Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Promote What You Love

     Whenever I am surrounded by fun-loving FFA members and their hilarious advisors, I thank God that I am involved with an organization as great as this one. While FFA often doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves, it is consistently one of the largest student-run organization in the United States with almost 630,000 members. The members and teachers involved are proud to represent the industry they love while growing themselves as individuals. Growth is a huge part of what this great organization is all about, and our membership grows by striving to live up to the National FFA Organization’s Code of Ethics. I know that these ethics have definitely impacted my way of life, especially now that I’m graduated and living away from home.

     1) “Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.”
There are countless success stories of shy FFA members stepping out of their comfort zones and becoming proficient public speakers. I, for one, am proud to be one of those members. Middle school me never would have imagined getting up in front of a crowd of over 200 people to present a speech or facilitate a workshop, let alone leading a group of people. Yet here I am, serving as an Indiana FFA State Officer, where public speaking and leadership are daily occurrences. Because of the personal and leadership growth I’ve experienced as an FFA member, I truly believe my potential for career success has grown as well. The leadership and speaking skills I developed during my time in FFA will come in handy while I serve sick children as a Pediatric Oncologist. As you can see, I don’t plan on having a career in the agriculture industry, even though I whole-heartedly love it and support it. It’s a very common misconception that FFA is only for people who plan on becoming farmers, and that misconception comes from our roots as the Future Farmers of America. However, while we are still deeply rooted in our agricultural heritage, the Future Farmers of America was changed to the National FFA Organization in 1989 to become more inclusive. This inclusiveness stemmed from the realization that the graduating members were not only going back to the farm, but they were also becoming doctors, scientists, lawyers, musicians, CEOs of global companies. This diversity makes us the Future of America, not simply the Future Farmers.

     2) “Make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
One aspect that consistently boosts my pride of this organization is the servant heart that all of our members possess. It seems like at the turn of every corner, there is an FFA chapter conducting an outstanding community service project. Take the Shenandoah FFA chapter, for example. My team and I had the honor of being able to attend their Legacy Christmas party, which is a Christmas party for mentally and physically disabled adults. At this party, they provide a gift for everyone present as well as a turn to see Santa. I will never forget the look of pure joy on every single resident’s face. The Shenandoah FFA members definitely made a positive difference in every resident’s life that day. This is only one example of the amazing service projects FFA members are involved in. Human lives are not the only lives that FFA members touch. As advocates of the agricultural industry, FFA members are champions for humane animal care. In animal science classes, agricultural education students learn the differences between humane and inhumane animal care and processing. While there are still inhumane practices being used throughout the industry, they are few and far between. FFA members recognize this and I have faith that they will be the ones to completely eradicate all inhumane treatment of animals.

     3) “Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.”
Professionalism is just as important in FFA as it is in the business world. I have received countless compliments while wearing official dress that often point out how professional it is. Many members are uncomfortable wearing dress clothes before spending time in the blue jacket and black pants/skirts that make up our FFA “uniform.” However, in my own personal experiences, I have seen members step out of their comfort zone of t-shirts and sweats or jeans after spending time wearing official dress. This love for professionalism will be helpful in any future that my fellow members have. This is just another small way that FFA helps its members succeed.

     4) “Respect the rights of others and their property.”
FFA members are some of the most respectful high schoolers that I have ever met. Respecting the property of others is a no brainer. I cannot think of one time that I have ever heard that a group of FFA members couldn’t be trusted not to steal the belongings of anyone: another member, an advisor, or even a complete stranger. But more importantly, I am proud of the ability of members to respect the rights of others. Being a member of the FFA feels like belonging to a big, accepting family. I have never felt judged, nor heard of anyone feeling judged, while being surrounded by FFA members. You can be yourself and that’s okay because it is your right.

     5) “Be courteous, honest, and fair with others.”
It is not a new development that the agricultural industry is under attack from outside sources. There are people around the world who are uninformed about the ag industry and that lack of information causes them to fear and distrust it. In many cases, they only see the dark side of the industry being amplified. As FFA members, our passion for and knowledge of the agricultural industry makes us perfect advocates for it. I am constantly impressed by how courteous, honest, and fair our membership is with those they work to inform. FFA members know that there are sides to the industry that aren’t pleasant, and they share that fact honestly with those they talk to about it. While sharing the honest truth with others, FFA members still remain courteous when they are attacked with emotional outbursts. The ability to keep calm and continue sharing their personal stories with others is one more thing that helps FFA members stand out in a crowd.

