An Open Letter to FFA Members:
As the annual National FFA Convention and Expo takes place in Indianapolis this week, I want to take a moment to address those young leaders who have come together. The organization is celebrating 90 years, and its importance is all too relevant in preparing and shaping the future leaders of agriculture and our communities.
I can. We will.
The theme for this year’s convention could not be more timely. Individually, it celebrates the work each of you do to promote and educate others about farming, while at the same time growing the food and fiber that keeps us going. Collectively, it recognizes that when all of us are working toward the same goal, we can achieve some pretty awesome stuff.
Unfortunately, I was never a part of FFA. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone in my area was ever active in the organization either, so it wasn’t something I knew very much about. Since I’ve started writing though, I’ve met quite a few people who grew up in FFA and sported the blue jackets. They remember their time fondly, and for good reason. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get those same opportunities that you’ve been given. You’re so lucky to be part of an organization that develops leadership skills, cultivates community awareness, and encourages hands-on learning.
Agriculture needs those skills right now. We’re hurting out here. The farm economy is in the dumps. There is a growing disconnect between food producers and food consumers. There is divisiveness among different sectors of agriculture. Food marketing is out of control. Trade agreements are up in the air. Prices are scraping the bottom of the barrel.
But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on agriculture and farming.
Cantaloupe love hot, dry weather. The summer I was born, we had a bumper crop of them. Dad normally sold them to the local grocery stores and farm markets in larger cities nearby, but that year we just had too many. We couldn’t get rid of them. We had no place to store them, and they were rotting without getting sold. My mom, bored on maternity leave from her off-farm job, offered to try to sell them on the side of the road by her parent’s house. It worked. For the next 26 years, she successfully operated a roadside stand in our small town before it was the cool, hip thing to do.
That spirit of innovation, creativity, and thinking outside the box is exactly what agriculture needs right now. Agriculture currently might be in a tough place, but the skills you’re developing through the FFA will help you see those challenges as opportunities. Instead of roadblocks, you’ll find new markets, new ways to connect with people, and new places to expand. Whether you choose to be a farmer, a veterinarian, an agronomist, or something not directly related to agriculture, you will have the tools required to succeed.
The economy is cyclical. Hard times come and go. But the relationships, talent, and abilities you foster during your time in FFA will always be with you. When hard times knock you down, you’ll be able to get back up and keep going.
I hope you take the time to enjoy your convention this week. Take lots of pictures, meet everyone you can, and cherish every moment. You’re with a really great group of people with a really bright future.
I can’t wait to see how you’re going to transform farming, individually and together.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.