The image of tens of thousands of blue corduroy jackets in downtown Indianapolis is, simply put, inspiring. From the progress of the rising sun to the backbone of the plow, the wisdom of the owl, and the freedom of the eagle, the FFA symbol’s design centers around the yellow cross-section ear of corn, a symbol of unity.
And the word “unity” seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue during the 95th National FFA Convention & Expo.
Attendees came to Indianapolis from states across the county. On the dance floor, you could see members kicking up their heels together. In the halls, youth taking photos with other FFA members in jackets from other states that they may never have visited themselves: Alaska, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, and more.
Events, speakers, and FFA contestants from all walks of life and backgrounds represented the unique diversity of the National FFA Organization. Celebrating this diverse range of FFA members, the FFA For All Experience was hosted in the Expo Hall. With over 500 members and guests in attendance, the event emphasized the importance of having a diverse range of identities in FFA and agriculture. There was traditional Mexican music, Irish dancing, and speakers from the Native American Agriculture Fund.
Even the country music concerts this year hosted a wide variety of artists: Lauren Alaina, Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton, and Russel Dickerson.
One member, Mirhonda Good talked about her experience at the National FFA Convention:
“It’s really great being here, and it’s good to know that the National FFA Organization is trying to bring everyone together from all types of backgrounds including diverse backgrounds and traditional backgrounds,” said Mirhonda Good, District VI New Mexico State Vice President.
“The FFA for All slogan shows that FFA is for everyone. You can come from any background or socioeconomic class, and still be part of FFA,” Good said. “It was amazing to be able to represent FFA and help make decisions about policy moving forward as a voting delegate.”
“I watched Tamika Cutchings speak, and I loved her story. I didn’t know that she was deaf, but I was floored when I found out that she overcame that disability and went on to be so successful in her career. I loved it when Cutchings said, ‘We all have different outlooks, we all have different backgrounds. There are a lot of different experiences that you don’t think about until you get into a room and talk about them. That’s how you make real change because it’s not just affecting your individual community, you’re affecting multiple communities. That’s what FFA is really about.’”
The blue jacket means something to everyone, and at FFA Convention, everyone has to wear the same thing. “The blue jacket means to me that I can be myself, pursue all of my things, and go after anything that I choose to pursue,” Good said.
Unity and the FFA jacket
Convention attendees had the opportunity to fill out what the FFA jacket meant to them, and overwhelmingly, the response was friendship, inclusion, and unity. Here’s some of what they had to say:
- “Friendship, inclusion and education to our youth, supporting the 1% to feed all!”
- “FFA has impacted my life by helping me find a home and a place to feel welcome.”
- “My FFA jacket means that we come together to form friendships and lead each other.”
- “To me, the FFA jacket means belonging. Belonging to an organization which offers so many opportunities.”
- “The FFA jacket signifies unity, leadership, and growth. It is a home!”
- “The jacket means opportunity, connection, community, and strength! I love the way it creates an automatic family who advocates for agriculture.”
- “The FFA jacket means unity, not of numbers, but of family. Friend who spend not only their time, but their love on each other.”
- “The FFA jacket symbolizes a group of people gathered for a common purpose to achieve things in ag.”
- “The FFA jacket means that everyone has a place in FFA. Simply, unity. Everyone is the same with their jacket on.”
- “It shows a sense of unity. Whenever I see someone else in their jacket, that means we automatically have something in common. We’re all like one big family.”
- “To me, my jacket is family. Being a part of something greater than yourself and representing the blue corduroy jacket.”
- “It’s interesting how we are always told that relationships by blood are our biggest connections. That our blood is what makes us. But this jacket surpassed that bond. This jacket, to me, means family. A real and true family. A place I’m always happy to be.”
- “The FFA jacket means to me…unity for all and equal opportunity to do something great in life.”
- “The FFA jacket means unity! It is the most recognizable thing when all FFA members get together, everyone is the same. No one is left out of ‘different’ anymore. It’s almost like we are all a giant family.”
Heidi Crnkovic, is the Associate Editor for AGDAILY. She is a New Mexico native with deep-seated roots in the Southwest and a passion for all things agriculture