Whether you realize it or not, we're in the middle of National FFA Week. This year it ran from Feb. 21 and continues through Feb. 28. National FFA Week comes around once every year, and it's a time of celebration in the some 200 plus schools that still offer agricultural education and FFA in Indiana. From appreciation breakfasts for teachers to tractor days to painting the hands of incoming freshmen green, it holds excitement for those that belong to one of the country's premier youth organizations.
It's also a time for memories, and to reflect upon how the FFA has changed as agriculture has changed. When the FFA was started in 1929, the country was on the brink of a Great Depression. Let's hope that's not a harbinger of the near future. Actually, Otto Doering, a Purdue University ag economist, says agriculture had been in a depression of its own throughout the 1920's, basically since the end of the first World War. But that didn't stop visionary teachers and leaders from starting what would become one of the greatest organizations for developing leaders, especially leaders for agriculture, anywhere in the world. Like his politics or not, former President Jimmy Carter was an FFA member. Note very youth organization can lay claim to such a famous alumnus.
Here are a few 'remember when' thoughts for those of you who might still have a blue, corduroy jacket hanging in the closet. Maybe some of you could still even get into it. The FFA may have changed as agriculture has changed, but it's still a proud part of rural America, one worth remembering annually and celebrating and supporting every day of the year.
- Remember when…FFA was only for boys. The first girls were allowed to join after the change in the National FFA Constitution in 1969.
- Remember when…An FFA advisor proved his point that girls could compete equally with boys by putting only the initials on a Hoosier Degree application. The committee judging applications approved it for an award. The application, as it turned out, although unknown by the judging committee, was for a young lady who had successfully completed her ag career alongside her male counterparts in her local program.
- Remember when…Gerald Ford, then later Jimmy Carter both spoke at the National FFA Convention. In those days, it was held every year in Kansas City, Mo., That's where the FFA was organized, and where the first National FFA Convention was held.
- Remember when…The letters FFA actually stood for Future Farmers of America. Some think they still do, others make the mistake of saying they don't stand for anything. They stand of a youth organization that was willing to broaden its horizons and accept and educate and challenge young people interested in agriculture, whether they came form a farm, or intended to ever farm themselves, or not.
- Remember when…The first line of the FFA Creed began, "I believe in the future of farming.." Now it says "I believe in the future of agriculture." Visionary delegates years ago at a National FFA Convention saw the wisdom in broadening the base to include more students as potential members.
Congratulations to all FFA members, parents and agricultural science instructors during this very special week of the year!