Does FFA Impact Lives…Just Ask

Recently an article was released from PETA that was beyond negative about the FFA. While I will not be linking the article here (I have no desire to increase its views and I do my best to only include truthful things in my blog), I can tell you it was not a fun read.

According to this article, FFA only promotes youth to murder, abuse, and unethical principles towards animals. My first thought was “goodness gracious! Way to turn the colors of National Blue and Corn Gold into a horror movie.”

My second thought was, “how sad is it that with all of the negativity in this world, with all of the negative influences affecting our youth, with all of the school shootings, bullying, and drugs, someone would attack an organization that makes a positive impact in our youth? How does this happen?”

While I have a thousand arguments that I could throw out there about how wrong the article was, I don’t want to go down that road. You see, this goes beyond a typical agriculture versus animal activist argument. This is about youth…our future. The author of the PETA article, well, they missed it. They ran into the situation, guns of assaults blazing like a bull in a china shop, but they missed it. While trying to make some sort of impact of their own, they missed the impact that FFA has on thousands of youth –629, 327 students to be exact, and that does not include alumni.

What kind of impact does FFA make on youth? All you have to do is ask, and that is what I did. I asked several FFA members how FFA had impacted their lives and to share their favorite photo. This is what I got:

“The FFA has impacted me in so many ways! It has given me a way to connect with people all over the nation as well  develop my leadership and personal skills. It has given me a deeper understanding of agriculture and its importance, not only to me, but to every single person on the earth. Without FFA, I can truly say that I wouldn’t be the person that I am today.” -Shelby Bireley, 2015-2016 NC FFA State President

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Shelby’s favorite picture is the very first one taken as the NC State Officer team.

FFA has not only impacted my life, but it’s truly changed it forever. FFA has inspired me to devote my life to service and become an agricultural education teacher. FFA is far from your average club; I’ve been in quite a few clubs, and while they are great, none have influenced my life like FFA has and will continue to do. I have been in FFA since I have been in the 7th grade. Since then I have served in multiple offices (Treasurer, Vice-president, and Tobacco Federation President) and competed in several career development events including Parliamentary Procedure, Extemporaneous speaking, Agricultural Sales, Livestock judging and many more events. But nothing has meant more than the friends I’ve made through this amazing experience and the mentors I’ve had established through this life changing experience. FFA is the best experience you can have as a high-schooler, because it not only builds you as a leader, it gives you opportunity to influence and change people’s lives. That is what FFA has done for me and millions of people that have been in it. It has been one of the biggest blessings God has so greatly blessed me with.” -Alan Johnson, Spring Creek Chapter Vice President and Tobacco Federation President.

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Washington Leadership Conference selfie is one of Alan’s favorite photos

“FFA opened doors that I never thought possible. The Blue Jacket provided a network of friends and family that has accelerated my life and passion for agriculture. FFA gave me a place to belong and instilled in me a love of life and passion for service. I am forever grateful to FFA, my adviser and my fellow members for their impact on me.”- John Stewart, 2011-2012 NC State FFA President

 

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John’s favorite picture exudes joy!

 

 

FFA has shaped me into the person I am today! When I was no longer able to play contact sports because of concussions, FFA provided me everything contact sports did plus more. It gave me the chance to take the drive and passion I put into my sports and put them into FFA. I plan to run for a State FFA officer position, to attend an agriculture college, to pursue a career in agriculture, and give back to the organization that has shaped me into who I am today and aspire to be in the future! I have learned from FFA through the Classroom, Career Development Events, and my Supervised Agricultural Experiment.” -Trey Palmer, Orange FFA Chapter President

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Trey, second from left receiving his state degree.
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National Convention

“Long story short, FFA made me who I am today. There were about six years where FFA was a majority of my life. To me, it’s more than a club. It is family, passion, faith, and tradition. I have met a lot of my closest friends through my experiences with FFA. I also explain to people that this organization took a young, (for the most part) shy, young boy and made me into a young leader in the agricultural industry who strives to do his best and encourages others to do the same. FFA has taken me to South Africa and Costa Rica, not to mention all over the United States. I have made friends all across the nation through FFA and feel like I could call a good majority of them up if I ever needed anything. We say that the three pillars of FFA are premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. Yes, that is why we do what we do: to develop young people into leaders who have a passion and purpose in life. However, to me, FFA is something I will take with me throughout the rest of my life. Some of my greatest triumphs, as well as greatest defeats have been through experiences in FFA.” -Bradley Glover, 2013-2014 NC State FFA Vice President

 

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Bradley was able to meet a lot of people through FFA including NC Secretary of Agriculture, Steve Troxler

Bradley went on to express his thoughts on the article from PETA…

“In response to the article written by PETA, if the writer was once an FFA member, they never got the idea of it fully. They missed the whole purpose. Those CDE’s and other opportunities mentioned do not exist to promote unethical treatment of any living being. Instead, they are aspects of the agricultural industry. The National FFA Organization has set out to make its members successful in agriculture, or any industry in which they choose to work, as well as promoting that they grow as a person each and every day to make this world a better place. A major aspect of this organization that many people often forget is service. FFA members are constantly giving back to their communities. I am proud to be an FFA Alumni and will always stand with the agriculture industry. We are not perfect, but we are always trying to be better.” -BG

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Of course, these testimonies of how the FFA has made an impact are just a drop in the bucket. FFA is something positive for our youth. Agriculture aside, it develops skills, connections, and life lessons that can be used in any scenario. I’ve seen it make an impact time and time again. Unfortunately, some people don’t see that, but that is where you come in. PETA told an FFA story, and it was dead wrong (no pun intended). Now it’s your turn. How has FFA impacted your life? Share your story, and let your voice be heard in the comments section. Let’s fill it up with all of the ways that FFA helps build our future…our youth.

