Some of you may know what FFA is. Some of you may have never heard of it, and some of you that have may have false assumptions about it and what the organization's all about. Well, don't worry. I'm here to ag-vocate and educate, and I'm more than happy to do so.
There's a lot of things I could tell you about FFA. Seriously, there's so much to talk about when it comes to such a wonderful organization. But to keep things simple, I'm going to tell you what this organization taught me in hopes that it will give you a better understanding and appreciation for agriculture and the people involved in it. So, here goes!
The FFA Taught Me What Good Role Models Look Like
Me and my officer team my Sophomore year.
As a young freshman starting high school, I certainly needed someone to look up to. Becoming a member of the FFA provided me with an abundance of role models, whether that was my advisor, chapter officers, or even state/national officers.
These men and women were exactly who I decided I wanted to admire and follow. They were some of the greatest examples of leadership, hard work, and passion that I've ever encountered.
Each one of them inspired me in one way or another with their ideas, leadership skills, boldness, and overall genuine passion for whatever they were pursuing in their lives.
They had servant's hearts, and I couldn't help but love them for it.
The FFA Taught Me How to Connect With Others
Sorry about the picture quality, but this was my small group at FFA Washington Leadership Conference! I never would have had the opportunity to make such amazing life long friends from all over the states if it weren't for this life-changing trip.
Most anyone who knows me now would have never guessed that I used to be extremely introverted, and I largely have FFA to thank for my open, talkative personality I have today.
Looking back on that first year, when my entire class had to stand up and recite the FFA creed, I was scared out of my mind. (The creed is five paragraphs about the beliefs of the organization, essentially).
But now, even though public speaking does still scare me some, it doesn't scare me near as bad as it used to. I can certainly thank my advisor for pushing me to try speech contests during my freshman year, which made me a stronger writer and speaker.
I ended up doing fall speaking contests every year for three years just because I didn't want to be afraid of public speaking anymore. I have made so much progress and have learned so much about how to give a strong speech and I know those skills will be useful for the rest of my life.
Not to mention the fact that in FFA, it's inevitable that you'll make new friends and get more and more comfortable with talking to people and introducing yourself to strangers.
I used to be the girl who wouldn't dare speak first. Now, I'm much more comfortable speaking to people I don't know, even if it takes a very conscious effort.
The FFA Taught Me How to Serve Others
Me and my MSU Chi Alpha Campus Ministry mission team in Atlanta, Georgia! Being in FFA and learning how to serve others while I was still in high school helped better prepare me for serving in other places and with other organizations.
The FFA is pretty much built around the idea of serving others. It's in our motto, it's in our creed, and it's in our actions. I developed a heart for serving and leading others that I never could have developed in any high school classroom. In FFA, we went out and we met people where they were.
We were intentional about serving communities near and far, and we were always ready and willing to do so. I have so many awesome stories about people we served and the people we served with. These experiences were unforgettable and so life-changing, and I'm still trying hard to apply them to this day.
The FFA Taught Me How to Lead Others
Me at my last FFA banquet senior year, the night I retired my blue jacket and handed my position as chapter president over to the next leader in line.
When I first joined FFA, I looked up to my chapter officers a lot. So naturally, as soon as I possibly could, I became a chapter officer myself.
My sophomore year I was my chapter's Historian, my Junior year I was Secretary, and my senior year I became President of my chapter.
The times I had as an officer were some of the best. I got to know other leaders in my chapter and we got to make lots of decisions about fundraising, service projects, and more.
I developed so many leadership skills and a heart for leading others through this experience, and I'm forever grateful that I had the opportunities I had to serve my chapter and community.
I truly wanted to be the best I could be so that I could be a role model for the younger members, just as the older officers had been for me when I was a freshman. To this day I still use many of the leadership skills I learned in FFA.
The FFA Taught Me Practical Job Skills and Gave Me a Strong Work Ethic
Okay, so I don't have any readily accessible pictures of me working at the vet clinic, but I figured I could bless your day with a picture of one of my Jersey calves when he was about a week old, if that. This is my Bentley boy!
Everyone who becomes a member of the FFA has to decide on a Supervised Agricultural Experience(SAE) project and keep a record book for all four years. Initially, I wanted my SAE to include cows of some kind.
I felt like everyone had cows except for me, and so I started seeking out a way to make it happen. With the help of my parents, I ended up receiving a small loan from Farm Credit Services and I purchased two Jersey bottle calves, whom I loved to no end. When I turned sixteen and got a real job, however, I worked at a vet clinic near my town.
