March 2018
Youth Matters

FFA Sentinel: FFA … my, how you have grown.

Over 800 Alabama FFA members attended the 2017 FFA National Convention.

Go ahead and close your eyes. Wait, never mind. If you close your eyes, you cannot read the story I am about to share with you.

Imagine, if you will, a cool, spring morning out on the farm. The rooster is crowing, the dew shimmers and shines off the hayfield and a distant whippoorwill is singing. A boy bursts from the front door of the farmhouse and is halfway to the barn before the screen door slams behind him. He is young, full of spit-and-vinegar. He is off to feed the hogs before beating the trail to school. There is an extra pep to his step today. He is no longer bound in grammar school; he has moved on to high school. What adventures await … what spectacles? No one in his farm family has been this far before. His parents want what is best for him and what is best for him is an education.

Oh, but wait, that farm is already too absorbed into his blood; his DNA is saturated with it. He will never leave this place.

The boy meets someone new that day. He enters a gray-and-white block building, just off the main campus. To his left, he notices a woodshop, and, to his right, a classroom full of strange memorabilia.

"What is this place? I have never seen this before," he thinks to himself.

There is a giant ear of corn and George Washington’s head seems out of place. Then he hears a voice, almost as a voice from beyond.

"Hello, young man," the low, graveled voice pierces the silence. "Welcome to Vocational Agriculture."

So is born that thirst for all things agriculture and FFA.

FFA is not dissimilar to that young man’s story. It is a story of humble beginnings, tough and changing times and, of course, growth. It woke to the glorious sunlight of a new horizon, way back in 1917, with the passage of the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act. It blossomed in the 1920s when some Virginia farm boys and their agriculture teacher formed the Future Farmers Club. It grew more in 1928 at the Baltimore Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, when farm boys from across the country met to establish the Future Farmers of America.

FFA was one of the first youth organizations in the country to desegregate: in 1965, when the New Farmers of America, founded in Tuskegee, merged with FFA.


In 1928, 33 students from 18 states gathered in Kansas City, Missouri, to form the Future Farmers of America.

In 1969, young women joined the organization.

With the technological revolution of the 1980s, FFA took a leap of faith to better include all aspects of agriculture and its members by changing their name to the National FFA Organization in 1988.

From those 33 farm boys way back in 1928 to the 67,000 young people attending the 2017 National FFA Convention, my how you, FFA, have grown … in many ways, in fact. With a multitude of contests and awards that highlight the skills, knowledge, talents of the members, and the list of growth goes on and on, FFA has reached out to include all 50 states and the territories. More important, the opportunities FFA members are given by their agriscience teacher to grow as competitors, individuals and FFA members far outweighs the growth of the organization as a whole. It is the epitome of a grass-roots organization.

Think back on a time, and it does not have to be as an FFA member, when someone gave you an opportunity. What did you do with that opportunity? Did that person support and motivate you? Did they help prepare you to meet that opportunity? Did they allow you to learn on your own?

I remember a quote I read while learning to play guitar some 20 years ago and later discovered it is credited to the Roman philosopher Seneca. It translates, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

I don’t know of many FFA-prepared public speakers or state officers who just got lucky. In the same regard, I am not acquainted with many successful farmers who also just got lucky. Those folks were prepared for the opportunities and challenges in order to become successful.

FFA provides an opportunity. The communities, advisors, alumni, school administration and our sponsors who all help to provide the preparation of the members are to be commended.

As state staff, we encourage everyone who reads the "FFA Sentinel" articles to reach out to their local FFA chapters, advisors and members. Your experience can help prepare those FFA chapters, advisors and members for opportunities throughout their lives.

You can also support the Alabama FFA Association by giving online on our website, Your generous support aids in funding the many opportunities FFA members have on a state level.

A rising sun is on the new horizon. This spring, over 3,000 FFA members will compete in the District Spring Eliminations. Over 2,000 FFA members and guests will attend the 90th Annual Alabama FFA State Convention to be held June 6-8 in Montgomery.

A brand-new slate of leaders in Alabama agriculture will be networking in the state capital as a new Alabama FFA state officer team is nominated and approved by the members. Those members will be looking for the opportunity to display their skills, knowledge, and all their hard work and preparation to be able to advance to the state finals.

I would like you to be a part of that if you can.

Now, we are back on that same farm with the same farmhouse. The boy has grown to be a grandpa. As he walks out the door to see the dew shimmering off the hayfield, he feels the warmth of the sun as it shines on his weathered face. He listens to the faint call of a distant whippoorwill. Suddenly, a fresh-faced blur bursts by to the slamming of the screen door.

"Grandpa, I’ve got birds to pick up and hogs to feed, and, oh, I will help you with that GIS system when I get home from school. Maybe I can show you how to post the pictures of the bull calves for sale to Facebook, too."

FFA and agriculture … my, how you both have grown. It is a good thing, because someone has to feed the world.


Andy Chamness is the Central District Specialist with the Alabama FFA Association.