The North Carolina FFA Association has been a staple in the agriculture community for many years. Most often known for raising the next generation of future agriculture industry leaders and recognized by the famous blue corduroy jacket, FFA members take pride each year in the skills they learn as a foundation for their future careers. The annual N.C. FFA Convention gives students a chance to showcase their hard work, talents and projects to other FFA members, teachers and agriculture industry leaders across the state. The convention took place this year on June 21st through the 23rd at the Raleigh Convention Center.
Although they are a well-known and respected group in the agriculture industry, not much is widely known about how exactly the FFA prepares young adults for a future career not only in agriculture but a wide variety of other fields as well. Following this year’s convention, State FFA Coordinator Carmen Bracey and three actively involved FFA students, Elizabeth Espino, Sydney Loflin and Javian McMillan, helped explain exactly how FFA has shaped their lives and the lives of many others.
With over thirty years of combined experience in the N.C. FFA, Mrs. Bracey and these FFA officers have a true passion for the organization and the industry as a whole. “FFA lives to help grow students into future citizens, whether that be agricultural professionals or successful entrepreneurs in other fields,” said Elizabeth. “Students learn hands-on in the classroom, through competitions at convention each year and many other activities that help them acquire skills that will remain when the blue corduroy jacket is removed and our future career begins.” In fact, N.C. FFA has already helped shape these individuals into who they are today, whether they are students still actively involved and learning or the current State Coordinator.
Carmen Bracey helped start an FFA chapter in her hometown school in the 8th grade and has been in love with the organization ever since. “I’ve been involved with the FFA for over ten years and quickly developed a passion for everything it represents,” she said. “Many of the skills learned in FFA apply to all aspects of life and students have multiple chances each year to practice those skills in real life scenarios. It really helps shape them into any career that they would like to pursue, which is why I love my job because not only did I grow up in FFA and learn all of those skills myself, but now I am in a position where I get to continue to watch FFA change lives and give back to the organization that shaped me into who I am today.”
Javian, Sydney and Elizabeth are still very much involved with FFA, which means they are continuing to develop their skills. “This organization has taught me how interconnected agriculture is with the rest of the world and how to work together with all the hard-working individuals involved in this industry,” said Javian. “In my future career, I want to become a veterinarian, so being a part of FFA and learning the leadership and communication skills necessary to excel in that field and, eventually, own my own practice, is exciting and rewarding.”
Sydney and Elizabeth echo Javian’s appreciation for the skills taught through FFA, including public speaking, career development, job interview skills, resume writing and more. “It’s like one big family because we all learn from one another,” Sydney said. “Many of the leaders here were involved in FFA growing up so they know what it is like to be in our shoes and they do everything that they can to help us succeed. Additionally, the students across the state work together to lend a hand and work as a team so that our skills are respected, appreciated and grown together. We all have one common goal and that is to feed the world.”
The first N.C. FFA Convention was held in 1929 and has continued to be a highly anticipated event since that date. It began as a celebration and recognition of student accomplishments and has grown to encompass many other activities, including a variety of competitions for students. “The FFA Convention is a time for all FFA leaders and members across the state to come together, teach on new things and learn from one another,” said Carmen. “We still celebrate our accomplishments throughout the year, but now we also celebrate a variety of other acquired skills such as public speaking, food science, etc. through competitions, proficiency awards and the State Star program.”
Over thirty competitions are held within the FFA each year and 19 of those competitions are hosted at the annual FFA Convention. These competitions instill a variety of life lessons and skills in students that can be used to help further their passion for FFA, deepen their knowledge of N.C. agriculture and acquire life skills they will need in any future career path. These competitions include but are not limited to: FFA Creed recitation, prepared public speaking, extemporaneous public speaking, forestry, agricultural mechanics, horticulture, floriculture, quiz bowl (FFA knowledge trivia), veterinary science, nursery landscape and food science. “These competitions are a great way to get students outside their comfort zone and teach them new skills,” said Elizabeth. “They also are a great way to explore all facets of N.C. agriculture,” said Sydney. “Overall, the competitions help you learn, grow and become better.”