      6) “Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful, and positive member.”
When there are times that the agricultural industry does fall under attack, the outpouring of positive counteraction never ceases to amaze me. In times like that, my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds become flooded with love for agriculture. My friends and followers are sharing the things that they love about the agricultural industry instead of amplifying the hateful things being shared. They do this by not sharing the hateful articles to their timelines, but sharing their own personal stories instead. These personal stories always remain appropriate, purposeful, and positive instead of crude, vague, and attacking. I am proud of every single member who takes that approach.

      7) “Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in losing.”
One important life lesson that FFA members learn is the importance of sportsmanship and humility. Yes, many FFA members are competitive people but FFA activities never get out of hand.  Those who win competitions demonstrate their modesty by returning to school like nothing happened and continuing to work and study just as hard as before. When it comes to losing, FFA members have a really high resiliency rate. Yes, they might be disappointed when they don’t place as well in an activity as they thought they would, but FFA members bounce back really quickly after a defeat. They also will return to the classroom and continue working and studying (maybe a little harder than before). No matter what happens in the contest room, there is never any bad blood between the competitors. This is a trait that everyone would benefit from learning and it seems to come naturally to the awesome FFA members.

     8) “Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.”
The opportunities available to FFA members are more diverse than you would think. Yes, there are career development events that focus on the practical use for different areas of agriculture, such as the Livestock Evaluation CDE and the Crops Evaluation CDE (where you learn how to identify preferable livestock and crop/ weed plants, respectively). However, there are other activities such as the Prepared Public Speaking and Essay CDEs that focus on the individual passions of our members. These two Leadership CDEs are just two examples on a long list of activities that wouldn’t necessarily be thought of as FFA programs. Many states and even the national organization offer a band and chorus for the FFA members who are musically inclined, as well as a Talent CDE where there are all kinds of talent present including dancing and beatboxing. When you become an active participant in FFA, you open the door to a multitude of opportunities you would never dream existed. Many chapters offer trips to the students who are the most active. One example of these trips comes from the Sheridan FFA chapter. This chapter has traveled all over the country to places such as Utah and Maine, as well as Yellowstone National Park. The members from that chapter who went may not have ever had the opportunity to go to these places if they never actively participated in FFA.

     9) “Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.”
Supervised agricultural experience programs are one of the most important programs FFA has to offer. These SAEs (as they’re called by FFA members and advisor) are often the first jobs FFA members hold. They are provided hands-on experience to learn more about certain parts of the agricultural industry, as well as the opportunity to apply the things they learn in their agriculture education classes to real-world scenarios. Yes, many members who participate in SAEs do raise livestock and small animals to sell as pets, show animals, and food production. These Animal System SAEs provide FFA members the ability to ethically and responsibly raise livestock, therefore learning proper stewardship firsthand. Not all SAE programs are animal-based, however. There are Crop Production SAEs, Vegetable Production SAEs, and Food Service SAEs just to name a few. Your options are limitless when it comes to your interests and SAEs.

     10) “Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.”
This belief is a culmination of the nine before it. All of the skills FFA members learn from the code of ethics will undoubtedly lead to a successful career. Whether it’s humility, communication skills, or fairness, the skills learned being an FFA member will remain with you for the rest of your life. No matter what career path an FFA member chooses, whether it’s farming, veterinary medicine, or Pediatric Oncology like me, they will be successful and they will positively impact the lives of others. I have never met an FFA member who I didn’t think would make big changes in the world. Why? Because I believe in the future of agriculture and our FFA members ARE the future.

     11) "Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.”
Appreciation and promotion of diversity is not a problem within our organization. FFA is an inclusive organization that does not discriminate by race, religion, sexuality, gender identity, or disability. History has proven this and we continue to take steps to prove it. In 1965, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, FFA and the New Farmers of America (the FFA equivalent for men of color) merged to become one organization. Again, the FFA made progress during the Women’s Rights Movement by allowing women to join beginning in 1969. Again, this past October, there were student delegate resolutions passed that were then sent to the board of directors for approval. If these resolutions are approved, it will be officially in the handbook that transgender students would be protected to wear the official dress of the gender that they identify as and religious head coverings will also be recognized as a part of official dress. I am proud to belong to an organization as progressive and inclusive as this one.

These, my friends, are all of the things I love about this amazing organization I belong to. I am proud to be an FFA member now more than ever, because we need to get the news out about what our industry is all about. Are you an FFA member? If so, share what you love and kill what you hate by sharing your personal stories with the hashtag #FFAproud and not sharing articles that you don’t agree with. Are you not an FFA member but like what you hear? We would love for you to join so that you too can have a positive impact in the lives of others.

Love always,

Courtney Adams
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Reporter

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