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Serving: IN
Dillon Muhlenkamp of Jay County, Indiana
YOUNG LEADER: Dillon Muhlenkamp, Jay County, Ind., serves as the 2019-20 state FFA president.

Agriculture needs leaders to tell its true story

FFA Corner: FFA trains people to advocate for agriculture and tell its story.

Agriculture is taking a significant hit because more and more generations are removed from the farm. People misunderstand agriculture and its practices.

We see headlines such as “GMOs are bad,” “Livestock antibiotics are getting into our bodies” and “Cage-free is better.” Such misunderstandings can have a big effect on how farmers are perceived by the public. Many don’t understand what truly happens on our farms.

American farmers truly care about their land, animals and the people around them. In Paul Harvey’s poem “So God Made a Farmer,” we hear how the farmer cares for what God entrusts to him and how farmers are willing to help each other. The farmer is “willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt … and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’” And he will “stop in midfield and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place.”

If farmers were to abuse land or animals, they would cut into their profit margins. The overall goal of farmers is to put food on the table for families, including their own.

Agriculturists must look out for each other. With agriculture constantly under attack, it’s important to stand united. We are no longer simply farmers and ranchers, but also truck drivers, scientists, salespeople and more. No matter what part of the ag industry you’re in, you’re a voice to educate people on the significance of agriculture.

Agriculture boils down to people who, as Harvey says, “will finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, then pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another 72 hours.”

Role for FFA

FFA must be at the forefront of the conversation about agriculture. Indiana FFA hosts many events that better prepare members to be advocates for the industry.

In partnership with Indiana Farm Bureau, FFA hosts an Advocacy Day at the Indiana Statehouse. We train members to speak with elected officials and help them better understand our agriculture stories.

FFA members participate in conferences and career development events that help them hone and practice their advocating skills to better prepare for conversations with those not involved with ag.

Indiana FFA’s largest advocacy platform is the Indiana State Fair. Thousands come to the FFA Pavilion, mainly to pet animals, buy Indiana-grown products and play putt-putt golf.

But they can’t help but learn how important the ag industry is in providing wholesome food, fiber and fuel. FFA members there help people learn about agriculture and its misconceptions in a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental way.

If we’re involved in agriculture, we all must be leaders, whether in the field, lab or town hall. FFA builds leaders for the future — leaders who may go back to the farm, or become a lab technician or even a policymaker. Being able to stand united in agriculture will allow everyone to prosper.

Agriculture will continue to be the backbone of America. I challenge everyone to reach out to a local FFA chapter to help develop future leaders of our industry. Help build the next generation of agriculture advocates — young leaders who can stand up in their own communities and share the positive message of agriculture and FFA. If we don’t do it, who will?

Muhlenkamp is the 2019-20 Indiana FFA president.

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