Walking into the local restaurant early in the morning, many tables are occupied by farmers talking over coffee. These talks often range from family updates to the weather to the major issues of the day. It takes a lot to have a seat with them, because those chairs hold more value than a county council seat.
Why? These folks have been through the trenches of weather and markets, and have made an impact on their communities. Farmers create their own sense of community, not only through their passion for agriculture but also through their passion for people — which parallels the FFA in many ways.
As an organization, the FFA takes great pride in its roots and will continue to honor those roots in multiple ways. The FFA hosts career development events that focus on traditional agriculture, such as soils judging, forestry judging and livestock evaluation. Since these CDEs focus on production agriculture, someone without such a background, like me, can learn about its importance, and the grit and determination it takes to be in such a field.
However, the agriculture industry is changing. At the 2019 National FFA Convention, the Production Agriculture Opportunities Committee was formed to create and innovate ways to support FFA members with a production agriculture background. An Urban Agriculture Opportunities Committee was also created to recognize the future of our own FFA community. As an organization, we’ve had to come to the realization that our own community is growing to be more than farming.
Changing face of FFA
Indiana FFA is working toward progression in innovative agriculture while maintaining a focus on production. A large percentage of national FFA membership resides in suburban and urban areas, and we’ve geared leadership development events to promote the ag industry for those who haven’t necessarily had access to production agriculture.
Every FFA member can represent agriculture, whether or not they were raised in it, but I won’t deny that we’re changing. We focus on developing our members not only as ag advocates but also as well-rounded leaders of the future.
The FFA develops public speaking and interviewing skills, and pushes members to master communication and teamwork skills. As an organization, we strive to shape our members to pursue a career in the ag industry, but with so many issues affecting individuals in both urban and production agriculture settings, we must deliver leaders who will be able to change society for the better.
FFA has grown to be a lot more than production agriculture. It’s a community, just like those local farmers in the diner who make an impact each and every day. We will always stay true to our agricultural roots, but members are striving to support each other and shape the future with the strong skills they’ve learned. At the end of the day, it’s not about only supporting the ag industry; it’s also about supporting those who have a seat at the table today to make a difference for those who will be there tomorrow.
Hinz is the 2019-20 Indiana FFA Northern Region vice president.