FFA members and FFA alumni can usually recall the words of the first paragraph of the FFA Creed years after they learned it in the classroom during agriculture education classes. This is partly because members are required to memorize the creed, but also because the creed inspires youth in agriculture with goals they can aspire to.
The FFA Creed was written by University of Wisconsin Department of Agricultural Education professor, Erwin Milton Tiffany during the summer of 1928. The Linden, Kansas native wanted to develop a statement of FFA ideals to accompany an exhibit on the varied ag ed instruction programs in Wisconsin he was assembling for the first FFA convention. His statement, or creed, was so inspirational that it gained attention and was adopted at the third national FFA convention in 1930 as the official FFA Creed. The creed was revised at the 38th and 63rd conventions. In 1990, a new creed was proposed, but this move was soundly defeated.
In 1932 when Tiffany was asked to send a message to FFAers at the national convention he wrote that the virtue of his writings are not in the creed itself, but “in nobility of mind, which prompts men to ponder over their ideals.”
My daughter Lauren, who is a freshman and an FFA member, is learning Tiffany’s creed along with her classmates in FFA. So far, she has successfully learned the first paragraph, which sets the stage for the rest. As she was studying and practicing one night, she was surprised that I could still belt out the words Tiffany made great in the 1930s. I have no doubt that countless former FFA members could do the same, even 36 years after they first learned the words.
“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds,” Tiffany began. To me, this simply means that farmers and ranchers believe in the future of what they are doing, not because of words on paper, but because of what they are doing in the field. Farmers are generally doers, not talkers.
“Achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways,” Tiffany continued. This line gives appreciation to the advances of our ancestors who worked the land, while accepting that each generation will gain knowledge and efficiency and improve on the past.
“Even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years,” he concludes in the first paragraph, again, acknowledging the challenges of the past and how good things have come from those struggles of those who came before us.
These are great, insightful words for all of us on the land from the Wisconsin professor. Lauren hasn’t learned the last paragraph yet, but I like the way Tiffany talks about believing in the future of American agriculture and that it will hold true to the best traditions of national life, calling on FFA members to work in their homes and communities to bring about that future.
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At the end of this month, more than 60,000 FFA members from across the country are expected to convene at the 2014 National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, KY, carrying out the great potential penned by Tiffany in the FFA Creed.
Tiffany made a major contribution to FFA, but he never attended a national convention in person. He passed away in 1949, but his legacy continues to live on through his prophetic words to our nation’s youth. Lauren has a lot of memorizing to do to get through the entire creed. I hope she comes to appreciate Tiffany’s words as she memorizes them.
Here is this week's discussion question. Do you still recall the words of the FFA Creed by heart? You can share your observations and thoughts here.