Recalling a Most Unconventional—and Life-Changing–FFA Journey
My FFA story is so unlikely that even I can’t quite believe it myself. It all began in the fall of 1989, when I was starting my sophomore year at Southern Cal High School in Lake City.
As a child of a Farm Crisis, I never thought about joining FFA. I was busy with classes, band, choir, theater and other activities, and the unspoken message was clear—ag has no future, so don’t spend your time there. Then along came Ed Ricks.
Ed was Southern Cal’s ag teacher and FFA advisor. Turns out he was also a talent recruiter. He asked me whether I’d be interested in coming over to the ag building and studying ag rather than taking the standard 10th grade biology class. I was intrigued. Ed worked out an arrangement with the biology teacher so I could skip biology class every day and instead focus on ag, as long as I could pass the biology tests.
What a golden opportunity this turned out to be. I discovered a whole new world of learning, plus I didn’t have to be bored in a biology class. (And yes, I always passed the tests.)
I’m forever grateful that Ed welcomed me into the dynamic world of FFA. Not only did I love the ag classes, but it was fun to compete on the horticulture/floriculture team at nationals in Kansas City. My ag adventures truly set me a path that has defined my career for more than 20 years. They also explain why I’m sure a big believer in FFA.
As I look back, it’s amazing to think how much FFA has changed, and what hasn’t changed, since those days.
1. More diversity. When I was in FFA, there were usually only three to five girls at most in our chapter. That era wasn’t that far removed from the days when girls were not allowed to join FFA (a change that didn’t come until 1969.) Now girls often outnumber boys in many FFA chapters. I was excited that our local South Central Calhoun FFA chapter offered a Diversity in Ag class for the first time this fall, thanks to advisor Matt Carlson, to help girls learn more about the diverse career options available in ag today.
2. Ability to inspire. As I worked with the Diversity in Ag students, I remembered just how influential adults can be at this point in an FFA student’s life, and how much we can inspire the next generation of ag leaders, if we only take the time.
3. Learning made fun. While “fun” doesn’t come to mind when I think of most of my high school classes, it’s a word I’ve always associated with ag education. That all stems from my positive experiences in FFA, from working in our greenhouse to competing with teams that traveled from Ames to Des Moines to Kansas City.
4. Competition. Speaking of competition, I grew up in the era before everyone got a participation ribbon, and it made all the difference in my outlook on life. I loved competing on our floriculture/horticulture team. Even when I didn’t do well in certain categories likes salesmanship, I learned how to keep trying, keep learning and keep progressing. I also come from a legacy of FFA competitors. My Uncle Jack Dougherty competed in public speaking at the state FFA convention in Des Moines in 1956, where he focused on soil conservation. My family still quotes his words that “when the soil is gone, so are we.”
5. Real-world connections. These FFA lessons, from soil conservation to sales and communication skills, aren’t just academic theory. They have real-world applications that continue to influence my approach to business, farming and life.
6. Broadening your horizons. Being recruiting into FFA opened up a whole new world of career options I might never have considered. While there isn’t an abundance of children of the 1980s Farm Crisis working in agriculture, I consider myself to be one of the fortunate ones, all because Ed Ricks helped me broaden my horizons.
7. Useful knowledge you don’t learn anywhere else. When I’m at a meeting, I can tell who’s an FFA alum and who’s not, simply by whether a person knows how to conduct a meeting properly with parliamentary procedure. This is such a useful skill, and it’s curious to me that FFA is one of the few organizations that seems to understand its value.
8. Giving back. I remember helping plant and water the flowers in the planters around Lake City’s town square as part of our FFA training. While I just thought this was a fun way to get away from school for awhile, lessons like this helped plant the seed of community service in my life.
9. Leadership. As I volunteer with local FFA chapters today, I’m always inspired by the leadership opportunities that kids embrace at the chapter, district, state and even national levels. A dedicated FFA member always stands out among his or her peers. Some of FFA’s most notable alums have ascended to the highest levels of their chosen professions, from President Jimmy Carter to professional athletes like Bo Jackson to country music superstars Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift.
