Saturday, March 22, 2014

Banquets, FFA and the Future

I love a good banquet. Well, that revelation should not be earth shaking to anyone who knows me. Yes, I do like to eat and often more than I should, but this observation is not about food at all. Last night I attended the Rock Creek High School FFA Banquet. I guess I need to add a little bit of a disclaimer here.  My son is a member of the Rock Creek FFA so I am a little biased, but this spring the same scenario will play out in schools all across Kansas and the United States.
I feel like many times I write about things that are threatening the future of agriculture, obstacles in our way and people who work to erode our way of life. The FFA Banquet I attended last night was certainly the opposite of that. I saw hope for the future of agriculture in the enthusiasm of the members. I got the feeling that they see unlimited potential in a career in agriculture and that is refreshing.
I was in awe of the way the FFA members in my son’s chapter presented themselves. They spoke with confidence and presented themselves with a presence at the podium we don’t often see in young adults outside of FFA. As the awards for their Supervised Agricultural Experience or SAE were presented I was impressed with the amount of work each had done to earn the award. This was all in addition to the official dress. In an era when almost every day is casual Friday, it is nice to see the formal look of official FFA dress.
Of course the cornerstone to any great FFA program is the Advisor. Again I am sure I am a little biased but I am very grateful for everything Mr. Holiday does. With my background in Extension and 4-H work I like to think I have a better understanding than most about what it is like to work with youth on a daily basis and I am in awe of his dedication to his job. The late nights and early mornings he takes on are not just part of the job; they are a choice he makes because he believes in what he does. I also know that the hard work and dedication he displays on a daily basis is typical of many FFA Advisors I know. It is truly a job that those of us in agriculture should hold in the highest regard.
My wish is that those at the highest levels of education could attend FFA Banquets or better yet spend time in the classrooms or at FFA events. Many times the vocational agriculture program is one of the first cuts during hard times. Based on my experience and observations I would argue that vocational agriculture should be a priority and it should be second only to the core curriculum. Sure FFA members gain knowledge about agriculture but they also gain far more.
The FFA members I know learn how to speak in public with confidence, to conduct themselves with an air of professionalism and learn to lead in a multitude of different ways. FFA members learn how to set themselves apart, that is why many of our local, state and even national leaders are FFA alumni. If there ever was a flagship program of how education should operate and the kinds of results it should produce, vocational agriculture is it.
We need make sure vocational agriculture is valued both at the school district level and at the state and national levels. As budgets tighten and tough decisions are made, vocational agriculture should never be one of the items on the list to be cut, it is far too valuable.  In many ways the future of agriculture depends on the future of vocational agriculture in our schools.
I keep thinking back to the NCAA advertisement that will be shown during the basketball tournament this time of the year. It shows many athletes and they all talk about how they are going to go pro in something other than the sport they are playing. FFA is different and we need to keep this in mind as we look at our FFA program. A large number of the kids in your FFA program will go “pro” in a field related to agriculture and that is a good thing.

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