In case no one has mentioned it yet it’s National FFA Week!!!! Which is in-fact my favorite week of the year. Being a member of the FFA Organization was by far one of the greatest experiences of my short life (I’m only 21). For those of you that may not know that much about the National FFA Organization let me give you a quick crash course.
The FFA was established in 1928 in Virginia. Its purpose was to educate young men about agriculture and leadership, while giving them the tools that they need to become successful in their future careers. The FFA now allows girls to join, obviously I’m not a boy! Each Agriculture program at most schools in the U.S. has an FFA chapter, which is part of a state association, which in turn is a part of the national organization. Agricultural education in the classroom is an important component of FFA but there are also two other components that cannot be overlooked. The SAE is a members Supervised Agricultural Experience, which is essentially like a science fair project, show lamb, or agriculture work experience. My SAE while I was in FFA was raising and showing club lambs as well as raising Red Angus cattle. In addition to learning in the classroom and having an SAE FFA members can compete in CDE’s. CDE’s are Career Development Events that are designed to let students learn about an aspect of agriculture then compete in a contest to test their knowledge. There are twenty-five CDE’s that students can participate in on the chapter, state, and national level. As a student I competed in Parliamentary Procedure, Livestock, Poultry, Dairy Foods, and a couple of other events. I also ran for chapter and state officer positions which is where many students get leadership experience. I also traveled to leadership conferences where I learned a lot about myself and how to work with other people. This is a super brief overview of the FFA if you have more questions please contact me (questions page) or visit the National FFA web page http://ffa.org
Anyways I love FFA, like really love it. This is me,well the brunette is me, the other foxy lady is my friend Joslyn (she’s pretty great). I spent much of my time in high school doing things just like this. What is this you ask? Well its swing dancing in the hallway of the school of course! Actually I did a whole ton of other really important things. Like traveling to National Convention to go to workshops and watch sessions. ( I went as an alternate on a team once but it doesn’t really count) For any of you that may one day have the opportunity to travel to and participate in Convention, go, like drop everything and run. Its beyond amazing, I can’t even put into words how it feels to see 55000+ members all in one place wearing those blue corduroy jackets!
Convention is a life changing experience for almost all FFA members. It gives students the chance to join together and share their passion for agriculture. It was where I learned that map quest is a joke, that I really hate eating at Bob Evans, and that Agriculture is as diverse as the FFA members I met along the way. I watched others live out their dreams of winning National CDE’s and still others receive their SAE awards. It was where I first felt the need to work towards my American FFA Degree, which is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a member. There is also a huge career show, a college recruitment area, and shopping mall for FFA members. I truly wish that more members had the opportunity to go, to see, to learn, to feel what convention is all about.
My main passion with FFA was raising and showing sheep. I had 20 ewes and about 30 lambs at any given time and thoroughly enjoyed working with them on a daily basis. The best thing about agriculture and FFA is that you children will learn more about the value of life and their own morals when they are involved in some form of agriculture. When I step back and look at all the schooling I have had in my short life the most important part of my education was gained while working on the farm. You can’t just walk away from 25 ewes when you are tired, cold, and hungry because chances are they are in the same boat as you but they can’t do anything about it. I knew that I could take the short, quick, easy way of doing things and deal with the problems that arose because of it (sick animals, wild lambs come show time, and broken fencing) or I could do things right the first time and not have to worry so much about the repercussions of bad choices. Your animals depend on you to take care of them, make sure their needs are met, and to look out for their health. Its your responsibility as a producer to make sure that you do right by them. Being in an Ag. class gave me the the knowledge but working with the animals ignited my passion.
The hardest part of being a member was it ending, knowing that when I took off my blue jacket that I would never put it on again. FFA had been (and continues to be) such a large part of my life but, after I took it off for the last time I knew that it would all change. I had done or tried nearly everything that I could in my blue jacket…
- I traveled across the country to Washington D.C. where I made new friends and was shoved outside of my comfort zone on a hourly basis. (the metro in D.C. is pretty stressful)
- I learned so much about myself and the person that I wanted to become
- I showed countless animals
- I lost at least a thousand hours of sleep in my jacket (running through the airport, riding a bus, or running contests)
- I competed against other members
- I built my identity around my FFA Jacket
- I learned how to work with people that I didn’t always like to be around
- I helped others “find themselves”
- I was a leader
- I ran for state office (twice)
- I met one of my best friends
- I received my American FFA Degree
The last thing on the list, my American Degree, was one of my favorite FFA experiences. I had worked for years to meet the requirements needed to receive the degree. Then spend a day or so figuring out and filling out the application. Finally traveled to Indianapolis with my chapter and mother to walk across the stage and get my degree. Convention which usually seemed like a couple of days seemed to fly by in a blur. (its actually about five days long) I felt bittersweet when the day came, as I sat in my seat at the session it hit me… hard, I would never wear my FFA jacket again after that day. My perspective shifted, I can’t really explain it I was different but not different at the same time. I knew that my role had changed I would no longer be a member in the way I had been in the past I would now become an Alumni. My new role would be to help encourage others to join FFA, to reach for their goals, to teach people how to lead. I thought about that and a hundred other things the whole time the session was going on and when it came time for the ceremony to start I had to snap out of it. We ( I use the term loosely it was me and about 1000 other members) had to get up line up in order and prepare to walk across the stage and shake the national officers hand and receive our degree. In the line I chatted with other members, told the students running the ceremony back stage how to say my name, and took a photo. Finally I walked up the stairs onto the stage and it happened they said my name right!!! Only people with unique names can understand how awesome it is when someone says your name right. I was handed my degree, shook hands, grinned from ear to ear and walked off stage onto cloud nine. The next hour of celebrating with my friends that had also received their degrees completely distracted me from the fact that my last day with my jacket was moving way fast.
All to soon it was time to go back to the hotel, change, and head to the airport… Im going to warn you I had a seriously childish moment where I cried, mind you I had been crying all day already. I reluctantly took my official dress off and packed everything into my suitcase, well almost, my jacket rode home with me.
It’s strange how an article of clothing can mean so much… how just the sight of one brings on a flood of memories. Some bad, some good, but all are precious. I am eternally grateful for the time that I spent wearing my jacket and being a FFA member. Thank you to my Advisor, for taking a weird/silly/stubborn girl and pushing her to be a better person. Thank you to the countless others that make FFA the great organization that it is today. Happy FFA Week my friends!