Growing Where You’re Planted

FFA has a week? Of course it does! Being the largest youth leadership organization it needs a week to celebrate and bring attention to its activities on an annual basis. The week of George Washington’s birthday was designated as National FFA Week back in 1947. FFA Week always runs from Saturday to Saturday, and always includes February 22, Washington’s birthday.This year’s theme is “Grow”.

 FFA members grow many different things from crops to raising livestock basically anything that you can grow it can fall into a SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) or as many people call it “a project”. However if you join FFA you do not have to actually grow an actual product of any kind. As they say FFA is more than cows, plows and sows, FFA is about growing future leaders (As a product of this great organization I can assure you it does just that). 

The National FFA Organization was founded in 1928 and has grown from 33 farm boys to a organization of  557,318 members, ages ranging 12‒21, in 7,498 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.Over the years FFA has changed a lot; for example (originally women were not allowed and now  44% of FFA members are female; women hold approximately 50% of state leadership positions. Students have also changed over the years and for that reason in 1988 FFA which was known as Future Farmers of America became The National FFA Organization so that student leaders who maybe want to pursue a career other than agriculture can still find a place in the organization. Although The National FFA Organization still remains agricultural in many ways is not made up of just future farmers, but future doctors, lawyers, educators, researchers etc. are members. (and yes we still wear the blue corduroy jackets)

Through my experiences with FFA I was given so many opportunities for growth. Growth in leadership abilities is high on my list. Having the opportunity to serve as a chapter and state officer in the organization provided valuable experience in leading others that has been and will continue to be an asset as a high school / college student and as an upcoming member of our US workforce. Skills such as time management, facilitation, problem solving, and working with a team have been invaluable. Being able to effectively communicate is another skill cultivated by FFA. At the age of 16 I was elected to a position that required me to speak to groups of all ages (most of the time groups older than I) and be able to challenge or educate them on any given topic related to agriculture, leadership, goals, teamwork, vision etc. Being pushed to grow that skill set at an early age was scary at times, but FFA equipped me with the training and knowledge to do so. 

Growing my network is another aspect FFA has been extremely beneficial, especially as I have gotten older and even finished my time in FFA. Meeting and working with local, state, and national leaders in the political world and in the agriculture industry has been a great learning experience as far as how the process works and learning about the importance of being involved in what is going on in the government. Making contacts in the industry has been helpful in finding internships/ potential jobs. The agriculture industry (and even some non-ag companies) realize the strength and impact FFA has on its members. Over 3,000 sponsors provided more than $16 million for FFA and agricultural programs and activities in 2011. In 2011, 129 sponsors provided 1,590 individual scholarships worth over $1.9 million through the National FFA Organization. To date, more than $34 million in FFA collegiate scholarships have been awarded to students pursuing higher education. These supporters of FFA know what opportunities for growth FFA offers and wants the students in their industry once they have “grown up”

 Simply making friends among my peers has proved time and time again to be helpful in so many areas. Some of my best friends have been made through FFA. I have spent so many hours on the road, on the phone, so many hours in workshops, the laughs, the tears. Another plus to making friends across the state and country: there are very few states I can now go to and not know of someone in that state (don’t get me wrong there are a few), this has been wonderful in traveling to football games, looking for jobs and internships and selecting a school to attend. I’m never too far away from an acquaintance and I am constantly surprised to run across people I met once or twice and never thought I would see again. 

If you are in high school I definitely recommend you take advantage of FFA and its opportunities for growth. Maybe you are at a school that doesn’t have a strong FFA chapter, that doesn’t matter, take advantage of opportunities on other levels in the organization, or maybe your advisor needs a little encouragement from students to be active. Maybe you have been an FFA member in the past: a few years ago or maybe 30, I challenge you to use those skills and experiences you had gained through FFA and put them to use in your community, help grow the next generation of leaders whether it is giving of your time, money or expertise. Many of our nation’s notable figures were once members and are using their influence to motivate others like Bo Jackson (Bo definitely knows), Taylor Swift, Jimmy Carter, Tim McGraw, and Chris Johns (Editor National Geographic) are just a few products of this organization and millions of others scattered across this great nation. 

As an 8th grader joining FFA was one of the best decisions I have ever made, it has challenged me to grow into the person I am today and for that I am thankful. It all starts with growing where you are planted, we do not have any control over where we live our younger years, the community you are in, school system, home etc. you have to choose to make the best of where you are, and grow into something great! As people around the US celebrate National FFA Week, what opportunities for growth has FFA afforded you and if you were not a member of FFA what other valuable experiences in your life has attributed to your growth as an individual? 

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