The history of FFA is strong


I’ve been thinking about storytelling. We are overwhelmed with information, nearly everywhere we turn. How do we cut through the noise and tell a memorable story that leaves a lasting impact on a person? 

 I recently wrote a grant for the Kentucky FFA Foundation that required a ninety second video, “Telling our story”. It was a real challenge trying to communicate nearly 100 years of history, our influence on hundreds of thousands of alumni, the collective difference FFA has made in the lives of members, communities and agriculture. 

Each FFA member zipping up a blue corduroy jacket has a story to tell and it is a duty of the Kentucky FFA Foundation to share their stories in hopes of inspiring others and sharing the impact that our donors have in the lives of students through their contributions. Our donors also have stories worthy of sharing, about how FFA impacted their lives, their career and what compels them to give back. 

Clearly, trying to tell the story of FFA in ninety seconds was a daunting task. 

There wasn’t time to tell about students like our Kentucky FFA State Star Farmer, Taylor County FFA member, Jeffrey Sprowles. He was raised on a multi-generation family farm that is still milking cows. His love and passion for being a farmer on the same land his family has been on for over 100 years couldn’t fit in any video! His agriculture teacher told me that each of his grandfathers were miking during our State FFA Convention and they live-streamed the State Star Farmer ceremony on YouTube. One asked the other, “Did he win??” He confirmed, “He won.” They turned off the machines during a milking, a first, to sit down for a moment and celebrate their grandson. 

I didn’t have enough time to tell about the thousands of students entering our programs who haven’t grown up on a farm, but they are finding a passion for the agriculture industry in their classrooms and starting Supervised Agriculture Experience projects. I could have mentioned dozens of projects we have awarded grants to that have allowed students to start apiaries, lawn mowing businesses, establish gardens, open a dog grooming studio, purchase laying hens and so much more. Our students collectively earned over $13,200,000 last year through SAE Projects. 

There was no way I could tell our Forever Blue donor stories and the reasons they support Kentucky FFA. 

For example, how in the early 1950’s, Lyon County agriculture teacher, Stanley DeBoe drove Mr. Joe McCarty and his father to Lexington for their very first time to help Joe enroll in college. Mr. McCarty has given $50,000 in honor of the influence his agriculture teacher had on his life. I could have shared how the Kentucky FFA Foundation Board Chairman, Nick Carter, who rang the bell on Wall Street as CEO of a publicly traded company, took a moment to himself to reflect on how he got from Hustonville to the NY Stock Exchange….. he credits his FFA experience. 

There’s no way I could explain in ninety seconds the confidence that comes to a student after they recite the FFA Creed for the first time, or the thrill of getting to see the state winning Livestock Judging team called during the Kentucky State Fair. You can’t explain in ninety seconds the camaraderie that comes from singing, “Lean On Me” during the last night of FFA Camp or the sheer joy from agriculture teachers when we announced a recent gift of new mattresses from Tempur Sealy for all the beds at FFA Camp!

So how do you explain what FFA is in ninety seconds? I decided to begin with, “We are growing the next generation of leaders that will change the world.” We will never be able to tell each members story, but we will do our best to tell some. To remind folks that though many things change, our mission is the same and we are doing good work in the world. If FFA is part of your story, I invite you to make a gift at to celebrate. 

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