Future Farmers of America

by Kendyl Wiley, as delivered to the 2019 Farm to Table Dinner, Davenport, WA 

Starting as early as age three, we begin our education. We are eased in at first with recess, nap time, and snacks. Our schedule becomes more and more demanding as we spend twelve years completing homework, taking tests, discovering ourselves, and denying the possibility of our parents actually knowing best. During these years, a routine of learning is laid out for us, and while the routine is necessary, it can often deter a motivation for learning. I am no exception to this idea. My motive for learning was once lost, just before my routine changed. 

Kendyl Wiley, Future Farmers of America member

There I was, having the time of my life at my county fair as a seventh-grader. Swine showmanship had just ended, where I was titled reserve grand champion showman. My friends and I went on a celebratory four-wheeler ride, and we were on cloud nine. All was well, except for one thing. There was a strange tension when I returned to my camper after a successful day. That strange feeling finally received closure on the drive home from fair. My parents told my sister and me that we would be moving from Oregon to Washington. They reassured us that we could finish the next year of schooling before relocating. 

Middle school was tough enough in a familiar setting, and now I had to prepare myself to attend high school at a new school. In middle school, I found it hard to stay motivated. The subjects failed to interest me and I began spending more days at home than at school.

Contrary to my feelings of panic and devastation, my sister, Alyson, seemed excited and eager to begin her next chapter. Alyson was about to start her senior year of high school. She was applying for colleges, going on tours, and considering how she would spend the rest of her life. The control she had over where she went and what she did made me envious. My envy grew when I accompanied her on a tour of the Washington State University campus. The campus had so many buildings and different options for classes and hobbies. I remember wishing I could stay at WSU with her. Unfortunately, I was forced back into the thick walls of school, with the weight of a thousand textbooks on my chest. The doors of Davenport High School sucked me in as tears rested on my cheeks. Though the school was new to me, not much was different. Math still wanted me to solve all of its problems and books still needed to be read. The same routine of learning that had bored me for years was not ready to quit; that is until I joined FFA. 

As FFA members, we are required to take an agricultural class. These range from science to welding, and often give students the opportunity to work on their FFA competitions and projects. As a first-year member, I recited the Creed. The FFA Creed is a five-paragraph statement written by a man named E.M. Tiffany. Tiffany wrote the creed while preparing to attend the National FFA Convention with the intent to capture the beliefs and standards of FFA members. Through reciting the Creed, I learned about values.

During my second year of FFA, I served as a delegate at the state convention in Pullman. One of the delegate committees discussed a proposal to change restrictions on official dress. Prior to this proposal, men wore slacks and women wore skirts and nylons with their button-down shirts and jackets. However, the proposal suggested a change be made which would give members a choice between skirts and slacks, regardless of gender. The movement was passed by the state and has since been passed by the National FFA Organization. Through this, I learned parliamentary procedure and the importance of change, with respect to tradition. 

As my membership continued, I raised a total of eight market hogs, served as a chapter officer and district officer, and competed in various competitions such as Agricultural Sales, Prepared Public Speaking, and Employment Skills. Through these experiences, I learned about the importance of work ethic, the need for building rapport, the value of being knowledgable of agricultural issues, and the significance of being professional. My motive for learning had returned without me noticing. 

Since graduating high school, I have been serving as a Washington FFA State Officer. Through this experience, the organization has continued to teach me. I’ve learned about a variety of agricultural businesses and industries, time management skills, and how to effectively work on a team. Additionally, my team and I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C, where we learned how to appropriately advocate for agricultural education, and this December I will be traveling with two of my teammates to Spain and Portugal, where we will learn about our industry in a different location. 

FFA expanded my mind and changed my perspective of learning. Through FFA I gained soft skills that were being overlooked in my daily school routine. I no longer felt forced to learned, but rather intrigued to grow. 

These are just a few of my FFA experiences and what the organization has brought to my life. The Washington FFA Association has changed me for the better, which is one of many reasons I wanted to serve as a state officer. However, the biggest reason I wanted to serve our association was our value to reach past our members when growing the agricultural industry. 

Each year at our state convention, District Officers put on a service project known as Little Farmers. Officer teams from each of our nine districts choose one of Washington’s commodities to create a presentation for. These presentations are designed for elementary students who spend their day at the WSU campus while learning about the farm-to-table process in a variety of ways. Through this program, students are getting out of their standard classroom for a day to grow their knowledge in a new way. These students learn where their food and clothes come from, and grow a new appreciation for that process. 

The FFA shines a light on an area of learning which is not always acknowledged. The FFA is encouraging youth to learn past the walls of math class and past the binding of a textbook. The FFA gives students an opportunity to learn based on their interests. Through this, FFA has encouraged me to be a life-long learner, and it continues to do the same for the next generation of members. It is for these reasons that I am so grateful for people who support youth involvement in agriculture. These people are helping to grow the next generation of life-long learners, and for that, they deserve a thank you.