Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Arkansas FFA Convention as a true “has-been.” I don’t mean this in a negative way, but it was the first year I joined the convention as an alumna.
In high school, I spent four different summers at Camp Couchdale as an FFA member, and last year I was behind the scenes and on stage as a state officer. This year, I was honored to return as a workshop presenter and a representative of Arkansas Farm Bureau and Arkansas Tech University.
The week gave me a fresh outlook on all that the FFA has given me through the years.
As I facilitated three workshops with one of my old teammates (the fabulous Sunni Wise) I began to think how I would have never been able to do it without FFA. I remember when I went to my first FFA workshop as a ninth grader. I sat quietly, tried not to be noticed, and envied the students who seemed like they enjoyed answering questions and meeting new people. As I attended more and more camps, I began to notice a change in myself. Slowly but surely, I was no longer afraid to speak in front of people or to make new friends. Over time, I began to appreciate who I was as a person and stopped wishing I was someone else. I was happy to be Lindsey.
Since ninth grade, I have made more friends through this organization than I can count. I have met people at camps, conventions, and competing in events like CDEs and talent. The networking I have gained through becoming involved has been incredible. I’ve met professionals and individuals whom I can turn to for advice across the state and country, all because I sported the blue corduroy jacket.
I’ve always considered myself an ambitious person. From the time I started school, I always wanted good grades and worked towards the highest honors and biggest wins. However, through FFA, I learned that success is not only measured by top grades, blue ribbons, and plaques (even if they feel great at the time). Success is knowing you worked your hardest to achieve your goals and not walking away wishing you had done more. To me, success is also learning from your mistakes. Through showing livestock, speaking contests, and judging poultry, I was driven to always do my best and to make myself, and those supporting me, proud.
This point hit me hard when facilitating our workshop. During it, we had students write down a goal they had and obstacles that make it hard to achieve that goal. Students wrote things like, “lack of supporters,” “fear of failure,” or other hurdles that discouraged them. For the next part of our workshop, we had them pass around their papers they had wrote on. As they passed them around, they were asked to read the person’s obstacles and write down a way to overcome it or a word or encouragement. “I am here for you,” “You can do it!” and “I believe in you,” were all commonly found phrases. Suddenly, these members who had been paired in groups with strangers, found the support system they needed and craved.
Growing up, I always thought I would follow in the footsteps of my mom and dad and would enter the medical field. My grandpa has made his living from being a dairy farmer and now a beef cattle farmer, but I never imagined I would enter the field of agriculture myself. Through FFA, I found how passionate I am to tell the story of agriculture. I love speaking, writing, and interacting with people. Public speaking contests, going to leadership workshops, and ultimately serving a year as a state officer opened my eyes to that. Not everyone who joins FFA will enter the agricultural field, but it is an excellent gateway to find your passion and learn skills that you will use the rest of your life.
Millions have proudly worn the same blue jacket I did and many more FFA members continue to today. I am proud to be an alumna of an organization that’s not just “cows, sows, and plows” but also “beakers, speakers, and job seekers.”
Photos of our workshop from the Arkansas FFA Convention courtesy of another one of my incredible teammates, Caleigh Moyer. She’s a killer photographer, cosmetologist, agvocate, leader, and best of all, friend.