Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Ed Emery praises FFA members: Most have a biblical world view and are engaged in a church

(From Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)

It was refreshing last week to see more than 400 well-behaved, respectful and attentive young people dressed in blue corduroy jackets fill the halls of the Missouri State Capitol.

It was FFA Youth Leadership Day in Jefferson City, and young people from all across Missouri came to town to call on their elected representatives.

Many of these young people are not yet old enough to cast a ballot, but they are engaged and interested in public affairs. 

I had the opportunity to visit with about a dozen FFA delegates from Bates and Cass Counties and, as anticipated, every one was polite, courteous and curious about the workings of their state government. They were also enthusiastic about agriculture and its future.

More than 25,000 middle and high school students in Missouri participate in 347 FFA chapters around the state. They are part of a nationwide organization that provides agricultural education and leadership development to nearly 670,000 teens. 

With 8,630 chapters located in all 50 states, the FFA is one of the largest youth organizations in America. Officially established in 1928 as Future Farmers of America, the first national FFA convention was held in Kansas City. The brainchild of a vocational education teacher from Virginia, the organization traces its roots through The First National Congress of Vocational Agriculture Students, which gathered two years earlier at a livestock judging competition held at Kansas City’s American Royal.

Aligned with agriculture education, 56 percent of FFA chapters are based in rural areas, with the remainder found in towns, suburban areas and cities (5 percent). 

Twenty four of the 25 largest cities in America have at least one FFA chapter. Membership is almost equally divided between boys and girls. 

In the groups with which I met, the young men were clearly outnumbered, but every young person was poised, articulate and happy to share what they are doing in FFA as well as their own plans for the future. Getting to engage with such young people has to be one of the greatest pleasures and opportunities of being in the state Legislature.

Every child that participates in FFA must adopt a “supervised agricultural experience.” These individualized projects allow FFA students to focus on some aspect of agriculture from livestock to crops to nutrition. 

FFA projects are not limited to traditional agriculture, however. Almost anything related to food production, farming or the environment can qualify. Many FFA members are also engaged in speech or debate where they develop their reasoning and persuasion skills. They also learn the importance of relationships and how to grow them.

These young people have little time for texting and video games. They are active and involved in chores, community and politics. Most have a biblical world view, and are engaged in a church. When your livelihood depends on the weather, something over which you have no control, prayer is not just a church word – it is an important part of life. These youth are committed to preparing themselves for the future and dedicated to impacting it.

The Missouri FFA will gather for its 91st statewide convention in a few days. Two delegates from each Missouri chapter will travel to Columbia to participate in career development workshops and hear from inspirational speakers. The students will meet like-minded peers from around the state and be reminded that Missouri is full of positive, goal-oriented youth who are committed to building prosperous lives and a better world.

From livestock to crops to nutrition to relationships, FFA youth are learning the nature of life and developing the character that prepares them to make the most of it. I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity my office gives me to know a few of them.

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