FFA is BAE: How “the article” got it all wrong

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful and most noble employment of a man.” – George Washington

Earlier today, a blog was posted on a website that completely bashed the National FFA Organization and the values the organization and the agriculture industry have stood for, time and time again. The article (which I won’t link here to prevent more traffic from going to their site) gave 11 reasons, including visuals with graphic content, why FFA was “lame AF.” In the opinion of this young professional, the title alone is enough to knock off any credibility that this blog would carry.

Though the article that I’m referring to focused solely on the “inhumane” treatment of livestock, the National FFA Organization is so much more than “plows, cows and sows.” I do agree with George Washington in saying that the agriculture industry is the most noble employment of anyone and I believe that FFA does an absolutely phenomenal job of training students in agriculture education so they can take care of our livestock, treat them humanely and provide the world with food. While doing that, they also change the lives of a lot of students, including my own.

My blog probably has just as much credibility as this other website, so here’s why I think FFA is BAE. (For all of you who don’t know BAE is an acronym short for “before anything else;” a phrase which the youngins today think is all the rage.)

1. “Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.”

Floriculture

No picture will ever be able to depict how much time I spent studying my butt off for Career Development Events, or CDEs as we call them in the FFA world. Whether it was spending countless hours perfecting my floriculture skills, memorizing the different kinds of plants for Nursery Landscape, going to interview after interview to practice for Job Interview or annoying my friends with my introduction for Ag Broadcasting, there’s no way to measure the ways that FFA was able to develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.

Even though I couldn’t see it at the time, the CDEs I was participating in during high school were shaping the way for my collegiate experience and my future career. Somehow, FFA took a young girl who would barely speak as a freshman in high school to a senior in college who will speak in front of hundreds – even thousands of people – and find it hard to stop talking. FFA changed me as a person. It made me a more effective leader by teaching me how to lead through servant leadership. FFA molded me into the young professional I would become and it gave me the opportunity to have a great job lined up a week in to the beginning of my senior year.

2. “Make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

kaden

In 2012, I was blessed to have the opportunity to serve as one of the leaders in my state’s FFA; I accomplished my dream of being elected a South Dakota State FFA Officer. During my year as a state officer, I was told over and over again that I would change the lives of so many students just by interacting with them and encouraging them to reach their full potential. It is my hope that during my year of service that I did just that for a few individuals because I know there were state officers who served that changed my life. I hope that I was able to make a positive difference in their lives by serving as a role model, a voice of reason and even a friend.

However, what they didn’t tell me when I was elected was how many of those FFA members would change my own life. Those FFA members showed me what passion was every day I put on my own blue jacket. I was so excited to get out and meet members because they were so excited and passionate about the things they were doing on their own, whether that was raising livestock or conducting super awesome agriscience projects. Those members pushed me to be a better person and made a positive difference in my life when I was supposed to be the one doing that for them.

3. “Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.”

Dress appropriately.jpg

‘Nuff said.

But really, I’ve never felt more put together or felt dressed with more pride than when I donned that blue jacket, black skirt and black shoes. I felt like I was always dressed to the nines. And really, even though I don’t wear Official Dress anymore, I still know what it means to dress professionally and appropriately because I try to always match the feeling I’d get when I zipped up that blue jacket.

4. “Respect the rights of others and their property.”

In 2013, western South Dakota was devastated when winter storm Atlas killed thousands of livestock. While this article defames the use of livestock for meat, many Americans realize that meat is an excellent source of protein. For many in South Dakota, raising livestock to feed others is a way of life.

When Atlas hit, it hit these ranch families hard. Lone Tree FFA Chapter recognized how hard it would be to face what, in some cases, was almost a total loss of a family business. This FFA chapter respected what our famers and ranchers do everyday and began to raise money for South Dakota Rancher Relief to help provide relief for those families who were hit hard when the winter storm hit. In many cases, these FFA members and their advisors didn’t personally know anyone affected. If that’s not respecting the rights of others and their property, I don’t know what is.

*Note: I know there were a lot of FFA chapters out there that raised money for this, but this was the first that popped in my head.

5. “Be courteous, honest, and fair with others.”

courteous.jpg

Nothing tells the story of this line of closing ceremonies like my state officer team. Throughout the year, the six of us became one. We were often told that people had never seen a better example of 6=1 and 1=6 than they saw in our team.

My state officer team was full of rockstars. During the year we worked together, we had our differences, but we were always, always, always courteous with each other when we had disputes. We were always 100% honest with feedback we gave and with compliments we gave each other. We wanted to be our best for each other and to each other, so it just made sense to always be honest. Finally, we always settled things fairly. Once, when we encountered a problem, we came up with a solution to give open and extremely honest feedback to a third party who distributed it back to us. We wanted to make sure we kept things fair and kept them 100% honest.

