Over the years the organization has changed in many ways one way being that is no longer called “Future Farmers of America” just FFA because frankly, not many of today’s students are going to be farmers when they grow up. FFA can help develop a student regardless of where their career aspirations may lie.
I was eager to join FFA in the 8th grade, my dad was in FFA when he was in high school and from the stories he told I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.
Like with organization you join you experience can be different depending upon how active you want to be, the school you attend, the levels you are active on, your ag teacher’s enthusiasm (or lack of) etc. I’ve been looking back at pictures this week from my ~8 years of involvement in FFA and these are some of the most important things I gained by being part of The National FFA Organization.
1. Friends (Everywhere) – When I first joined FFA I had no idea the friendships and acquaintances I would make. It started at my school, getting to know upper classmen, then other students at other schools in the county, other students in North Alabama, other parts of the states and then ultimately across the country. Through competing in contests, attending conferences, conventions, field trips, community service and participating in other FFA programs (like the National Ag Ambassador Program) you can meet many other young people who share your same passions and interests.
I made some of my best friends through FFA and it so fun to see where our paths in life are taking us. I rarely go to a state where I don’t have someone I can call up and ask where the best places are to visit and eat. Some of these friends I made through FFA I will am already working with as I have entered the work force and will continue working with throughout my career. I still find ways to keep in touch and try to stop and visit with these friends as much as I can. Next weekend I am going to Arkansas and plan to stop and meet up with 3 different friends I have made over the years, all through FFA.
2. Experience / Knowledge – Not only did I learn how to judge a lot of things: forestry, land, cattle, pigs etc. in FFA I also had the opportunity to learn about things that are helpful to me still today. PUblic speaking was huge, I gave my first “speech” when I was in 6th grade in 4-H, but FFA really helped me learn to craft and deliver strong presentations. I learned how to be a facilitator, my junior year of high school when I was a state officer I frequently went to schools and spent an hour or an entire day speaking and facilitating workshop style presentations.
Starting out it was intimidating as often the “audience” was older than I. FFA provided me and my state officer teammates the opportunity to speak at various industry, civil and sporting events, work with lawmakers, participate in media interviews and at the en of our term we conducted a state convention and gave a retiring address to those in attendance. Many experiences you do not typically get in high school.
3. Internships / Jobs – FFA is known for producing high caliber students. A lot of FFA members are farm kids, they have a good work ethic and with training that FFA can provide they make a good candidate for jobs, and employers (especially in the ag world) know that. Through different programs and events I was part of while in FFA in high school and college I was provided with a number of opportunities to network long before I was ready for the workforce. My first contact with someone at Monsanto, who eventually helped me get an internship and job I met at an FFA event in Mississippi between my sophomore and junior year of high school (hold on to your business cards kids). Essentially I have FFA to thank for my college choice (since my advisor took us on a field trip to tour the College of Agriculture), my internship (Sales with Channel Seed/Monsanto) and now my job (Consumer Engagement at Monsanto). When I graduated from college I’d say 80% of the job offers I had originated with contacts from professional relationships I had developed as a FFA member.
4. Preparation, Winning, Loosing – Preparing for FFA contests took many hours, days, weeks and months. Some teams practiced almost year round to prepare for only a county competition, to compete on the national level….those kids must not ever sleep. Same with agricultural projects(SAE’s) each student has a project they are to work on (whether it is having some cows, working in the community or working in food service) and at the end of the year you are to fill out an application for an award stating how much time you put in to it, money spent, money earned, what you learned etc. those takes hours of preparation and planning ahead. When the applications are sent in and the contests are finished even if you have worked as hard as you possibly can you may not be the winner. Learning from loosing and finding ways to make it better next time is a good skill to have in the workforce and just with life in general.
5. Solidified My Passion – What I’m most thankful for that I gained through my years in FFA is that it really helped me see that agriculture is my passion. I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. I had always loved farming and wanted to be a farmer, FFA just fueled that desire and helped me to realize even more I was in the right field.
No matter what a student’s interests are, FFA can help prepare to follow your aspirations. There is nothing in the list above that is not helpful no matter what you are aspiring to be. I know this because those friends I mentioned earlier are doing many different things. Some are farming, but some are also in law school, med school, teaching elementary school, working in the Peace Corps, and doing cutting edge scientific research.
With FFA you commonly hear “its more than sows, cows and plow,” those things are what drew me to the organization, but there are many others in our world (Jimmy Carter, Taylor Swift, Lucas Black, Jim Davis etc.) who are a testament the organization is definitely more than those things. Many have worn the corduroy jacket who have went on to wear bigger hats.
For more information about FFA visit http://www.FFA.org