Tag Archives: Ag Education

National FFA Convention: Igniting the Fire in Future Ag Leaders

For four days last week, Louisville, Kentucky was engulfed in a sea of blue and gold. At the Kentucky Exposition Center, more than 55,000 students converged for the National FFA Convention. Founded in 1928, the National FFA Organization (formerly Future Farmers of America), is committed to each individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

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YF&R Committee member, Dancey Creel, posing with some FFA members.

Its largest annual event, the National FFA Convention, is an opportunity for high school students from across the country to come together to celebrate the organization they love, as well as the accomplishments of their fellow FFA members. The convention schedule is jam-packed with leadership and career development workshops and events, the best student agriscience fair projects in the country, an expo featuring hundreds of industry-leading exhibitors, concerts and other entertainment, and awards recognizing the top FFA members and chapters in the nation.

As a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Committee, I was fortunate enough to attend the convention last week with my fellow committee members and interact with these talented and enthusiastic young leaders. In fact, I learned that, like myself, many of our committee members started their own agricultural leadership experiences wearing the blue and gold jackets so many years ago.

The national competitions for the many FFA award programs are a major part of the National Convention schedule. One of these award programs is Career Development Events (CDEs), with contests ranging from public speaking and ag sales, to agricultural mechanics, to dairy and soil judging. The American Farm Bureau Federation sponsors one of these CDEs: the Extemporaneous Public Speaking event. Fifteen years ago, I stood in front of a panel of judges at the National FFA Convention giving my own extemporaneous speech at the national level. So, I was honored to have the incredible opportunity to be on the other side of the fence this year, serving as a judge for the finalists of the competition in which I had previously competed. I was blown away by their passion and ability.

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The awards ceremony on stage for the Extemporaneous Public Speaking contest

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Zach Hunnicutt, YF&R Chair, with the four National FFA Extemporaneous Public Speaking finalists

The Expo is where colleges, FFA sponsors, ag industry representatives and various businesses and organizations set up their booths to interact with the thousands of FFA members rolling through the aisles. Using a commodity that’s not often thought about but enjoyed by many – popcorn – we worked with the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture and the AFBF Public Policy Department to create a whole Farm Bureau experience in our booth. The Foundation featured a My American Farm kiosk with educational games about corn, while the Public Policy folks highlighted the importance of advocating for policies like improved transportation infrastructure to make sure that popcorn (and other commodities) can get from the farmers’ fields to the consumers’ hands. The YF&R Committee tied it all together with an opportunity to win prizes by answering popcorn and agriculture trivia. As these FFA members showed off their hoops skills and enjoyed some fresh popcorn (donated by Preferred Popcorn and grown on the farm of our very own YF&R Chair, Zach Hunnicutt), YF&R Committee members encouraged FFA-ers to continue pursuing and advocating agriculture after their high school careers come to an end. We really had a great time interacting with these future ag leaders.

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FFA members line up at the Farm Bureau booth

It was an incredible few days. The FFA members I met last week are brightly shining lights for agriculture, and they give me no doubt that the future of agriculture will be in good hands!

As a mom, I’m thankful for 4-H

I pledge my head to greater thinking…
My heart to greater loyalty…
My hands to larger service…
My health to a better living….

I’ve said the 4-H pledge thousands of times as a youngster growing up, but somehow the words have more meaning now for me as a mom. I strive every day to help my three children believe in themselves, to understand the importance of volunteering to build a strong community, and instill in them the values of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. 4-H is helping me do just that.

There is no thrill greater for me as a mom than watching my kids succeed. I’m not talking about when they win an award or place first in a competition. I’m talking about when you see them start a project from the beginning and dedicate themselves to its successful completion. But one area has helped then more than any other and that’s raising lambs for their 4-H sheep project.

Their work starts when a baby lamb is born. It’s their responsibility to provide the animal with love, food, and training so it’s ready for show day. It’s a big responsibility and one they don’t take lightly.

But, it’s easier to understand if you see them first hand. They love living on a farm, being in 4-H, and caring for the animals. The following video shows my family hard at work preparing for show day, together:

I think the pledge and the 4-H program mean more to me as a mother because its helping me shape my children in to wonderful, productive people. Thanks to this program and living on a farm, I’m seeing my kids gain skills and abilities that will benefit them forever.

Fair is Coming!

Right now, the three middle kids are taking a quick break from working with animals. We have 3 calves and a goat tied up to the deck and the kids are guzzling water while I type this out quickly.

There are still 4 lambs and another goat that need led with horses that should be ridden this evening. Each year we show animals in 4-H as it helps the kids learn responsibility and how to care for animals. It also allows them to learn how to be composed under pressure and how to better present themselves and to share what they know about farming.

My fellow farmers will tell you that this 10:30 break is too late and we should have led the animals at 6:00 AM. As you know, the plan is always to start early, but we had a few other projects first. Our 8 year old boys were helping Grandpa irrigate to try and keep the corn alive in this drought and Cassidy who is 6 was helping clear weeds out of the calf pen because they had eaten some and it was making them feel a bit sick.

Farm chores are a part of our day, the horses, calves, goats, sheep, dogs, and cats are all fed and watered before we begin the rest of our day to water corn and cows and to do whatever else might be on the schedule for the day. My kids work hard and are proud of it, but the best part of this farm work and chores is that it is all about family. The kids have parents or grandparents with them or nearby while they complete their chores and work throughout the day!

With County Fair in a week and a family reunion to host at the farm tomorrow, we had better lead the animals back to barn and get them near the fan before it gets any hotter out. I also need to remind Grandpa that his workforce is being reduced starting tomorrow for the final week of Fair prep which will include preparing the critters for show and completing a few other projects-hopefully welding, woodworking, cooking, and a bit of sewing! Let the craziness of Fair Time Begin, it’s the best time of year!