6. “Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful, and positive manner.”

communicate

Being involved with FFA or even agriculture in general requires you to be a good communicator. There are so many CDEs to compete in where students need to talk about something, whether that’s they have to give reasons for the way they placed a class of cattle or they have to participate in a Junior Conduct of Meetings contest. Regardless of the situation, FFA members learn to communicate and they learn to do it quick if they want to be successful.

As a state officer, it was imperative that I was an effective communicator from giving directions to delivering speeches. FFA has taught me most everything I know about communicating.

Telling our stories is incredibly important in the industry as a whole. If we can’t be effective communicators about our careers, our industry will be constantly attacked by articles just like the one I’m trying to prove wrong.

7. “Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in defeat.”

district officers

This one is incredibly tough for me to write about, but this definitely shaped who I am. In the photo above, you see two young ladies who are incredibly happy about just being elected to district office positions. One year later, at this same event, one young lady was incredibly unhappy about the new position she would receive. You guessed it. The unhappy young lady was me. You see, ever since I became a district officer, I wanted to serve as district President, but when the time came, I wasn’t elected to that position. Instead, my friend Kristyne was.

FFA was the first thing I was actually good at, and this was the first time that I hadn’t gotten what I wanted through the organization. Even though at the time, I couldn’t see how this defeat would shape my future. Looking back on it, this was a defining moment for me. It was in this moment that I had to congratulate Kristyne and continue working with her while she confidently and outstandingly ran our district. It really did suck at the time, but getting through that defeat, and becoming friends with her again after drifting apart, would shape my character as a person.

8. “Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.”

Washington monument.jpg

The summer after my junior year of high school, I participated in the Washington Leadership Conference with 250 students from across the nation. This was hands down the best thing I did within the organization. This was one FFA program no one from my chapter had really taken advantage of, so I wanted to go and fully participate. From going all in with this experience, I learned what it meant to be a servant leader and that led to me majoring in Ag. Leadership here at SDSU.

9. “Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.”

MTD.jpgFor six years, I worked at a local Dairy Queen for my Supervised Agricultural Experience program. While some argue that working fast food doesn’t constitute a strong SAE, I would definitely beg to differ. While I might not have had the same experience my classmates did running their own cattle operations and getting to make management decisions, I developed a strong work ethic and proficiency in competencies that will translate to a full time job after I graduate in May.

While working at Dairy Queen, I got to complete the last process in taking food from farm to the fork and gained a ton of experience in working with and managing other people. Yes, SAEs are required for FFA members and yes, they do help instill values in our youth that all employers are looking for in new employees.

10. “Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.”

IMG_0981.JPGI can’t even begin to tell you how much FFA and agricultural education has impacted my skills and my career choices. When I first joined FFA, I wanted to be a doctor. I tried to utilize the CDEs that would come in handy when I would be a medical professional. I competed in Job Interview, since I knew I’d definitely have to interview for a job at some point. I gave Parliamentary Procedure a shot because I wanted to, and still do for that matter, be on a board for an organization some day. I competed in Ag Broadcasting specifically because I loved to talk and I knew in my hypothetical career as a doctor, I would have to gather research (or ag stories in this case) and report back to someone, whether it was my boss or a patient’s family.

I’m going to be employed with John Deere upon graduation, rather than going to med school, but I can definitely use those same skills I was going to use if I were to be a doctor. FFA taught me how to network with major executives by putting me in positions where I could meet with our industry partners. FFA taught me how to train others, which I will at some point have to give a training on John Deere technology. FFA taught me how to be a confident and independent young woman, which is something that employers are definitely looking for.

11. “Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.”

In 1988, the name of this great organization was changed from “Future Farmers of America” to the “National FFA Organization” to represent the changing demographic of students who were members of the organization. Members like me who had barely ever stepped foot on a farm. The leadership realized that we needed to embrace the changing diversity in the organization.
Since then, FFA has grown diverse in many ways. We’re diverse in CDEs we offer; we have a number of leadership CDEs, as well as production CDEs. We have an almost equal number of male and female membership. We have a diverse population of students. We have chapters in the biggest of cities to the smallest of towns. FFA members appreciate and welcome this diversity. We also are diverse in the types of careers that FFA members will go on to have.

I love this quote from National FFA’s website:

“So today, we are still the Future Farmers of America. But, we are the Future Biologists, Future Chemists, Future Veterinarians, Future Engineers and Future Entrepreneurs of America, too.”

Yes. “The article” brought a lot of criticism to the organization many of my friends love. But, yes, we’re going to turn it into something positive because we’re #FFAProud.

