An article has been circulating the social media-sphere the last couple of days, and I have seen several negative comments from outraged FFA members everywhere. I will admit: I was pretty upset at the things the article said, as well. I also know that FFA has taught me so much more than not only the things the article said, but also the things other FFA members are saying about that article. It has been nearly five years since my last FFA event as a member, but the lessons learned and friends made will last a lifetime. With that being said, here is why I know FFA is actually awesome.
1.”Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.”
This is what FFA is all about, man. I really can’t say enough about how much FFA has helped me in these three areas. After learning about leadership in my first couple of years in FFA, I was a chapter and district officer, as well as an officer for my cattle breed’s affiliate and national association, and a Texas Beef Leader. And that’s just the high school leadership experience I have. As for personal growth and career success (I combine these two because I believe they go hand-in-hand), I learned how to search for careers, write a resume, interview for a job, hold a conversation, be independent, be accountable, and so much more. And, I still use all of these skills even to this day in my career.
2. “Make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
FFA is where I had my first experiences with community service. Heck, that’s a requirement for many chapters as well as for getting a degree. There have been several opportunities I have had, but there is one that really sticks out in my mind. Way back in 2008, Hurricane Ike hit my hometown pretty hard. We evacuated before it hit, so all of our livestock were okay, and for the most part there wasn’t too much home damage farther inland where my house is. However, a few of our chapter members lost their homes, and there was a lot of tree damage everywhere, as well as a lack of electricity. Several of my chapter’s members, including those who lost their homes, spent the week we got home cleaning up trees in community members’ yards, churches, schools, etc., and manning stations where we handed out water, ice and MREs. We had so much feedback about how much of a difference we were making for people who were physically unable to do these things themselves, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And, again, I carry this value of service close to my heart to this day.
3. “Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.”
It’s strange that this needs to be said, but it is incredibly valuable. From wearing Official Dress to learning how to dress for a stock show, this value has taught countless FFA members how to take pride in their appearance and dress appropriately for work, conferences, meetings, outings, dinners, etc.
4. “Respect the rights of others and their property.”
FFA members learn from day one that respect is important and necessary. Anyone who, like me, was blessed (even if we didn’t think it at the time) with a parent for an ag teacher, learned this lesson even earlier when we were dragged along to state convention, the VATAT conference, and any other event our parents were required at. If we weren’t respectful to everyone we encountered or we didn’t value that their property, be it vehicles, show supplies, or even a pen, is just as important as our own, we were in big trouble. I have heard on numerous occasions from folks outside of the organization that FFA members are the most respectful kids they have ever encountered, and that is something I’m proud of.
5. “Be courteous, honest and fair with others.”
Remember what I just said about folks saying FFA members are the most respectful people they have encountered? That applies here as well. FFA is where I learned how to share, tell the truth, smile, open a door, carry a water bucket, loan a belt, and so much more.
6. “Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful and positive manner.”
This one is especially important to me, as I am now in the communications field. I said earlier that FFA taught me how to hold a conversation with someone. Well, it also taught me how to make that conversation mean something by tailoring the way I speak to whomever that person is and giving my words a purpose. From Creed Speaking to Public Speaking, to Chapter Conducting and every other leadership contest there is, FFA members learn how different communication channels are appropriate for different purposes, and they learn how to make that communication clear and positive.
7. “Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in defeat.”
I will be completely honest here: this one was always hard for me. I like to win, plain and simple. But, just like Ricky Bobby, I learned that “if you’re not first, you’re last” isn’t always entirely accurate. I earned my fair share of second and third place ribbons all the way down to being culled from a class before I even entered the ring. That’s tough, man. But, I learned from it every time, whether it was that I needed to spend more time practicing the Creed or that I should have fed my pigs a little differently. When I was defeated, I always made sure that I found the winner and congratulated them. And, I earned plenty of buckles, banners and trophies as well, and in those cases I still learned something.
8. “Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.”
There is always something going on in FFA. As a stock show kid, I did my best to show as often as possible; I would have been at a show every weekend if I could. There are also numerous LDE and CDE contests, as well as practice events leading up to those contests. Chapter events from running the rodeo’s concession stand to meetings and banquets were always a highlight, and everyone was always excited to attend. As an adult, this willingness to seek out events and participate has proven valuable in meeting people in new places and making connections with people I would have never met otherwise.
9. “Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.”
SAEPs are an incredibly educational experience, and the scope is so varied that a member can find something to do regardless of if they live on a ranch or in the middle of a huge city. Personally, I raised beef heifers and market hogs. I learned the entire process of raising animals from breeding to feeding to showing to veterinary care to selling to harvesting and more. Not gonna lie, eight-year-old me bawled like a baby when I sold my first hog, Oreo (that’s a good tactic for cute kids to get higher bids, BTW). But as sad as I was to see him go, it taught me that it’s a part of life and gave me a greater understanding and appreciation for those animals and the care they deserve.
10. “Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.”
I learned so much through my ag classes in both high school and college that I still use in my career today. Not to beat a dead horse here, but FFA and ag taught me how to speak to people, how to write, and how to develop myself to use any learned skill to the best of my ability.
11. “Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.”
Diversity can mean a lot of things, and I’m not going to get into all of them now. What I will say is that I built relationships with other members from so many backgrounds, and those friendships are what got me through high school and college and onto my career. Without FFA, I wouldn’t have known a single person when I moved off to college. Without FFA, I wouldn’t have as great of an appreciation for diversity in people, careers, hobbies, and everything else as I do now.
I feel like this was a pretty long-winded way to say that FFA was the foundation of my college and professional careers, and that FFA taught me so many things that I will use forever. It is difficult to come under attack from other organizations who are trying to destroy us, and it is easy to lash out with harsh words and anger. But, if we’re being honest, anger does absolutely nothing for our cause. FFA taught me to appreciate other people and respect them despite their beliefs and values, and that is how I feel. There is a better way to educate the world about what FFA and modern agriculture is trying to accomplish than with the anger I have seen expressed over this new article, and I hope I can do just a little to make a difference in that aspect.