The summer before my junior year of high school (on my 16th birthday to be exact), I walked into the agriscience building of my school for the very first time. I heard through the grapevine that auditions were taking place for the FFA string band, so I decided to be a little brave and try out. It was my first time singing by myself in public, and I was pretty nervous walking in with two instructors and two other students as my audience. I had no idea what the FFA was really about, I just knew I wanted to sing. I belted out some obscure country song I heard on CMT during the wee hours of the morning when they actually play music videos. (If you’re curious, it was Barbed Wire and Roses by the band Pinmonkey.)
When I sang the last note, my Ag teacher was quiet for a moment, gave me a quick smirk and said, “I like it!”. I’ll never forget that moment. That moment was my first step into becoming fully involved in The National FFA Organization and learning about the things I could offer it, and more importantly, what it could offer me. Come to find out, it was a lot!
My ag teacher and FFA adviser wasted no time. The Enterprise High School FFA String Band came together and began practicing. We competed and won at county, district, state and national levels. Because of the FFA, I was able to travel and visit Indianapolis, IN for the FFA National Convention. I even got to attend a leadership conference in Washington DC!
I served as a string band member for two years and as a chapter officer for one year. The greatest experience of all, though, was learning how to unlock my potential as a student and as a young woman. I gained leadership skills, communication skills, and experienced team-building and career development activities. I was living the FFA life! (Be sure to check out this neat little video to give you a really good glimpse at what it’s like to be fully involved with the National FFA Organization!)
Let me be really clear, here. Being involved in the FFA is not the same thing as sitting in ag class. I came from a very well established and involved FFA chapter, so I sort of had this skewed idea that ALL FFA chapters were getting the full experience like I was. Unfortunately, there are a lot of chapters in many school systems that are flat-lining. Students are sitting in ag classes and don’t have a clue as to what the FFA is. Many think that that joining the FFA means you want to be a farmer, or that the FFA and ag classes are just for country bumpkins. They’re not learning the motto, participating in career development events, applying for scholarships, learning to serve their community, and sadly, they’re not wearing the blue jackets. But YOU can help!
I’ve put together 3 BIG reasons to consider supporting your local chapter (no matter how active), and I also break down exactly what that support can mean to students in your community.
- Through the FFA, students abide by the following motto: “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve”. The FFA encourages youth to be educated, motivated, and service minded through various exercises and events.
- Career Development Events (CDEs)
- CDE’s help demonstrate how to take what is learned in the classroom and apply it into a real world settings. The primary objective is to help students become stronger individuals, help them function as a team, think critically, and provide an element of healthy competition. These events cover real life job skills ranging from communication and marketing/sales all the way to livestock evaluation and management. You can learn more about and view numerous CDE categories here.
- Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs)
- An SAE helps students consider multiple careers and places them in situations that allow them to apply occupational and academic principles in a supervised simulated work environment. This helps ensure that students are leaving high school fully prepared for collegiate and career opportunities. Throughout the year, students will plan their SAE carefully with their FFA adviser. You can view examples of SAEs here.
- FFA makes a difference in the lives of students by encouraging their potential for leadership, personal growth and career success. Through CDE’s, SAE’s, leadership conferences, local competitions and exercises in the classroom, the FFA helps students develop interests, fine-tune their talents, and strive to reach their maximum potential. In turn, these are skills that members will take with them when they enter the workforce and into their future careers. These are skills that aren’t learned from a textbook, but are things that are organized and demonstrated by devoted FFA advisers and other FFA members through hands on learning and service.
- When you think about the FFA, you probably automatically think “Future Farmers of America”. But did you know that this is no longer what the organization is called? While the letters still historically stand for Future Farmers of America, as a whole it is now called “The National FFA Organization”. In this, the FFA is representing the growing diversity of agriculture and is better able to reach out to students and focus more so on encouraging and building them as individuals, all while presenting an understanding of agricultural influence and importance.
- Currently, agriculture is the nation’s largest employer. There are over 22 million people working in some aspect of this industry. When you think of agriculture, you probably think of crops and livestock. The FFA helps to educate students that agriculture extends even further than that. Agriculture is also the processing, marketing and distribution of crops, livestock, and other agriculturally related goods. In truth, its a science, a business, and an art. In addition to providing food and raw material through crops and livestock, agriculture provides employment opportunities to the population.
- Naked and Hungry
- Say what?? Why do I say that? Well… think about it! Where would YOU be without agriculture? 😉
There are currently 629,327 members of the FFA in grades 7-12 throughout the country who have the opportunity to be greatly impacted by The National FFA Organization. That’s 629,327 even BIGGER reasons to show your support for your local FFA chapter and the students in it. Take the time to learn a little bit more about the organization and the many ways you can support it.
One of the most popular (and most delicious) ways to support the FFA is to make a purchase during the annual fruit sale. Students begin selling the boxes around mid October. The fruit is delivered in early December just in time for holiday cooking and baking!
I ordered a box of beautiful apples and pears. Not only did I get to support an organization that is very dear to my heart with my purchase, but I also get to have healthy snacks during the day. I’ll be making baby food for my daughter out of some of it and I’ll possibly make some jams or jellies as well!
I hope that this has shed a bright light on The National FFA organization and encourages you to learn more and show your support for those involved. The FFA has taught me so much and has given me wonderful memories and friendships that I will cherish for a lifetime. Because of the FFA, I will always believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of works, but of deeds.