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I’m takin’ you back to the summer of 2003. Out of the blue, I got a call from Patrick Gottsch, a member of the well-known Nebraska ag family. He told me he was building a TV channel dedicated solely to agriculture and the rural community. I asked if he had any programs lined up? He said, “Yes, we are filming the entire National FFA Convention!”
I admit it made me raise an eyebrow.
My Oklahoma family were farmers. It’s in my blood. I joined the Las Cruces FFA. On to New Mexico A&M, then CSU vet school, then large animal practice. Almost every job I’ve held has been in the livestock business. Even after I became a speaker, I fed cattle, now I’ve been running cows. I give credit to my ag teacher, Rupert Mansell, who guided me in the direction that I would follow the rest of my life.
After I became an agricultural banquet speaker, the FFA has remained a regular part of my speeches; 44 appearances nationwide including seven national conventions. I know the exact number because I learned to keep accurate daily records in FFA.
Since then, times have changed. The most obvious is the prominence of women involved, both as ag teachers and ag students. They have expanded, improved and multiplied the number of qualified ag students to keep up with the scientific, medical, technical and mechanical knowledge that seems to never stop.
For the last three nights I have watched the FFA convention on RFD TV, smiled, sympathized and marveled as the FFA members parade their awards and accomplishments. I can’t help but compare them to the average suburban or city teenager playing their video games on their smart phones, exchanging photos or texting or just
killing time waiting -- always waiting. ‘Immature’ describes the majority of them.
Their counterparts on the farm are riding horses, sweeping the barn, drivin’ the tractor, countin’ the rows, doin’ the chores and, like me, milkin’ the cow by the time I was 10 years old.
Those blue jackets represent more than their accomplishments, awards and talent; they stand for good character, a strong work ethic and someone with whom you’d cross the river.
When I was in FFA, the giant apocalyptic prediction was worldwide population explosion and mass starvation. American agriculture led the way, and my generation saved the world.
Today the scare-mongering obsession is global warming.
I have faith those kids in the blue will be at the front of America’s fight to save the earth, as it has been doing since it became a country in 1776. God bless the USA and God bless the FFA!
“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds.”
Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large-animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. Learn more at www.baxterblack.com.