I have thoroughly enjoyed the 10-days of farming photo challenge happening on social media the past few weeks. If you don’t know about it, it’s a challenge between friends to post 10-days of photos from their own working farm and ranch. We agriculturalists are a proud bunch and the pictographic celebration is fun to see.
It’s National FFA Week as I pen this column. FFA Week is one of the times during the year I get to recall and reflect upon my agriculture roots. I was a middle school student in Mountain Grove, Mo., the day the high school FFA members came over to recruit students into FFA. I was inspired by their stories and professionalism. I was ready to sign up.
My first FFA jacket swallowed me right up. I was proud to wear it as I recited the FFA Creed to prepare for my “Greenhand” initiation. As a 14-year-old freshman in high school, I was clueless as to how much this organization would impact my life. I gained valuable leadership skills and confidence in public speaking. My love for agriculture was fostered at home but was deepened through classes in horticulture, business and animal science. It was in FFA that I gained a sense of the world and a passion for travel and competition.
After high school, I was able to continue serving the Missouri State FFA Association as a state officer representing my area. I chose Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State University) in Springfield, Mo., to study agriculture and communication. My first year of college I was able to serve with 12 other FFA members representing all parts of Missouri. We were a work hard, play hard bunch. We were all proud to be part of the FFA and still are today. Today, our group continues to serve in ag education, business and other capacities in our respective communities.
The National FFA Organization’s mission is – to make a positive difference in the lives of its students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. It certainly made a positive difference in my life. My first opportunity to participate in a speaking contest was a good one. I didn’t come out of it with a trophy or a medal, but I did gain confidence and experience. I don’t actively work in the dairy industry today. I can tell you, my Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) dairy cattle project schooled me in hard work and dedication that yielded a profit to pay for part of my education.
From the road trips to national convention, summer camp and leadership conferences, I gained some of the most important friendships I still cherish from high school and college. Fast forward 23-years, I watch in awe as many of those friends are raising the next generation in the future of agriculture. The greatest thing we learned in FFA is serve. We all continue to serve others and our beloved industry.
As a member of the agriculture community, I hope you’ve had a chance to celebrate our trade. To my FFA friends all over the world (you know who you are), congratulations on having been a small part of the greatest youth organization in America. I encourage each of you to inspire a young person you know to join the FFA. Nothing to lose and wonderful friendships and experiences to be gained dear, neighbor.
Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’