Elizabeth has competed in various competitions, but her favorite was nursery landscape and judging because it taught her that failure is okay and not always a bad thing. “I learned a lot of new information in nursery landscape and judging such as tillage vs. no-tillage on farms, how to measure slope and soil evaluation,” she said. “Although I did terrible in the competition, it taught me a lot of new skills and knowledge that I can use in my future career and college courses. It also taught me that it’s okay to fail because you can learn from your failures.”
Sydney and Javian share a love for the public speaking competitions, although in different ways. Javian enjoys the prepared public speaking competition. in fact, he has competed in it three times in previous years and enjoys the openness of the competition. “It’s changed me a lot and shaped the way that I communicate with people,” he said. “You have to think not only about communication and the words that you speak, but also about other factors such as tone and body language. I believe these skills are going to be extremely beneficial in my future career as a veterinarian.”
Sydney, on the other hand, prefers the extemporaneous public speaking, which is where students walk into a room, pick out three notecards from a pile and choose one to prepare a speech on. Each student then has thirty minutes to prepare a four to six minute speech using any materials (ie: books, internet, etc.) that they have available. “This competition has helped me to think on the fly, which I believe is a skill I will need in many aspects of life,” she said. “There is a lot of pressure behind it and sometimes that can present quite a challenge, but at the end of the day it has helped make me a better speaker because it has taught me how to organize my thoughts quickly and efficiently.”
The FFA Creed, detailed in full at the end of this blog, was written by E.M. Tiffany and adopted at the 3rd National Convention of the FFA. The Creed lays out several values and morals that are respected and followed by all members of the FFA each year. When teaching others about the benefits and rewards of FFA, the Creed is often referred to by Carmen, Javian, Elizabeth and Sydney. “I love the Creed itself because it truly gives power to what we do in this organization and stands as a foundation behind everything that we believe in,” said Sydney. Despite coming from all walks of life, FFA students from across the state find common ground to stand on through the Creed and values of the organization itself. “My favorite line of the Creed is ‘I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others’ because we promote leadership through diversity in all aspects of the FFA,” Javian said. “We respect one another, learn from our differences and blend our talents, strengths and weaknesses to accomplish the goals laid out in the Creed and FFA mission statement.”
“When people ask me about the FFA, I often refer to the section of the Creed that says ‘for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny,'” Elizabeth said, “because just like all areas of life, sometimes FFA can be challenging. There are days where we will get frustrated or stressed but at the end of the day we all have a love and fondness for this organization and N.C. agriculture in general that drives us to push through those difficulties, overcome the challenges and strive to be better with each passing day.” Through the competitions, SAE projects, internships, volunteer opportunities and more, the FFA truly is growing the future of our industry and fashioning professionals that will one day lead N.C. agriculture as well as other industries across the world.
“We believe that American agriculture can and will hold true, just as it states in the Creed, because that’s what we are doing every day within the N.C. FFA,” said Carmen Bracey. “With every project, every lesson in the classroom, every competition, every convention and celebration of achievements, the ultimate goal is to hold to the best traditions and fundamental values found in North Carolina agriculture. It is our job to teach the next generation those principles and allow them to not only learn for themselves, but grow and expand on those principles to ensure that agriculture has a vital and flourishing future for years to come.”
If you ever have the chance to attend the N.C. FFA Convention, we highly suggest it! You will be amazed to see how invested these young people are in our industry and proud to stand behind the actions of the N.C. FFA. Join us in thanking them for all that they do to educate the next generation of leaders for our industry and our country!
The Official FFA Creed
I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.
I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.
I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.
I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so – for others as well as myself, in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.
I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.
The Creed was written by E.M. Tiffany and adopted at the 3rd National Convention of the FFA. Revised at the 38th and 63rd National FFA Conventions.