This ended up becoming my main SAE, and I ended up doing really well with it. I won the FFA state proficiency award for Veterinary Science in the state of Missouri and went on to Missouri State University to pursue a degree in agriculture.
(Even though everyone thought I'd become a veterinarian one day, I decided that just wasn't for me).
Through the entire experience of my SAE project while in high school, I had people teaching me along the way. I was taught how to keep records of my income and expenses and countless other things within my job at the vet clinic alone. This gave me a solid work ethic and taught me the true value of hard work. You get what you work for!
The FFA Taught Me What Community Looked Like
Me and some of my fellow officers from my sophomore year.
Being from a small town, you learn a lot about the community because of how close-knit everyone is. While that can oftentimes be good or bad, you learn to value what's good about community.
My small town was great and all, but joining the FFA gave me a place where I fit. I got to hang out with people who had similar passions and were pursuing similar things in life. With FFA being a national organization, I also became part of a national community, one in which we all share commons goals and passions for agriculture and all that surrounds it.
I learned how to work with a team and I learned to love the people within and outside of my community. I began to crave community in crazy ways, and anyone who knows me now knows that if it's possible to overdose on the community, I'll do it every time.
I love people, and I have a heart for serving them and going through life with them and FFA is really what gave me that passion. I became bold in building community and always aimed to go the extra mile to make sure everyone felt like they were a part of it.
Any time I see the blue jackets, I already feel like I'm connected to the people wearing them because I know that we both likely share the same immense passion for the FFA and it's goals.
The FFA Taught Me to Take Advantage of Opportunities
My friend, Julia and I in Washington, DC!
Being in FFA, I was given many opportunities that normally would never have been available to me in other school organizations or classes, especially in my small town.
For instance, most of the places I have traveled to are because of the trips I have taken with the FFA. I learned to snag every opportunity available to me, whether that was an opportunity to serve, to travel, or to make new friends.
Going to national FFA convention in Louisville and then in Indianapolis was one of my favorite FFA activities, and I met so many people and learned so much because of it. Even better than national convention, though, was Washington Leadership Conference, a week-long conference in the summer in Washington, DC.
I met people from South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas, and many other places all across the country. This was one of the biggest opportunities FFA could offer me, and I can say without a doubt that Washington Leadership Conference is a life-changing event, and that it definitely impacted me and the way I serve others.
Because of my membership in the FFA, I had endless opportunities and skills that I would remember for the rest of my life.
The FFA Taught Me How to Define Success
My advisor and I when I won 1st place State Proficiency award in Veterinary Science in the state of Missouri.
Lots of people will give you various definitions of what they think success is. For me, seeing my countless role models succeed in the FFA, I feel as though it gave me a different definition of success than what may be typical.
You see, success was achieved by working hard and maintaining integrity in doing so. Success was achieved by not only leading others but by serving them. Success was achieved giving 110% in all that you did. And to me, you haven't truly succeeded in life if what you're doing with your life doesn't include serving others.
I know that's something I still need to work on for sure, but I always aim to figure out how I can best serve people. Success isn't measured by the goals that you've achieved, but by how you have helped others achieve their goals. Life isn't a competition, and we should all aim to serve each other and root for each other.
And that's certainly one of the most important things I've learned from the National FFA Organization.
The FFA Taught Me to Pursue My Passion
This is me in front of the Missouri State University bear statue!
I'm currently a freshman at Missouri State University, and I am pursuing a major in General Agriculture with a minor in Sustainability and an individualized minor in Food Security. All I really have figured out so far is that I want a career involving food security and putting a dent in world hunger.
For a long time, I wondered if such a career were possible. But after coming to MSU and having a conversation with my amazing advisor, I found that it was. The FFA gave me such a passion for agriculture and for serving people that I decided to put them together and pursue a career in it, as many other FFA students have done as well.
The FFA allowed me to dip my toes in the water and really learn what agriculture was about. After that, I was hooked and I simply could not get enough of it. I have seen so many of my role models pursue their passions for service with great success, and I am ready to work hard to do the same.
The FFA Taught Me That Nothing is Impossible
My high school graduation.
A year ago, I never would have imagined how far God would take me. But here I am, pursuing what I love and enjoying every minute of it. No matter how many people told me I couldn't, or thought I was crazy, or told me to settle, I pushed past all of them. The FFA creates bold leaders, and I became one of them.
I was unafraid to chase my dreams with full force, and I never let anyone tell me that what I wanted to do was impossible. Of course, I doubt myself just as anyone else does, but I have seen the results of FFA Alumni and their successes.
I have seen leadership projects that sounded impossible become something huge that impacted thousands of lives. Nothing is impossible, and like FFA members around the world, I'm ready and willing to prove it.