It is National FFA Week. If that means nothing to you, I understand. For a majority of my life, it meant nothing to me either. But why is FFA relevant to you, to me and to our future? I am going to share why I think it is relevant. You can decide for yourself.
Around a decade ago, FFA wasn’t on my radar. I did not know a lot about the blue jackets. My high school didn’t have the program. I only knew a few cowboys that wore Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots that once in a while had their blue jackets on. I thought it was something like 4-H but primarily involved showing livestock and projects for the state fair.
But then, I was working on agriculture clients at an advertising agency in Fargo, North Dakota and was asked to be a judge at the State FFA Convention in North Dakota. That was my FFA awakening I suppose. Suddenly, I was exposed to the most well-spoken, prepared high school students I had ever met. I judged an agriculture communications contest. The top teams were made up of kids I wanted to hire as interns. They were stars.
By 2007, we had moved to rural North Dakota, desolate and far from the lights of Fargo or any major town.
Before our small-town rental house was ready for us to move into, we stayed in my in-laws basement. I remember opening up the closet to hang some of my clothes. There were three blue jackets hanging in dry cleaning bags, all with my husband’s name on them. My husband, Nathan, started walking me through the impact of the blue jacket, his FFA jacket, and what the program had done for his confidence as a junior high student and then through high school. One of Nathan’s jackets said “National Band” on it. Who would have thought you could be in FFA and be in band? But I married a band boy and not only was he in the National FFA Band, band help pay his college tuition.
Our son, Hunter, was just going into fourth grade at the time but I knew then, FFA could play a role in his life now that we were in Nathan’s hometown, Wishek.
Our prairie town of Wishek held a gem I wasn’t aware of until my husband had shared stories with me about his blue FFA jackets. Wishek had a history of an outstanding FFA program. We later learned it was now being led by a new agriculture education teacher, Mr. Brown, who had passion and dedication to build an even stronger program.
Fast forward a few years, Hunter wasn’t interested in FFA in seventh grade. I didn’t push it. He needed to find his own path. He wanted to be an engineer, he said. Then he made his small town science fair debut. He saw the connection some projects had to agriculture and engineering. It was an “ah ha” moment for Hunter. He told me “I can do Science Fair and FFA, together.” And that is just what he did. Our science teacher working together with our agriculture teacher connected Hunter to FFA. It wasn’t cows like people hearing FFA or Future Farmers of America might think. Although, believe me, we love cows.
What I have learned is that FFA is relevant to many for an array of reasons. It might be for livestock judging. It might be science. It might be just for the relationships, the experiences, the discipline. FFA can take kids as far as they want to go and are willing to work for.
FFA is relevant because whether your child or grandchild wants to be an engineer, a doctor, a business owner or a farmer, they need a foundation of leadership skills. I have not seen any other program that teaches and prepares kids for success as leaders than FFA. From rigorous practice schedules that lead to a huge choice of teams and contests (I believe our school does around 16 contests), kids develop organizational, writing, speaking, math and science skills along with a deep passion for agriculture.
As a volunteer in our local FFA program, I have seen first-hand kids not from farms develop skills that are leading them into careers that will benefit our communities and our country because of FFA. They aren’t all going to be farmers. But they are going to be advocating for agriculture in whatever they do. They are our future leaders.
At times, the world and our future is a scary place. But when I see FFA kids shining, I am at ease. We are laying the foundation of a dynamic generation to lead with FFA.
- The relationships
- Professional speaking skills
- How to prepare to win
- How to accept defeat
He said, “Losing at National FFA was the worst. Ever. But it made me better. I am better for it. I am going to win more, in life, because I learned how hard it is to lose and how prepare to win.” Hunter didn’t achieve his goals last fall at National FFA. He lost but tomorrow night he will play in his basketball team’s district tournament. The boys have to win to continue their season. FFA has helped prepare Hunter to win and to lose, no matter the circumstances, no matter the location.
FFA Day and then FFA Week dates back to a history from the 1930’s and 1940’s. But today, FFA is relevant in rural North Dakota, building leadership in a next generation in our family and across the USA. For that, I am thankful.
Has FFA played a role in your life? How is it relevant to you?