Brian Meilinger, a senior at Knightdale High, is the vice president of the Wake County Future Farmers of America federation. Even as a child, Meilinger felt drawn toward agricultural work.
Q: You are a senior at Knightdale High, and for all four years in high school, you have been a part of the Future Farmers of America club. Why the interest in the organization? Do you come from a long line of farmers?
A: “I do not live on a farm, but my family has a farm on Clifton Road outside Knightdale. My great-grandfather L.C. Liles was an ag(riculture) teacher at Vaiden Whitley High School and there is a building named in his honor at the FFA Camp at White Lake. My grandma and my great aunts and uncles still live on the farm. It is an operational farm and sometimes we rent it out to other people that farm. My mom is an aerobics instructor and she works part time at an electrical company. My dad works at the Caterpillar plant near Clayton, so they don’t farm, but I am just an outdoors person, and I love being outside. I suppose it was because of my great granddad, though I didn’t know him, that I enjoy being on a farm. It is near our house and every chance I get, you can find me there.”
Q: What about you? Have you ever actively farmed?
A: “When I was 14 and 15, I worked in tobacco. When I was 16 and 17, I worked at a sod company, rolling sod – Bermuda grass. I have made money cutting grass for people so anyone that knows me, knows I am going to find a way to be outside. I love to hunt and I love to fish.”
Q: What would you tell kids your age who think that FFA is only for people who want to farm?
A: “FFA is just a great organization. I am the president now of the FFA chapter at my school and I am the vice-president of the Wake County FFA federation. I would tell them that it provides you the opportunity to take on leadership and responsibility roles, and it helps prepare you for life. It is not just farming. You can learn about veterinarian medicine and the care of small and large animals. You can take horticulture classes. You can learn about running your own ag business or being a supervisor of a sod company. It is a good program. I am glad it is expanding to the middle schools. I heard the new Rolesville Middle School has a FFA chapter.”
Q: What are your plans?
A: “I would like to attend a two-year ag institute and then transfer to a four-year program, either ag business or ag education. I have thought about being a teacher, but I am also interested in running my own ag business. I know one thing – that being inside behind a desk all day is not for me. I enjoy manual labor. I just don’t want to be stuck inside.”
Q: You have mentioned loving the outdoors, and hunting and fishing. What other hobbies do you have?
A: “I like spending time with my family. I have a pretty large extended family. Faith is also important to me. I attend Bethlehem Baptist and I attend the youth meetings on Wednesday nights. I have to say spending time with my family and friends is also an important part of my life. I like hanging out with my friends.”
Q: Do you play video games?
A: “Never. We like to build fires. Hang out and talk. We play corn hole.”
Q: Any other extra-curricular activities?
A: “I played golf my freshman year. FFA takes up a large part of my time. I also work part time, so I stay busy.”
Q: Reflecting on your four years in high school, how have you changed since you were a freshman? What advice would you give incoming freshmen?
A: “Well, I have always been outgoing, and I love to talk. I was that way as a freshman, so I suppose I haven’t changed much. I am friends with everybody. I think I am pretty much open-minded. I would tell freshmen to not fall into any one group – to talk to everyone. To have close friends but to also get to know as many people as you can. If you do that, high school will be a better experience.”
Q: What is the most interesting trip you have ever taken?
A: “Well, a couple of years ago, my family went to Wisconsin. We walked into a restaurant and I asked the waitress for some sweet tea. She asked me, ‘What’s that?’ I knew right then I was too far from home (laughing).”
Correspondent Dena Coward