You know that feeling when you’ve been slapped in the face knocked off your high horse or just completely had the wind knocked out of you. That moment when you were so shocked, blindsided or completely off guard that you didn’t know if you were just insulted or made fun of? I vividly remember experiencing these emotions several years ago while preparing for my annual trip to Indianapolis for the National FFA Convention. A fellow classmate at Murray State University had been inquiring about my upcoming trip. Along with the typical questions she had been asking, there was one, this was the one that left me in total and complete disbelief. “What does FFA stand for?” My immediate response was, Future Farmers of America. Through her laughter she said, “Really? I always thought that was just some kind of joke?” This was the moment, the feelings I mentioned earlier took over. I had a long time reflect on the conversation while driving to the convention. It was to my knowledge that what FFA is and stands for was a common understanding. This was a life changing moment. I finally understood the importance of advocacy in the Ag industry.
In lieu of National FFA week, with some inspiration from my future sister in-law Megan McKinney (past Ky state officer) I found it appropriate to dedicate a post about FFA. I’d like to start out with the basics about FFA for those who may not understand what type of organization it is.
FFA stands for the Future Farmers of America and was started by a group of young farmers in 1928. Their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They taught the younger generation that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting– it’s a science, a business and an art. Since 1928 FFA has escalated into one of the largest youth organizations in the world with over 520,000 members nationwide. This organization has touched and shaped many young people since its birth, myself being one.
FFA was part of my life throughout my high school career and taught me to pursue my dreams and goals within the agricultural industries, without reservation. The responsibility and dedication that FFA taught me is priceless. I would not be where I am in my career without the guidance of the FFA program. I wanted another’s perspective on the impacts of FFA, so I called upon past Kentucky State FFA officer, Megan McKinney, to answer some common questions.
Why is FFA important?
Extending education to youth through FFA and The National FFA Organization is essential to the future of agriculture. FFA promotes extensive involvement and education in all fields of agriculture, from research and biotechnology to livestock genetics, reproduction and nutrition. The largest youth organization with over 500,000 members in the US, including Puerto Rico and Guam, encourages premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agriculture education. Only 27 percent of members either live or have lived on a farm. The remaining 73 percent have chosen to join in order to gain valuable life lessons, professional skills, and hands on experience. Unfortunately, a large portion of Americans have minimal knowledge within the agricultural realm; this is the reason we need to continue to promote the growth of FFA. In return we expect these students will enter into the work force as agriculture activists in some way.
How has FFA shaped you into the person you are today?
Growing up as a daughter of an agricultural educator, I was first introduced to FFA at young age and have witnessed the impact it has had on several individuals. I anticipated the moment I could walk into the FFA office and pay my dues; little did I know what effects that first 15 dollars would have on my life. Looking back, almost 8 years later, I reminisce on the days of the measly little freshman walking into the FFA office and compare it to the 21 year old college student I see in the mirror every morning. I would definitely not be the person I am today without the experiences, support, successes and failures that I gained through FFA. As a once passive, soft spoken and intimidated teenager, I would have never imagined that I would become a leader of any sort. This leadership role required being comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, which was certainly not a trait I was born with. However it wasn’t long before I realized a change, thanks to the possibilities that FFA offered. I would have never imagined being a chapter or regional officer, let alone a State Officer. My advisors were beside me every step of the way; encouraging and helping me surpass my limits. FFA taught me to never be satisfied and never settle; there was always more that could be done to achieve my success. The blue corduroy jacket FFA, has whipped me into the shape I’m in today. It has given me the confidence to rise above no matter how hard the task. Through FFA I have gained priceless knowledge and life skills to reach even the highest of goals.
What do you know about FFA?
What did you gain from your involvement in this great organization?