One of my life’s biggest disappointments is a unique one — I never had the opportunity to be participate in FFA. Yep, I just admitted one of my greatest shames. In our county, FFA was a fairly minor footnote; the two chapters in our county shared a single small barn on the fairgrounds where they’d showcase their feats. I didn’t know why, but every time I saw the members in those unmistakable corduroy jackets, I couldn’t help but be hit with a twinge of envy. There was just something about the prestige, professionalism, and pride of high school ag students that absolutely captivated me.
A couple of months before I graduated college, I had the opportunity to finally attend an official FFA event. Our state was celebrating its 90th convention, and I was hired out by a local newspaper to cover the festivities. I had always staunchly supported the organization, but now was my first chance to finally sit in and see what was really up. As anyone with any FFA familiarity could probably imagine, I wasn’t at all disappointed.
As I walked through the tradeshow amid the sea of National Blue and Corn Gold, it struck me how the official dress of an FFA member is truly an American hallmark. The jackets all proudly declared the chapter of origin, sometimes accompanied by a delicate degree chain. But each and every one all had a simple “OHIO” proudly emblazed across the shoulders accompanied by the revered emblem. So many chapters from so many counties, all sharing the same love.
At the opening session, I was really blown away, when those sharply dressed young people were put into action. The state officers proudly made their way across the stage, cheered on by their peers. The honor of representing such an organization was evident across their faces. But beyond the bright and shiny surface of the accomplished, passionate agriculturalists, there were stories far deeper. Here there was an unseen multitude of accomplished SAEs, degrees earned from hours of work, friendships forged through trials and experiences, and a love of agriculture with all the work and dirt it entails.
In ag world, youth, responsibility and professional development go hand in hand. When an entire industry can watch these come to fruition in a formal setting, its beyond rewarding and hopeful. Conventions offer them the ultimate platform and showcase for the nation to see, admire, and get a bit of hope.
The way I see it, crafting and honing young people into the best versions of themselves is a fine, delicate art. And clearly, agricultural education has somehow played a role in perfecting it. It’s amazing to see hundreds of young people from across the states assemble each fall in Indianapolis sporting an emblem representing American agriculture’s past, present and future. Thanks to a shared common goal, they have the support of agribusinesses, farm families, and passionate rural citizens. These unsuspecting high school students don’t claim to have the answers but are unified in their commitment to “believe in the future of agriculture.”
Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic agvocate, professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.