So, my challenge to you is, A) don’t share the PETA article. It only gives them more attention and traction. B) Try not to get too angry. Anger shuts people down. C) share your excitement and passion! Let your voice be heard. You can start now, by commenting how FFA has impacted your life. Ready, set, go!

 

 

We shouldn’t have to have Ag Awareness Weeks–Living in an ag illiterate society

This week was Ag Awareness Week at school (NC State University). In the common area of the brickyard, where a lot of students congregate, were booths and displays set up spreading awareness about agriculture. There were live animals, tractors, and ag students available to answer questions. It thrills me that this event takes place. What a great way to educate and advocate for agriculture!

Photo by Terri Leith http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/news-center/perspectives/panelists-talk-sustainable-agriculture-at-ag-awareness-week-forum/

 

But, I have an issue with Ag Awareness Week. There shouldn’t be a need for awareness about ag. Let me say that again. There should NOT be a need for ag awareness. Sure, less than 2 % of the population are farmers, but those are not the only ones who should know about ag.

Why is it that in today’s society, school systems require kids to take mandatory classes in English, math, science, art, and history, but not agriculture when they partake in it 3 times a day at the table? Elementary and beyond, even in universities, agriculture is not among the forefront subjects of education. This is truly bizarre to me if you consider the prevalence that agriculture plays in our day to day lives, community, and economy. Think about this:

  • Food, regardless of type, is needed for human survival. That food comes from some type of agriculture (large or small).
  • America’s net farm income for last year, 2014, was $108 billion. (source)
  • 22 million people work in agriculture related fields. (source)
  • There are over 200 available careers in the agriculture industry. (source)

Aside from the fact that food comes into play in our day to day lives, the influence that agriculture has on our economy and the job market is pretty astounding, and yet, we are not doing a sufficient job in our education system of educating our kids about these opportunities nor its impact. We are failing our kids in the ag literacy front. They may be able to read, but they can’t read ag.

Yeah, sure, schools have classes available for students to take about agriculture. We have ag teachers in schools and whole ag degrees in college, but it is optional for kids. English, math, history, art, and science all have special teachers for their respective subjects, and you can major in them in college, but they are also mandatory at some level in our kids’ education. The previous subjects like math and English are so valuable to a child’s proper education because they will utilize most of it on a day to day basis. So, why, if agriculture is enjoyed at least 3 times a day, is it not mandatory for a child to learn about where their food comes from and how it is made? In my opinion, this is a serious oversight and tragedy that our society is experiencing.

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Because so many students go through elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college without gaining much of an understanding about the agriculture industry, they are missing out on valuable job opportunities, career paths, and the foundations of making educated decisions about what they eat. They never go through life appreciating what farmers do to feed a growing population. People grow up either not thinking about where the food they are consuming comes from, or developing misconceptions about farming in their heads. If and when they are finally exposed to real agriculture and farming, they are often shocked, and this has led to a lot of controversy.

Even worse, is that it is a cycle. Adults are ag illiterate and do not understand it, and then go and pass that on to their children a lot of the time. I have helped with Farm Animal Days in the past and observed mothers tell their kids to look at the puppy I was holding. In reality, I was holding a baby goat. The sad truth was they didn’t know the difference even with a college degree. Potentially more heartbreaking, was watching parents snatch their children’s hands from touching some animals or even dirt, to prevent germs. Animals can get pretty gross sometimes, but they aren’t toxic. I have had an individual in a restaurant ask what I had in the trailer in the parking lot. When we told her it was a pig, she wanted to know if it was big or small. We said it was a smaller pig, weighing around 230 pounds or so. This was a shock to her. People don’t realize pigs get twice that size.

My point in all this is that our society is generally illiterate. I’m not talking about the kind where you can’t read. I’m talking about the kind where you can’t read an anti-farming article and be able to pick out some of the discrepancies. I’m talking about the kind of illiterate that cannot distinguish a goat from a puppy or know how big a pig can get. An illiteracy that does not realize what contributions agriculture makes on the economy and the job market, and that there are opportunities besides being a farmer that are available in the agriculture industry. Beyond even that, many kids are missing out on valuable character building that farming provides such as responsibility, hard work, and ethics. This isn’t to say they don’t receive these character building traits from other places, but farming provides another avenue for it.

Because of this illiteracy, we are forced to hold Ag Awareness Week and recognize Ag Day that promotes more ag literacy. Guys, we shouldn’t have to have these special weeks and days to create awareness. It should already be there. Education should recognize agriculture as a subject that holds equal importance to art, math, science, and English. After all, everyone needs food. Until that happens, though, I say rock on to Ag Awareness Week. Keep up the good fight in educating, and maybe one day, we will live in an ag literate society.

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