Some 60,000 FFA members and advisers poured into Indianapolis in late October. They came for the National FFA Convention, which will be held in Indianapolis each year for at least the next seven years.
Walking the streets and aisles of the convention center and trade show with them, and sitting alongside them in the seats of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the number blue jackets was impressive. But what was most impressive were the young people inside the jackets. It made at least one speaker say he’s no longer worried about the future of America — it is in good hands, despite the negative comments that bombard us through the media every day.
In one part of the FFA Expo Hall, an area was set aside where states or chapters could put up exhibits highlighting information about FFA and agriculture in their state. The folks from Wisconsin gave away cheese samples. Others passed out candy. Even FFA members from Hawaii were there, manning a booth and talking to other members.
The difference in agriculture and ag products across the country was striking. Young ladies in blue jackets from Arkansas were handing out small bags of rice, symbolic of a crop grown in their state. The young men and women from Georgia had a picture of a peach in their booth.
What was more striking was the way members in the booths and those visiting greeted each other. A young lady from Texas might be talking to a young man from Delaware one minute. Then the next person who walked up might be from Ohio. Where they were from didn’t seem to matter — it was what they could share in simple conversation that appeared to be the big deal.
The National FFA Organization promotes this type of activity by providing room in the convention booklet for members to attempt to collect a signature from at least one member from every state. There is no prize for doing so. It’s just a fun mixer that allows a young lady from Maine to ask a young man from Idaho for his signature in her convention program. Sometimes the interaction ends with the signature; sometimes it continues into other topics.
From what we heard, it appears these young people had more things in common than any differences they had because of where they came from in the country. Kids are kids — they face many of the same challenges and rise to meet those challenges no matter where they live. The environment may vary from place to place, but the challenges of growing up and finding a fit in society, and hopefully in agriculture as well, is similar no matter where you are from.
Perhaps as Hoosiers we’re too close to this big event that happens each year to grasp the significance of it. When the FFA convention comes back next year in late October, plan a trip to Indianapolis just to see what all the excitement is about. Hundreds of kids in blue jackets walking down Georgia Street in the rain, happy and talking to one another, certainly provides a different perspective than seeing troubled teens hanging out on street corners.
FFA is one thing all of agriculture can be proud of coast to coast. As the speaker said, “The future is still in good hands.”