10. Focus on the future. As I look back, I knew I had a good thing going in high school with FFA, but I wish would have understood even better the amazing opportunities I had. It says a lot about an organization when you realize more of its value the longer you’ve been away from it.
It’s always interesting to me that FFA took root in the mid-1920s to counter the trend of boys losing interest in agriculture and leaving the farm. I think of my own FFA story and am still inspired by the wisdom reflected in the the FFA creed:
“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.”
Long live FFA!
P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here.
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.
If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.
Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.
Let’s stay in touch. I’m at email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talk to you soon!
@Copyright 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co. Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby.
- Do Press Releases Still Work?
- Erasing History? Budget Cuts Threaten to Gut Ag History at Iowa State University
- Machines that Changed America: John Froelich Invents the First Tractor in Iowa
- Bob Feller on Farming, Baseball and Military Service
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Communication Tips
- Dallas County
- Food history
- Iowa food
- Iowa history
- Small town
Archive by year
- When Agriculture Entered the Long Depression in the Early 1920s
- The Corn Lady: Jessie Field Shambaugh and the Birth of 4-H in Iowa
- Sauce to Sanitizer: Cookies Food Products Bottles Hand Sanitizer Made with Ethanol
- Myth Busting: No, Your Pork Doesn't Come from China
- Long Live Print Newsletters! 5 Keys to Content Marketing Success
- Shattering Silence: Farmer Helped Slave Find Freedom and Racial Equality in Iowa
- Meet Iowa Farmer James Jordan, Underground Railroad Conductor
- George Washington Carver Rose from Slavery to Ag Scientist
- Remembering the African-American Sioux City Ghosts Fast-Pitch Softball Team
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- The Untold Story of Iowa’s Ag Drainage Systems
- Stop Rumors Before They Ruin Your Brand
- Finding Your Voice: The Story You Never Knew About "I Have a Dream"
- Warm Up with Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Soup
- Can a True Story Well Told Turn You into a Tom Brady Fan?
- Baking is for Sharing: Best Bread, Grandma Ruby’s Cookies and Other Iowa Favorites
- 4 Key Lessons from Bud Light’s Super Bowl Corn-troversy
- Could Your Story Change Someone’s Life?
- What To Do When the Travel Channel Calls
- Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes and the Magic of Maid-Rite in Iowa
- How Not to Invite Someone to Your Next Event--and 3 Solutions
- We Need FFA: Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig Reflects on His FFA Experiences
- From My Kitchen to Yours: Comfort Food, Conversation and Living History Farms
- Smart Marketing Lessons from an Uber Driver--Listen Up!
- Hog Trailers to Humidors: Two New Iowa Convenience Stores Reflect “Waspy’s Way”
- A Dirty Tip to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable
- Are You on Team Cinnamon Roll?
- Senator Grassley on Farming: Any Society is Only Nine Meals Away From a Revolution
- Why We Should Never Stop Asking Why
- What’s the Scoop? Expanded Wells’ Ice Cream Parlor Offers a Taste of Iowa
- Independence, Iowa’s Connection to the Titanic and Carpathia
- Memories of Carroll County, Iowa, Century Farm Endure
- Iowa's “Peacemaker Pig” Floyd of Rosedale Helped Calm Racial Tensions
- How to Cook a Perfect Prime Rib
- How Did We Get So Rude?
- Mmm, Mmm Good: Soup’s on at the Rockwell City Fire Department
- Quit Using “Stupid Language”
- In Praise of Ham and Bean Soup
- Recalling a Most Unconventional—and Life-Changing--FFA Journey
- Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa
- Sac County Barn Quilt Attracts National Attention
- Doing Good, Eating Good at Lytton Town Night
- Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa
- Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Iowa
- How to Tell Your Community’s Story—with Style!
- DNA Helps Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Return to His Family
- It’s Time to Be 20 Again: Take a Road Trip on Historic Highway 20
- The Biggest Reason You Shouldn’t Slash Your Marketing Budget in Tough Times
- Are You Telling a Horror Story of Your Business?
