It’s More Than Just a Jacket

As many of you may know, this week is National FFA Week. describes the FFA Organization as a dynamic youth organization that changes lives and prepares members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. It develops members’ potential and helps them discover their talent through hands-on experiences, which give members the tools to achieve real-world success.

National FFA week is a time for FFA members to host activities which raise awareness about the role FFA plays in the development of future leaders and the importance of agricultural education. National FFA week began in 1948, in recognition of George Washington’s legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. The organization’s mission is to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.

You’ll definitely see the FFA Mission exemplified by the students seen wearing those iconic blue & gold corduroy jackets. But, what about those FFA members you don’t see? Those FFA members in their jackets are just a fraction of the young people working to develop their leadership skills and serving their community and fellow FFA members. In fact, FFA is just 1 portion of what is known as the 3 circle model for agriculture education. High school agriculture education is comprised of classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experiences (a project for the student to do) and the FFA organization.

In my 15+ years of teaching, I’ve seen every type of FFA member you can imagine. It’s not always the student exhibiting an animal at a livestock show or giving a speech at a speech contest. It’s not just the students who are competing on a judging team or building that shop project in the shop. FFA is also about the student that has nothing else to do in high school but still comes to class everyday, keeps his grades up in other subjects, learns what a family truly is and opens up about life. I can tell you story after story about how FFA motivated a student to accomplish something in life and it might not have been in agriculture. I can give you direct examples of how a simple organization and its members, truly saved somebody’s life. This was not because of a jacket! It was because of an organization, a family, and them finally seeing purpose in life.

You won’t necessarily find these students on the end of a prize winning show steer or standing up in front of total strangers and presenting a memorized speech. You will find them learning how to become part of something greater than themselves and learning how to serve others. Many of you who were past members can probably remember a great moment in your FFA career. Some of you will probably even be able to recite part of the FFA Creed. I believe in the future of agriculture (farming)…

The FFA Motto is my true core though and I believe it applies to all of us. 

The FFA Motto:

Learning to Do

Doing to Learn

Earning to Live

Living to Serve

We spend multiple years of our life going to school to learn how to do something. We even get a piece of paper saying we have mastered these skills. This includes high school, college, trade school or specialized school. Do we really know what to do? When I walked across the stage to receive my Bachelors of Science in Agriculture Education & Animal Science from Oklahoma State University, a great professor shook my hand and said “now the real education begins youngman.” Boy, was he so right. 

You truly have to do something to be able to learn it. We normally call this on the job training, apprenticeship or probationary employment. You can read all you want about welding, electricity or a thousand other skills but until you actually go out and do it, you truly haven’t learned/mastered that skill. What was your first doing to learn activity? The first one that I can recall is riding a bike. I crashed! Through hard work, determination and the drive to succeed, I could later ride a bike without even holding the handlebars. Another one that comes to mind is learning how to swim. Eventually you have to get in the water and truly learn how to swim. I personally feel that we’ve forgotten about this very important component of life. Many times, we let school get in the way of education.

Once we’ve truly learned and mastered those skills, hopefully they can provide us with enough skill to earn a good life. As a society we now put a monetary value on everything, however, it’s not just about the money. It’s about time with family, opportunities, value to an organization/team and purpose.

Through this process of learning to do, doing to learn and earning to live we hopefully find a greater cause in living to serve. Serve our God, Serve our Family, Serve our Country, Serve our Community, Serve our State, Serve our Organization, Serve Ourselves. Never lose sight of this greater cause. 

Individuals today need to understand the transition of this process. You’re not going to graduate high school or college and know everything and expect somebody to pay you $25/hour. You are not going to work a year and become upper-management. You are not going to work a couple of years and buy a fancy house, car and have all of the cool stuff. You must have the vision to serve as well. Without living life to serve a greater cause, you’re just walking through life. The key is to find where you can accomplish all of this while doing something you’re passionate about and the FFA Organization helps every student accomplish these tasks. 

So I run down the road hauling kids and sometimes animals to help accomplish these skills but I also do the same thing for the one who is sitting in the classroom during my absence. I might not cry with them on the side of the showring but instead in my office. They might not memorize a speech and present it at a contest but they got up the nerve to speak to an adult and not fear the consequences. They begin to finally live life and not just walk through it.

So as we celebrate this week, don’t forget the accomplishments of so many others who are not so well known. It’s my job and responsibility to teach every student and make them feel part of something great, for some, you don’t have to put a jacket on to make that happen. 

Agriculture is vital for all of us but if I can give every student the skills to be successful and use agriculture as the tool to demonstrate that, I’ve accomplished my task. I’ve successfully accomplished learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve. Until next week, Tell Someone I Love You Today. MB


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