I absolutely LOVE farming. Despite the fact that I was once a big city girl who was really disconnected from agriculture, it feels as though I’ve found my calling in life — sharing the stories of amazing farmers from all around the world as a public speaker and writer. Even though I grew up as a Wisconsin girl involved in farming and 4-H, as I’ve gotten older I sometimes wonder how life would be different if I would’ve been actively involved in FFA.
The FFA creed and blue corduroy jacket hold a lot of weight, distinction, and powerful memories. In honor of this week’s National FFA Convention, I decided to ask some high school students and FFA alumni what the organization means to them. The quote I loved most came from Ashleigh Calaway, an FFA alumna and Wisconsin farm bureau employee:
“Showing livestock is more than ribbons … more than bragging rights … more than just competing … it’s about instilling values. Building character. It’s a demonstration of love, patience, and teamwork.”
After chatting with all these FFA farm folks, the leadership skills and passions are very prevalent. When most people think of FFA, the first thing they might think of is showmanship. But it goes far beyond that. FFA creates a brother- and sisterhood full of friendships that last a lifetime. It presents opportunities; allows our nation’s youth to explore future career possibilities in agriculture. When you go off to college, you already have a tribe — people who understand you. The FFA logo represents your values, your family, a certain set of morals and community.
You’re representing something big. FFA offers many leadership opportunities, while the history of the organization has included participation from many of our our former presidents such as Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. It raises awareness to how prevalent agriculture is in our everyday life and gives us all an idea of just how diverse the industry really is. FFA offers mentorship programs, career exploration, and public speaking and travel opportunities. It’s intracurricular, not extracurricular. For many of these future farmers, it represents the first time they were on an airplane or experienced a hotel stay. These memories and friendships last a lifetime. It’s education, but it also offers huge social advantages.
Then there’s the scholarships. The fundraising, the travel, the competitions and conferences. All of these moments that lead to real college scholarships and independence.
So what did I miss out on since I wasn’t in FFA? Their mission statement is:
“FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.”
Maybe this could’ve been a life changing decision to lead to the next big promotion in career development. Maybe I could’ve been pushed a bit harder; discovered my real passion for agriculture as a career a bit sooner or made additional lifelong friendships. Maybe the next President of the United States will be an FFA alum. Consider all of this when you decide to join this life changing organization that can offer promise and enrichment for the rest of your life.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.
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