“The FFA is about more than just cows, sows, and plows.” If I have heard that saying once, I’ve heard it a 1000 times. I’ve even said it a few times myself. While it is most certainly a true statement, as I reflect back over how I got my start in the FFA, these three things – cows, plows, and sows – were central to that beginning.
I loved the FFA and the things it had to offer even before I was old enough to join it. I owe it partially to the cows, sows, and plows that were rooted so deeply into my childhood. Cows, sows, and plows were quite literally how my father provided for our family for 17 or so years, only 5 of which I was around to participate in. It was during his tenure as a local farmer that our county extension agent convinced my father to allow my brother to show lambs in first grade, and from there for me to show lambs in first grade, and hogs and steers at age 9. And oh how I couldn’t wait to join the FFA when I entered the 6th grade.
Join it I did. Love it I did. Change my life it did.
It started with livestock showing and livestock judging and from there turned into creed speaking, public speaking, and parliamentary procedure. It formed me, shaped me, taught me, molded me. It felt as if I was born to be in the FFA. Unlike most, who spent their childhoods playing sports, I spent mine at livestock shows and FFA competitions, and my summers at FFA camp and leadership conferences. I never felt like I fit in with the others at my high school, but I knew I belonged whenever I was at an FFA event or livestock show.
At that time, I could tell you every important event that happened in FFA history, every important person that shaped the organization, every symbol in the emblem and what it stood for. I loved the rich history. I loved that the organization was literally designed for rural students to have the same opportunities as those in town. That it was created to facilitate and fight for those who had no one to fight for them.
My ag teachers were my second fathers, the contests challenged and developed me, and the friends I met along the way are still my friends today. Without a doubt, I learned how to speak, act, think critically, and build relationships through those years in the FFA. I made lifelong friends; I learned lifelong lessons. I made a thousand mistakes and twice that many good decisions.
Today, I reflect back on the treasure that the FFA was to me and will continue to be for those who come long after me. I still see it today in the lives of my father’s students as they get their first taste of success – of finally feeling like they belong. The FFA has morphed and changed over time, but it has not lost its mission:
The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
Cows, sows, and plows are certainly not a requirement for FFA members and it is oh so much more than just those three things, but I can’t help but be grateful for the cows, sows, and plows that got me involved in the FFA even before I was old enough to join. I look back now grateful to a Sovereign Lord who used this wonderful organization to teach me, mold me, and shape me and to plant a passion deep in my heart for those who still need someone to fight for them. I am so thankful that he used this tool in my life and am forever thankful for those he continues to use through this organization to shape the lives of others.