Through this experience, we know that an organization that has so much respect and integrity in the agriculture industry can still come under fire. Instead of backlashing and bashing other organizations, as proud agriculturalists, it’s our job to start conversations and engage consumers in dialogues about what it is we actually do. If you’re unsure of where you stand on some of these issues, please talk to me about it. Ask questions about the industry. Be curious. Do research, but make sure you get both sides. Ask an agriculturalist.

One of my Facebook friends said it best this evening: “If we don’t tell our story, someone else will.” It’s time we start telling that story to everyone who will listen; but more importantly, engage with them instead of just telling them.

*DISCLAIMER: This, in no way, shape or form, displays the views of the National FFA Organization. This is just my feelings on the subject as a former FFA member and as an example of how the FFA changes lives.

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30 thoughts on “FFA is BAE: How “the article” got it all wrong

  1. SR says:

    As soon as I saw what site that blog post appeared on, I didn’t even bother to read it. Considering the source, I’d be flabbergasted if they said anything that was NOT “crazy as F” and trollish.

    Like

  2. Extremely well done. I have been interviewing FFA students about their SAE’s weekly for a year now. There is no finer student organization and no finer students. I saw and read the article. I’m sure if we were willing to stoop to their level we could find things to paint them in a bad light and return the favor. But we are focused on the positive and progress in agriculture. I really appreciated your article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and for your work interviewing students about their SAEs. I know from experience that SAEs can teach our students so much and give them valuable work experience that they can put into practice in their jobs someday!

      Like

      • Parisa Bana says:

        Hello, I don’t know how to personally get ahold of you or how to create a comment that isn’t a reply, but I just wanted to say that this was an amazing article, and I read the entire thing. I am in my second year of agriculture and I love it. There are only two ag teachers at my school, but they work their best and put up with the knuckleheads in their classes that are only in ag because “it’s easier than regular science”. I was also wondering if you happened to have any tips for Job Interview? I will be competing in my first one this Saturday and am still really nervous, despite having recited creed in front of an audience last year more than once.

        Like

  3. I am not seeing anything at all related to animal agriculture on your blog. Obtaining good communication skills, confidence, and working in retail fast food can be accomplished elsewhere. If you want to be part of an industry that assembly-line slaughters, suffocates, mutilates and grinds living animals, that’s one thing. I doubt whether many of those practices existed during George Washington’s day. This link tells the interesting stories of several MODERN farmers who have rethought the need to use animals for food. http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/former-meat-dairy-farmers-became-vegan-activists/
    Thank you for your consideration.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      The FFA organization pertains to a much larger picture than just animal agriculture. The goal of this organization is to ” make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.” You are right when you say these skills can be obtained elsewhere BUT they can not be obtained along with an education in agriculture in those places. 🙂

      Like

    • Brad S says:

      Leave it to a Vegan to generalize and push their beliefs and quasi-religious ideals on others. So tired of hearing their hate speech against the majority of the people on the planet who eat meat. We get it, you don’t eat meat, go bother someone who might care….

      Like

    • JMV says:

      Mrs. Lipton,
      It is unfortunate that you have fallen under the influence of PETA’s propaganda regarding this youth organization. You have chosen to believe the words of strangers via the internet, in an article with no documented sources or references. It is ignorant to assume these statements are true because you are neither an FFA Member nor an agriculturalist. You may not agree with all practices of this industry, but that is no reason to shame it.
      Though I agree with your statement that certain skills can be obtained elsewhere, the author of this blog meant well by defending the organization. Being a former FFA Member myself, I can tell you that the statements made in this article are not facts and are a misrepresentation of how Agriculture is implemented in the public education system. I can ensure you that part of an Agriculture Science teacher’s job is to educate their students on safe animal production so that they can ensure the health and wellbeing of said animal. This includes proper feeding, grooming and all necessary medical attention (A statement I, and many members can verify). An Ag teacher is an EDUCATOR and an ADVOCATE, not someone who demonstrates a “hypocritical code of ethics”.
      There are a few things you should be aware of that you wouldn’t know from reading this article:
      1. The animals used for Exhibiting and SAEs are maintained in optimal living conditions where they are NOT abused, NOT used in a “Mystery Murder” game, and NOT neglected. Students ARE accountable for the animal’s care which again, does not include inhumane practices.
      2.Being able to identify where cuts of meat come from is like doctors understanding human anatomy. People donate their bodies to science, where their internal organs are studied, but this is not frowned upon.
      3. Cattle are not “raped” when they are inseminated. Artificial insemination allows for decreased stress on the animal, and in some cases it can prevent dystocia. The wellbeing of the donor and recipient is always a priority! As far as calves being dragged away from their mothers, this is completely false. Calves are weaned after 120-160 days, and the mothers are given a sufficient amount of time to recover from birth before being bred again.
      4. Members are not “EXPECTED” to conduct an SAE but rather encouraged. Members are “given opportunities to apply academic and occupational workplace or a simulated workplace environment. Through these strategies, students learn how to apply what they are learning in the classroom as they prepare to transition into the world of college and career opportunities” https://www.ffa.org/about/supervised-agricultural-experiences
      5. Though the FFA is agriculture based, there is no pressure or obligation for members to work in any part of this industry. Members are free to pursue a career of their choice. “The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.”
      https://www.ffa.org/about/who-we-are/mission-motto

