in Mt. Juliet. Over the next year and a half, he will take 20 credit hours per semester to finish his degree by December 2013.

His senior year at TTU will be more intense than usual because he dedicated a year to travelling and serving as an officer in the National FFA Organization, formerly Future Farmers of America. It is the largest youth organization in the world.

“Day in and day out, we were advocates for the industry, educating people about agriculture,” Flatt said. “Most weeks it was going 20 or 24 hours a day for seven days and waking up on Monday and doing it all over again.

During his tenure, Flatt traveled more than 100,000 miles, visited most of the 50 states and spoke to thousands of people, including FFA members, politicians and business and industry leaders. He served as a motivational speaker, educator, agriculture representative and advocate.

“We talked about how to keep agriculture thriving and how agriculture will play a role in keeping the nation thriving,” he said.

To be that advocate, Flatt spent most of the year away from campus, travelling to 40 states and Japan giving presentations, speeches and visiting industrial sites.

“I was a 20-year-old kid and spoke in rooms with people who were five, 10, 20 and 50 years older than I am, sharing my experiences,” he said. “It was a blessing to be able to represent an organization I care about so much and to represent the people who have had such an impact on my life.”

“Agriculture is in my blood,” said Flatt, whose family has farmed for generations. He grew up between his parents’ small farm and the larger farms that his grandparents own. Farming, hard work and dedication have been ingrained in his upbringing.

And it shows; he carries about 70 pounds of nails and a lasso in the back of his pickup truck.

“My grandfather said we didn't know the Great Depression was happening because we were all so poor anyway,” he said. “The FFA was a big part of my past and it’s a big part of my future.”

College students are selected as national FFA national officers every year, and the selection process is very competitive. Flatt serviced as vice president; fellow officers were from New Mexico, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Colorado.

Though the selection process is competitive, a TTU student served as a national officer the year before as well. This is the second time in history that Tennessee has had back-to-back national officers.

Before serving as a national officer, Flatt spent a year as the Tennessee state FFA president. His father and older sister are also members of the organization.