This year FFA Week—previously known as Future Farmers of America Week—will be celebrated from February 20 to 27. Each year, FFA chapters around the country share the impact that Future Farmers make for its members and the entire nation. One of the people that it means a lot to is me.
I am a community writer for the Jamestown Gazette and I am also one of America’s future farmers. Growing up in a small, dairy farming town, farming became a big part of my life from the very beginning. I didn’t officially get interested in cows or anything to do with the family dairy farm, however, until I was in about the eighth grade. Since then, farming and writing have become a big part of my life. And part of that life, especially during my high school years, was my county 4-H and high school FFA programs.
Future Farmers of America became simply FFA in 1988 because it encompasses all forms and members of the agricultural community, not only farmers.
I originally joined my FFA in high school for only two reasons: my dad had been a member in high school and I was a farmer. But then FFA and 4-H changed my life.
For a very long time, almost until I graduated from high school, I had a hard time talking to people and making friends. Sow how in the world did I end up in the newspaper business as someone who used to hardly ever talk. Well, that’s where FFA comes in.
As a part of my FFA chapter I learned how to write and give speeches, sometimes even extemporaneously or on the fly. I even won a few awards in extemporaneous speaking, somewhere around third place. FFA gets a lot of the credit for that.
Farming and More
Farming is more than just what some people might think it is. While it is farmers and taking care of animals, and that is a lot of what I do, it is more. There are so many more people involved, from vets to machine operators, to those who fix and sell tractors and other machines. All of these people and more are involved in FFA in some way. The main fact that connects them all in the case of FFA is that they love agriculture and that FFA has helped them to learn how to achieve goals and leadership roles as they go through life.
I was the historian for my high school FFA. Basically, this role involves taking photographs and documenting things that the chapter did during the year. Very similar to a newspaper writer, as it turned out.
FFA and Lifelong Goals
While a part of FFA I also worked to earn the certain degrees that members can work to earn. This included working all the way up to the Empire Degree, the second highest degree that a member in New York can earn. Part of this relates to work outside of the classroom in agriculture. Sometimes that means on their own family farms.
While my family’s biggest farm is dairy, we also have alpacas. Both farms and all of my animals—more than just cows and alpacas—include ducks, cats, dogs, and rabbits, have come to mean a great deal to me. As a farmer, especially a young farmer, this is a common trend among FFA members.
In Clymer, I am of course not the only young farmer. Many who I met in 4-H and FFA have remained my friends for years and they are also working towards owning their own farms or continuing in the agriculture industry in more ways than one.
Lyndee Nagel is one of these other young farmers. She is also currently the Dairy Princess for Chautauqua County. As I do, she credits the agriculture industry with making her into the person she is today.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what impacts I can make by being a young person in agriculture,” Nagel said. “I enjoy advocating and spreading my knowledge and love for the industry that has built me and made me who I am today.”
In today’s world, future farmers are the backbone of agriculture, and in this way are also working to become the backbone of America. I am honored to be a part of the agriculture industry, even with all the struggles that that entails.
On a daily basis, America’s farmers face disappointment. They can face those who do not know the industry. Some claim that how farmers care for their animals is wrong. Often closer to home, farmers face losing their animals due to poor health, old age, or sometimes something entirely unknown. This is unfortunately a big part of being a farmer, and it’s also a big part of caring for and loving something more than yourself. Most farmers I know feel that way about their animals, as do I.
Even death is inevitable and is not something that any farmer can control or even expect on a good day. Sometimes it just happens and one of the hardest things farmers have to face is the fact that they can’t save them all, no matter how hard you try.
Working for the Future
Altogether, America’s FFA members work to teach the world about the agricultural industry. That includes the animals they love. Being a part of FFA in high school is a part of working to become the future farmers that America needs.
So, this year, during National FFA week, please celebrate it and remember to thank a farmer, especially if you have food on your table. For without farmers and those in the agriculture industry, there would be no food in the world.
Despite all of the struggles that come with it, agriculture makes the world go around. As a part of this extremely important industry, I have learned this from personal experience. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.