New York FFA student speaks for disabled farmers


With many ag stories focusing on GMOs, precision agriculture, and animal antibiotics today, one New York FFA student noticed one topic that hasn’t made too many headlines … handicap-accessible tractors.

It was a topic Jacob Ax just had to talk about. And people listened.

The New York FFA Treasurer’s eight-minute speech brought a fourth place finish at the district level, a first place at the sub-state level, a first place at state level, and a bronze medal at the National FFA Convention last October.

“I chose this topic for a few different reasons. The first was that I met a custodian at my high school named Randy. He had been in a motorcycle accident and had his leg amputated at the age of 17. He was unable to pursue his agriculture dreams,” Ax said. “I also feel as though handicap accessible farm equipment is overlooked and not widely known or researched.”

His speech got so much attention that he was asked to present it at this year’s American Farm Bureau Convention in Phoenix in January.

One might say Ax was a natural born orator. From day one of FFA, the Stockbridge Valley senior has been in speaking contests, placing in the top three every year from sixth grade to his junior year.

For this particular speech, Ax spent two years researching and preparing. He spoke with representatives from Agrability, and a few agriculture engineering professors about the physical adaptations needed in machinery. For the actual presentation portion, he practiced by speaking in front of many groups of teachers, business people, and business communication teachers at SUNY Morrisville.

Ax encourages other FFA members to consider entering speech competitions.

“First off it will really help you find something you are passionate about and working toward learning more about it,” Ax said. “Also a speaking contest can give you so many experiences and opportunities. If I had not been involved in a FFA speaking competition I would not have been able to attend the American Farm Bureau Convention or speak for NYCAMH and its staff.”

Ax plans to continue committing time to serving disabled farmers after his year with the New York FFA, through attending Agrability conferences and making small adaptations for those in need.  After all it’s a topic he’s passionate about.

“My piece of advice for any person speaking on a topic in life in general is to be passionate,” Ax said. “If you do not have the passion behind the topic then why would you want to talk about it? Right?”

Here is a brief excerpt from Ax’s award winning speech:

We, as agriculturalists, should be working toward the creation of organizations to serve the needs of farmers that have been injured or suffered a loss in their workplace while supplying a sustainable food source for the world’s population. Farmers give to the world every day and do not ask to be recognized.

Best put in the words of George Washington, “Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of man.” As technology grows, my dream is to see more adaptations for agricultural equipment become readily available to those in need.

Finally, we need to realize that anyone can make an impact in our lives, if I had not met Randy, a custodian at my high school, my passion for agricultural adaptations would not have taken off. I anticipate that in the future redesigned machinery can improve the lives of veterans that serve our country and farmers like Randy who has a passion for serving the agricultural community.

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