My daughter, Adelyn, will be a FFA Greenhand this fall when she starts high school as a freshman. I’m nervous about high school, but excited for the opportunities she will have. Those of you who spent their high school days involved in agriculture education classes and FFA know what I mean. For those unfamiliar, a Greenhand is a student welcomed into their first year as an FFA member. It is one of many FFA traditions, from learning the FFA Creed to attending the Missouri State FFA Convention.

The state convention is the highlight of the year for high school FFA chapters and their members. During the third week of each April thousands of students sporting FFA jackets gather in Columbia for the Missouri FFA Association’s annual convention. At one time I was a Greenhand and through high school grew with the organization to become a state officer. I was part of that sea of national blue corduroy jackets.

For FFA’ers, after weeks of preparation for Career and Leadership Development Events, this is where you find out how you fare at the state level. It involves months of practice. Contests cover just about every aspect of agricultural production, management and leadership. But whether placing first or last in these contests, members return to their school chapters wiser, and often more confident.

My hands-on training included being a part of the Appleton City FFA Knowledge, Meats Evaluation, Forestry and Nursery/Landscape teams. My ag teacher was aided by my father in training our meats judging team that included my cousin Matt, and friends Bobby and Mike. It was one of the many highlights of my FFA experience, made sweeter when we placed fourth in the state competition. What I learned as a member of those teams were lessons I continue to draw from as I share with my children.

The National FFA Organization truly fosters career development by pushing students to apply the knowledge and skills they learn in the agriculture education classroom in Career and Leadership Development Events and, ultimately, real world settings. Along the way, students develop personal connections, learn to work in teams, improve their communications skills and experience a lot of life lessons.

E.M. Tiffany, the author of the FFA Creed, said it well when he wrote: “…I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure…”

Students learn that success is earned. Put in the effort, not once, but again and again, and success will follow.

The 95th Missouri State FFA Convention takes place April 20-21 with the perfect theme, “Ignite, Embrace, Empower.”  Let’s celebrate the successes of our youth and keep challenging them to make a difference in the lives of others, in our communities and in the industry of agriculture.