      Again, it is unfortunate that you have chosen to believe these accusations. Call me biased because I am an agriculturalist, but this industry’s sole purpose is to serve our nation and ensure that future generations may thrive.
      Thanks and god bless!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      This article may not be related to animal agriculture because FFA is so much bigger then animal agriculture. But pertaining to animal agriculture and FFA, I can assure you that when it comes to teaching students about how to handle and be prepared for a career in agriculture or animal agriculture the utmost care to ensure that they respect and take the greatest care in raising an animal. Further more, in the original article I did not see one picture that was an actual FFA student or member, so although I admit that anyone can have an opinion about agriculture I don’t see way a beneficial and important organization to todays youth be dragged through the mud. I also don’t see why false facts about agriculture needs to be spread to continue to mislead consumers and the public. Finally, you reference a website that is biased and has no reliable references to support their claims.

      Have an opinion, just make it an educated one.

      Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Right because the WHOLE industry of FFA is like that. Flawless logic.
      People with opinions like yours is the reason the industry gets ignorant and aggressive attention.

      Like

  4. I believe being involved in the FFA Organization molded me into the professional I am today. So many life skills learned that I wouldn’t have received in regular high school classes. Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Harry DuBose says:

    Agricultural Education and FFA had the most positive influence on my life other than God, Church, and Family. Being raised with meagre means and opportunities in a rural area, these were the organizations that offered hope, guidance, leadership, and truly caring friends. Never was I taught or witnessed anything other than respect and care for all kinds of life-plant, animal, the soil, etc. Hats off to these fine groups that feed, clothe, and shelter almost 7 billion people daily while protecting our environment!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Katie says:

    Just want you to know you attended a WLC conference in 2010 with me ! Saw this post through a mutual friend(FFA alumni) and this has been shared in my Facebook down in Florida! Well written! And the folks of North Cettal FL will be sure to keep it going!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a small world! WLC was one of the things through FFA that had the biggest impact on me. It’s definitely a week I won’t forget. Can’t believe it’s been 6 years since we were there! Thanks for the kind words! 🙂

      Like

  7. In FFA since 1952, showed cattle, hogs, sheep, corn, soybeans, wheat, taught Agriculture in high school 28 years and was an Agricultural Chemical and Electronics manufacturer of Agriculture equipment for 30 additional years. My truck still says on it FFA The Best of THE REST. Wonderful organization developing men and women in ethical and moral skills to make a living in life.

    Like

  8. Amber says:

    Thank you. I could not have said it better myself. In southern CA most people don’t understand what FFA is all about. FFA came at a time in my life when I didn’t have much else to hang on to and I am so grateful for the opportunities that it has given me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Anonymous says:

    Love your blog! Raised on a family farm where we produced cattle, hogs, corn, and even chickens. Yes, we consumed what we produced, there were ten of us. Even though my high school did not have an FFA chapter when I was in school, we do now and it is dynamite! My kids are all involved and FFA has helped my wife and I raise our children to be very honest, hard working, respectful, resourceful, courteous, and dependable young people. FFA is a very positive program with many benefits and when someone attacks my way of life and the organizations of our industry it infuriates me. This country was founded on agriculture.

    Like

  10. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention that just because we are farmers and ranchers that says nothing of our intelligence, integrity, values or moral fiber. We choose this way of life. Plus keep in mind one thing, if not for farmers, even vegans would have an awfully hard time surviving.

    Like

  11. Anonymous says:

    I strongly agree with this article and the PETA’s article that attacked us if truly false and they should really check where they get their information and they should inform the public of how bad they truly are, instead of attacking high school students and children. #FFAISBAE

    Like

  12. “The article” is wrong and this article/page has gave more than 10 reasons why peta is wrong, pulse FFA is not all about animals, yes 50% it is but the other half is about farming and growing and feeding everyone. I disagree animals should have The same right as us humans because 1: animals can’t comprehend and build businesses like us. 2: animals can’t just roam around freely because not everyone will feed them, and then they just suffer and hats not good. 3: there would be more payed dog fights and dogs getting beatin cause they freely roamed on a property and or they will be hit by cars, we already have anuff car accident as it is and we don’t need animals getting hurt too. So yes dogs and animals can have some rights but not like us . We have to stop it at a point. It’s nice to know people really love animals and think they should be free but it’s time to snap in reality

    Like

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