Do you remember in Napoleon Dynamite when Napoleon drinks some questionable milk from a Mason jar and says that the cow must have grazed in an onion match? Or when Pedro pointed out the cow’s five teats? (Side note: Our farm is in the same area as where the movie was based and filmed.)
The scenes were portraying competitions of FFA—the Future Farmers of America.
For nearly ninety years, the organization has ruled the land in agricultural education. It boasts a membership of 649,335 students, mostly in high school. Classes cover areas in agriscience, biotechnology, agricultural mechanics, horticulture, animal science, and environment-related topics.
And outside the classroom, the organization sponsors events, competitions, and training.
The symbol of an FFA kid—a blue corduroy jack with gold lettering and emblem. It’s beautiful. Might I add that the official color names according to the FFA are “national blue” and “corn gold.” And the the jacket was adopted as official dress in 1933.
The jacket was one of several reasons the FFA was not for me. But living in an agricultural area, a large percentage of my school did participate, and all three of my siblings joined with pride.
Right now my youngest brother, a freshman in high school, is in Moscow, Idaho, competing at the Idaho FFA Career Development Events. He is on his school’s Dairy Cattle Evaluation & Management team, i.e., dairy judging.
He looks at a group of dairy cattle, judges them on specific features, ranks them, and then presents his reasons for said rankings to the judges. Basically, he does what Pedro was shown doing.
During my eighteen-year-old brother’s time in FFA, he also did dairy judging, farm business management, and dairy foods; and my older sister did dairy judging, creed speaking, agricultural sales, farm business management, and dairy foods. The more official name of judging dairy foods is Milk Quality & Products, but if you want to know what it’s like, refer back to Napoleon.
Despite not ever being part of the FFA and for mocking the choice of my siblings to smell and taste purposefully bad milk, I respect the organization for its training and instruction. My youngest brother, who is competing this week, has anxiety, and public speaking is beyond terrifying to him. Yet, through the FFA, he is getting valuable practice doing just that.
The FFA is also a connection between this nation’s agricultural heritage and modern-day youth, and while many will not be farmers themselves one day, the organization instills in them an understanding of and connection to the industry.
I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.
I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.
Read the rest of the FFA Creed here.