FFA — Building our future one jacket at a time

Last Thursday night, I attended the Pymatuning Valley FFA 58th Annual Banquet. The banquet celebrates another successful year, the officer team, members, alumni, staff, families and the Seniors who in a very emotional closing ceremony, give their farewell speech and hang their blue and gold jackets up (literally) before having to announce their own successors. Between their emotions and knowing how I felt in my last days as a member and officer of the Caldwell FFA chapter, it took all I had to hold the tears back.

During their banquet, I was blessed to have been selected as an Honorary Member of the Pymatuning Valley FFA Chapter. While they thanked me for my support of agriculture, education and the FFA, I felt as if I should have been the one thanking them. I cover a four-county territory which only contains two chartered FFA Chapters, Pymatuning and Grand Valley. For someone who is so passionate about agriculture and FFA, that is heartbreaking. Thank you to the school administration for believing in FFA enough to keep it in the school curriculum. I love spending time with these kids. Whether we are talking about leadership opportunities with Farm Bureau, issues affecting agriculture, public speaking skills, or conducting interviews, I love seeing and hearing the passion that this amazing group of students have for the industry, especially the ones who didn’t grow up in agriculture. Thank you all for letting me be a part of your FFA family, and thank you for letting me share my love for agriculture.

I have worked hard over the last couple of years to build and strengthen our relationship with the county FFA chapters. Our mission with Farm Bureau is to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities, and the group of kids in FFA are our future. We have to invest in them and their futures, which ultimately, is our future. FFA is about more than farming. It’s about leadership development, personal growth, broadening horizons, agricultural and community unity, and a family.  FFA played a huge role in the person I am today. The leadership skills, public speaking, and relationships that I experienced in FFA were life-changing. Any of you who were actively involved I am sure totally understand where I am coming from. Most of my friends in high school saw my blue and gold jacket as a a terrible style mistake, to say the least, but I’ve never been so proud of something as I am my FFA jacket, which is why it now hangs in my new office. Right beside it, I’ll be hanging my honorary member plaque.

While we (Farm Bureau and myself) regularly fight for agricultural education and FFA in our schools, we need to fight harder. We need our community, elected officials, and especially our schools to support the program and our youth, and we need them to understand the importance of agriculture to all of our lives, not just those of us in the industry. Right up there with the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, and Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer” speech, the FFA creed is a powerful, emotional statement…that we all should strive for.

With that, I leave you with the first and last verses of the FFA Creed. These two verses are what I strive for each day, and I challenge each of you live by this creed. The world will be a better place, I promise you that.

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 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.

Mandy Orahood is an Ohio Farm Bureau organization director serving Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties. Mandy grew up on a cattle farm in southeast Ohio and earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees in Livestock and Animal Sciences from The Ohio State University. Before working for Farm Bureau, she was a meat inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Mandy can be reached at [email protected].