Today an article from the animal rights extremist group PETA has been making the rounds online, calling FFA “lame” and saying all sorts of horrible things about the National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America).
(I won’t be linking to the PETA article because I’m not going to help them spread their propaganda and slander. If you’re dying to read it for yourself, head to your favorite search engine and I’m sure it won’t be hard to find).
I have blogged about FFA several times. I’m very open about the fact that FFA changed my life in more positive ways than any other organization or extracurricular activity I participated in. Today, I’m honored to call the Kentucky FFA Association a client and to tell the story of the amazing students who make up their membership.
So today when I read the article from PETA, I was overwhelmed with pity for the author.
Somehow this young lady was so caught up in her own world of extremism that she missed out on all the amazing opportunities FFA and agriculture education provide for students.
Obviously, as someone who raises cattle and show pigs on my family farm, the author and I disagree on the issue of raising animals for human consumption. So we can just agree to disagree on that.
What about the thousands of other aspects of FFA?
Here’s the cold hard truth about FFA and agriculture education:
FFA and agriculture education focus on science-based, hands-on learning.
I have no doubt that some of the greatest teachers in the world are agriculture educators. In a world of standardized tests, they still find a way to make hands-on learning the cornerstone of their classrooms.
Agriculture education students learn about plant science in their school’s greenhouses. They build clay models of the complex digestive system of a cow in animal science class.
They learn how to weld and the science behind different types of welding machines. They learn how small engines work, while building and repairing them.
In FFA competitions, students can conduct science experiments and compete in the Agriscience Fair. During this competition, students are not only evaluated on the merit of their experiment but also on their ability to present their findings to the judges. Which brings me to my next point…
FFA teaches public speaking and advocacy skills.
Ask any former agriculture student and I bet they can still remember the time they had to say the FFA Creed in front of their class. For many students, that was their first taste of public speaking. Their agriculture teacher was the first person who taught them how to stand up straight and present a speech, how to persuade a listener or how to present complex information in a way that the audience could understand.
Through FFA competitions (called Career Development Events) such as prepared public speaking, extemporaneous speaking and agriculture issues, members develop real world experience in public speaking/presentations that will benefit them no matter what career path they choose.
FFA prepares students to run a business.
The author of the PETA article makes reference to Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) Programs, often called “projects,” that FFA members must participate in. Basically, every member has to have some sort of project that they work on outside of class time to apply the skills they’re learning in the classroom.
My SAE was raising show pigs. My husband’s SAE was working at his family restaurant.
FFA members keep a record of their income and expenses pertaining to the project. They fill out record books detailing how their money was spent and any profits made. These record books even include short answer sections where members discuss what they learned in the project and how they can improve the next year.
When I was in FFA, I never expected that I would someday be self-employed. The experiences and tough lessons I learned on my small SAE project have proven invaluable today as a small business owner. Not a day goes by that I don’t draw on my FFA experience when running my business.
For many FFA members, SAE’s are the foundation of a future career.
My cousin started his landscaping business when he was an FFA member over 10 years ago. Today his business has grown to one of the most well respected landscaping companies in our area. He is able to provide for his family and create jobs for several other people in our community, all through a business that first started as his SAE.
FFA members give back to their communities.
The last line of the FFA motto is “living to serve” so it should be no surprise that community service is an integral part of the FFA experience.
During my 4 years in FFA, I helped my chapter organize food drives, purchase Christmas gifts for needy children, pick up trash along the highway, raise money for a local non-profit that helps adults with special needs, restore rural cemeteries, participate in Relay for Life, raise awareness for local conservation efforts, support rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina and provide a full day of farm tours and agriculture experiences for 3rd grade students.
That was just one chapter, in one rural community.
Every single one of the 7,757 FFA chapters across the country spends their year giving back to their community in numerous ways.
Through my work with the Kentucky FFA Association, I’ve even been able to cover chapters doing community service in communities far away from home during the annual Day of Service at the Kentucky FFA State Convention.
FFA members load up their buses and travel several hours to attend the state FFA convention but also bring their work boots along so that they can serve the Lexington community during their stay. Have you ever heard of any other group of high schoolers taking time out of their summer vacation to serve a community they don’t even live in?
The author of the PETA article wants you to believe that FFA and agriculture education is only about raising livestock for meat.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
A favorite saying among today’s agriculture teachers is “FFA isn’t cows, sows and plows anymore.”
Today’s agriculture classroom is about biotechnology, conservation and environmental issues, record keeping, public speaking and business principles.
Today’s FFA member spends just as many hours doing community service as they do practicing for any competition.
Today FFA and agriculture education are cultivating the next generation of agriculture leaders through a commitment to hands on learning, personal growth and living a life of service.
Sorry PETA, nothing about that seems “lame” to me.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions reflected in this post do not reflect the opinions of any of my Celeste Communications clients, past or present. Specifically, this post was not commissioned, compensated for or otherwise influenced in anyway by the Kentucky FFA Association or the National FFA Organization. All opinions expressed in this post are my own as a proud former FFA member.