This past week was National FFA week. A chance for every FFA member, chapter and affiliate to celebrate being "Blue". If you're not familiar with FFA, let me fill you in on an amazing organization which ingrains its members with solid values and principles!
FFA is short for "Future Farmers of America". If you remember back to your high school years, you may recall students roaming around the hallways proudly wearing the famous blue corduroy jackets with a large FFA emblem on them. I attended the school where the local chapter was based out of, so I have many memories of kids wearing them. Being in 4-H, I viewed the blue jackets as the enemy because FFA kids seemed to always beat 4-H kids out at the fair. But I also thought they were "hicks" and never desired to be apart of the organization. Fast forward 30 years and now I have 2 sons who are very active, another one who will be joining next year, my husband is the Parent/Alumni President (nope, he was not apart of it in HS either!) and I tear up at the sight of my boys in their Blue Jackets. Amazing how life enlightens us on various viewpoints over the course of time!
FFA found its roots in the mid 1920's when young men were leaving the farm with no desire to continue in the farming industry. The intent of the organization was to "offer boys a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way they will develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys." (taken from the history of the National FFA Organization).
In 1928, 33 young men from 18 different states gathered together to establish the Future Farmers of America. Each decade thereafter saw growth of the organization. In 1969, FFA opened its doors to female members and today females represent more than 45% of the country's FFA members.
Currently, there are 7, 859 chapters across all 50 states and 2 US territories. A total of 649,355 students proudly wear the Blue Jacket. These students aren't just destined to become the future farmers of our country, but future leaders, chemists, botanists, veternarians, engineers and so much more. The organization gives students the confidence, the knowledge and the drive to be innovative and pioneers in whatever they are interested in.
Many people think FFA is for non-college bond kids who are only interested in vocational type of jobs. This is one myth which needs busting! The education students receive in their Agricultural classes preps them for careers in Agribusiness, agrimarketing, science, communications, education, horticulture, production, natural resources, forestry and many other diverse fields. (adapted from National FFA Statistics). This education offers students a well-rounded approach to learning. They accomplish this through traditional classroom education/teaching, hands-on agricultural experience (usually on the school farm if the chapter has one) and then through the participation in FFA which gives students the chance to participate in leadership opportunities and tests their agricultural skills and talents through various competitions.
While my boys have learned how to weld, feed livestock and build things out of wood, they have also learned vet science skills and been able to apply them. They have learned public speaking and competed in state wide competitions. They have learned the science of plants, animals and understand the growth and developement of humans and animals. They have done all of this while learning complicated math skills and specialized science. So, while they have learned practical skills they have also gained an advanced education which for many kids propels them into college and beyond.
But honestly, aside from the education the boys are gaining, what matters more to me is the values they are learning. The integrity and accountability taught is invaluable. My boys have a strong sense of who they are, they are confident and comfortable with themselves. They take pride in their work, they value life, they have a deep sense of loyalty to their family, friends and their fellow FFA memebers (who are considered "FFAmily"!). FFA also teaches students the old-fashioned principle of respecting others and especially elders. It also supports a students' faith in God.
FFA has reinforced my boys' love of animals and respect for giving their animals a good and ethical life. They care for the legacy of the land they have been given to work, they understand the fragile nature of clean water and fertile soil, and they are willing to fight to protect those precious resources.
These are the things that circle around my head when my boys appear in their Blue Jacket and tie. When I think of how much this organization has touched my boys' lives and given them such strength, confidence, knowledge and integrity I get all weepy. Never would I have guessed 30 years ago, the impact those Blue Jackets would have on my life. Even funnier, is the fact that one of those Blue Jackets in my high school hallway during my freshman year is now my boys' FFA advisor, Ag Ed teacher and an amazing mentor! You just never know what life has in store for you!
As we conclude this week of celebrating FFA, I can't help but be filled with gratitude for not only what it has given to my boys and our family but what it has done for the millions of young people over the years and also the impact it has had on the growth and development of our country's agriculture. Many of the new technologies and innovations have been influenced by members of the FFA. So, thank you FFA, for keeping America great!!
For more information about FFA please contact the National FFA Organization at www.ffa.org or your local Chapter.