Julie Carter is a New Mexico writer and author whose column appears weekly on Rio Grande Digital.
National FFA Week is celebrated every year in the month of February, bringing out the pride of blue and gold all across this country.
In 1928 a group of farmers founded FFA with a mission to prepare generations ahead for the challenges of feeding a growing population. In doing that, they taught the youth of each generation that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting, but is a science, a business and an art.
FFA – The letters stand for Future Farmers of America; however, in 1988 the official name of the organization was changed from Future Farmers of America to The National FFA Organization to reflect the growing diversity of agriculture. It was not just about farming.
Today FFA addresses those diversities by helping young FFA members develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad array of career paths.
FFA focuses on leadership, management, character, teamwork and communications. FFA increases awareness of the worldwide technological importance of agriculture and its contribution to the well-being of all of us.
And it all starts with the Greenhands — youngsters at the sixth or seventh grade level who, wide-eyed, see their upper classmen in their FFA blue jackets emblazoned with the FFA logo and in bright yellow letters boldly claiming a state and school of origin.
The crisp white shirts and blue ties above black slacks or skirts make a statement for the professional side of the organization, accented with a proper handshake, and a mannerly “Yes ma’am or no sir” when spoken to.
They carry clipboards and evaluate everything from turnips to tulips, crops to livestock, and meats to marketing during the season of “judging” competitions, now called Career Development Events.
They learn parliamentary procedure, public speaking and that agriculture is a global business, not just menial labor directed from a tractor seat.
They build, weld, cultivate, work, study and create projects that earn awards and acclamation throughout their FFA career.
It is a process they are guided through by FFA advisors that truly see them as the hope of the future and the heart of a solid America.
Tirelessly these men and women groom each young “crop” of FFA hopefuls by sparking their interest and enticing a desire to learn. They find youthful enthusiasm in the young Greenhands as they help them understand that limits are to be pushed and high levels of accomplishment lay ahead of them.
Every May, there is a harvest among individual FFA chapters. The results of a year of work are recognized before friends and family. The young members find a determination to do more, do better next year. The older members realize that hard work has a payoff determined only by an individual drive to succeed.
FFA stole my heart a decade ago and every year I revel in the improvements I see in the young men and women it grows. FFA feeds youth like the sun feeds plant growth. In the program, there is something for each one of them to grab onto and own a piece for themselves.
My hat is off to the FFA and off to the advisors who spend their lives molding these great kids. Off to the volunteers that make it work from the background and the parents who support and believe in it.
And most of all, hats off to the kids who are what FFA is all about.
Julie can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at http://julie-carter.com/