A life in the blue jacket

As you may or may not have heard, this week is National FFA Week. It’s a week that current and former FFA members change their Facebook pictures to nostalgic photos of corduroy clad teenagers and we reminisce about car rides to national convention, judging livestock and giving speeches we spent weeks and months preparing. FFA – formerly known as the Future Farmers of America – is one of those experiences that takes hold of you and never quite lets go.

FFAmotto

Every year during National FFA Week, I find myself thinking about my life with the organization. See, I like to say I was born in the blue jacket. My dad is an agriscience teacher and FFA advisor and is a former state FFA president. My sister was in FFA a couple of years after me. In our house, FFA is synonymous with family.

I love this picture of my dad when he was the Michigan FFA state president!

It’s a little blurry, but my dad – my ag teacher and my FFA advisor – set me on a path of learning to do and doing to learn.

My sister and I in matching corduroy. In our household, FFA = family.

Trailing my dad to school for as long as I can remember, I grew up watching high school and college kids take care of animals, practice for contests and earn degrees. When it was time for me to become an FFA member, I couldn’t wait to jump in with both feet. I did every contest I could get my hands on. I met countless friends and traveled all over the state and country. It was an eye-opening experiencing, all based around agriculture and leadership.

My national dairy judging team.

By college, it was time for something a little bigger. I was given the chance to serve as a state FFA officer with people who became some of my best friends. State office gave me the opportunity to meet kids from so many differing backgrounds. I visited students in inner city Detroit and from rural counties. Some focused on horticulture and small animals, while others focused on traditional ag programs like livestock and crop production. My eyes were opened to everything that FFA could do, not just for me but for other students, as well.

The 2007-08 Michigan FFA state officer team – and some of my best friends.

After state office, I served as a collegiate host for National FFA Convention, where I got to meet past state officers from other states and give tours to current and potential supporters of the National FFA Foundation. It was wonderful chance to share all the great things FFA does for its members with people that had the ability to provide the same opportunities and more to future generations of agricultural leaders.

Today, more than 10 years after donning the blue corduroy jacket for the first time, I’m continually amazed by everything I was able to do, the places I was able to go and the people I was able to meet. While it’s true that FFA also presented me with plenty of challenges, every experience I had in FFA was a learning opportunity that prepared me to be the person I am today.

As I start the next phase of my FFA involvement – as an alumni volunteer – it excites me to see the potential in students. Some will become leaders of companies. Others will never leave their hometown. But no matter what, they will have learned the value of “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve.” And for that, I’m so glad that this wonderful organization exists.

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