It’s National FFA Week. My friends involved in agriculture are well aware of it. It seems like my Facebook has been painted blue and gold, the emblem is all over Twitter and lots of friends’ avatars are throwbacks sporting that famous corduroy.
It’s a beautiful sight, people.
I think I kicked off my National FFA Week in a really dynamic and fitting way — I attended my first ever Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference. In fact, I SPOKE. It was my first ever Farm Bureau conference of any kind, and I am very honored to have been able to present the agriculture advocacy sessions for the Missouri Farm Bureau YF&R Leadership Conference.
I always strive to do the best I can for agriculture, and this marks the start of a new chapter in that growth!
In many ways, I feel my blossoming Farm Bureau involvement is a continuation of what FFA started for me. My senior year, we started a chapter and by some strange and unexpected turn of events, I became the president of the River Valley FFA chapter. It was a whirlwind of an experience — I was also a county officer for 4-H, on the soccer team, a section leader and the first chair flute in the high school band, a member of drama club and Spanish club, taking art classes, and working two different jobs. Yes, senior year was busy. But, when I think back on how I grew as a person, it always comes down to FFA.
I had an amazing advisor. Mr. Rodgers is no longer the ag teacher for the three-school co-op ag program that River Valley FFA is attached to. In fact, he doesn’t even teach ag right now — a few years after I graduated, he went on to teach science in a high-risk public school, in a community that is riddled by gang violence and poverty. He’s still changing lives, just in a different setting now. But, Mr. Rodgers was one of the first mentors I ever remember having. I had teachers I connected with, but I had never felt as empowered and capable as when Mr. Rodgers handed me a task that seemed intimidating and told me that he knew I could do it.
I also think that FFA is the reason I “stayed” in ag. While my FFA experience was far from typical (I didn’t even earn my chapter degree — I have an honorary one, since I graduated the same year I joined) it helped deepen and solidify my existing love of agriculture. I went off to college with a renewed love of the industry, and even though I figured I’d never have a job in ag, I loved it deeply. I stumbled into my first agriculture internship with Illinois Corn, and the domino effect led me to a fully-fledged career in this field. Even when my plans to move home and become a farmwife fell through, I’ve still loved ag fiercely and loyally.
So, here I am. An adult. A professional. An FFA alum. And while I know Farm Bureau isn’t a path that everyone in agriculture will choose to follow, I’m glad I did. Speaking at this conference and attending the other sessions gave me a familiar energy, a sense of empowerment and renewed passion for what I do. It’s the same feeling I’d get when the River Valley FFA chapter achieved some fantastic milestone in its David vs. Goliath story. (If the chapter did not succeed in its first and second year, it was likely to be disbanded. Now it’s in its sixth.) It’s the same feeling I had walking down the street of Indianapolis as part of the Blue Flood during the 2007 FFA National Convention. It’s the same feeling I had standing, again in Indianapolis, as I spoke to FFA delegates about the value of advocating for agriculture as an alum and young professional.
It’s the feeling of being an active and engaged part of something much bigger than yourself. It’s knowing that what I do could make a difference for the industry I love, and that God has provided me the opportunity and the skills to do this every day, both through my career AND through my extracurricular activities.
I think it’s fitting that I kicked off my FFA National Convention at the Missouri Young Farmers & Ranchers Leadership Conference — a new chapter, a a new opportunity, and a new life breathed into my passion for the industry I love.