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Help Them Celebrate

Written by Dennis Sun

Last week was National FFA Week, and our local chapters here in Wyoming were recognized for all the good they do for communities and youth here in the state.
That good is most likely not recognized until the students have grown up and become more involved in the community. Along with community service, FFA is an opportunity to showcase talents, leadership and community spirit. For some students FFA is an avenue back to a rural culture that they may not understand completely, but they understand it enough to know they want to know more.
In Wyoming we are very fortunate to have many opportunities for youth who are interested in agriculture, natural resources or rural issues. They can excel through school, leadership training and organizations such as 4H, Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom and FFA. Many of us started out in 4H, graduated to FFA and, if we applied ourselves, got much more out of it than we ever thought we would.
For those who don’t understand much about FFA, they don’t have to look far in Wyoming to find out what it’s all about. Almost every community has a chapter, along with vocational ag classes. FFA operates on the local, state and national level and has great sponsorship on all levels. Years ago I happened to be in Kansas City, Mo. giving a talk at the National AG Broadcasters convention and the National FFA Convention was also in town. I witnessed thousands of young adults in blue coats behaving themselves – all clean-cut and focused on their convention while making friends and learning.
Today there are over 500,800 members nationally and 7,358 chapters representing all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and Rota. As with 4H, more and more urban and suburban youth are finding out the benefits of FFA and are joining up. All students aged 12 to 21 who are enrolled in agriculture education programs are eligible to join.
As the number of people involved in agriculture keeps shrinking, more and more people are losing touch with where their food and fiber come from. Our nation’s loss of its understanding of raising livestock, crops and the processes needed to get food to their table is underscored by all the national support for banning horse slaughter and all of the support given to animal rights groups. In some circles it is almost “in” to bash agriculture and its long-time practices and it is easy for those with no understanding of agriculture to do.  
Only by our support of youth activities involving agriculture, ranging from rodeo to Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom and, of course, FFA and many others, can we outfight these groups that are against us. It doesn’t always take money. Providing an outdoor classroom for a local class, opening up your farm or ranch for class tours and helping at a local ag expo are just a few of the ways we can help. Just remember, it won’t get accomplished if we in agriculture don’t do it.
Along with supporting our ag organizations, youth in agriculture is a fun and rewarding way for you to get something out of your dollars and time.
Dennis