- Pieced Together: Barn Quilt Documentary Features Iowa Stories
- Unwrapping Storytelling Tips from the Candy Bomber
- Barn Helped Inspire Master Craftsman to Create Dobson Pipe Organ Builders
- Butter Sculptures to Christmas Ornaments: Waterloo Boy Tractor Celebrates 100 Years
- Ag-Vocating Worldwide: Top 10 Tips for Sharing Ag’s Story with Consumers
- Growing with Grow: Iowa 4-H Leader Guides 100-Year-Old 4-H Club for 50 Years
- High-Octane Achiever: Ethanol Fuels New Driver Tiffany Poen
- Shakespeare Club Maintains 123 Years of Good Taste in Small-Town Iowa
- Iowa’s Ice Queen: Entrepreneur Caroline Fischer’s Legacy Endures at Hotel Julien Dubuque
- Darcy's Bill of Assertive Rights: How to Communicate and Get What You Need
- Celebrating Pi Day in Iowa with Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie
- Cooking with Iowa’s Radio Homemakers
- Top 10 Tips to Find the Right Writer to Tell Your Company’s Stories
- The “No BS” Way to Protect Yourself from Rude, Obnoxious People
- Learning from the Land: 9 Surprising Ways Farmers Make Conservation a Priority
- Leftover Ham? Make This Amazing Crustless Spinach and Ham Quiche
- Iowa’s Lost History from the Titanic
- Coming Soon--"Dallas County," a New Iowa History Book!
- How to Clean a Burned Pan in 6 Simple Steps
- Iowa Beef Booster: Larry Irwin Takes a New Twist on Burgers
- Get Your Grill On: How to Build a Better Burger
- "Thank God It’s Over:" Iowa Veteran Recalls the Final Days of World War 2
- How to Thank Veterans for Their Military Service
- Imagine That! Writers, Put Your Reader Right in the Action
- Remembering Ambassador Branstad’s Legacy from the 1980s Farm Crisis in Iowa
- Busting the Iowa Butter Gang
- Lightner on Leadership: “Everyone Has Something to Give”
- Show Up, Speak Up, Don’t Give Up
- Small - Town Iowa Polo Teams Thrilled Depression - Era Crowd
- Ethanol:Passion by the Gallon
- Cruising Through Forgotten Iowa History on Lincoln Highway
- Why I'm Using a Powerful 500-Year-Old Technology to Make History--And You Can, Too
- 5 Ways a “History Head” Mindset Helps You Think Big
- Behind the Scene at Iowa's Own Market to Market
- Let’s Have an Iowa Potluck with a Side of History!
- Iconic State Fair Architecture: Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iconic State Fair Architecture- Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iowa Underground - How Coal Mining Fueled Dallas County's Growth
- Ultra-Local Eating: Jennifer Miller Guides CSA, Iowa Food Cooperative
- The Hotel Pattee and I are Hosting a Party—And You’re Invited!
- Tell Your Story—But How?
- Mediterranean Delights: Iowa Ag Influences Syrian-Lebanese Church Dinner
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations!
- 6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write—Even When You’re Not in the Mood
- Always Alert-How to Stay Safe in Any Situation
- Does Accuracy Even Matter Anymore?
- Soy Power Shines at Historic Rainbow Bridge
- Free Gifts! (Let’s Talk Listening, Stories and History)
- How to Connect with Anyone: Lessons from a Tornado
- Soul Food: Lenten Luncheons Carry on 45-Year Iowa Tradition
- Top 3 Tips for Writing a Must-Read Article
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips to Better Writing
- Top 8 Tips for Building a Successful Freelance Business
- 10 Steps to Better Photos
- Reinventing the Marketer of 2010
- Extreme Writing Makeover
- My Top Social Media Tips for Farmers: REVEALED!
- Honoring the Legacy of Rural Iowa's Greatest Generation
- Iowa's Orphan Train Heritage
- Dedham’s Famous Bologna Turns 100: Kitt Family Offers a Taste of Iowa History
- Iowa Barn Honors Pioneer Stock Farm
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips for Better Photos
- Soup and Small-Town Iowa Spirit
- Savoring the Memories: Van's Café Served Up Comfort Food for Six Decades
- Mayday, Mayday—The Lost History of May Poles and May Baskets in Iowa
- Iowa's Vigilante Crime Fighters of the 1920s and 1930s
- Very Veggie: Iowan's Farm-Fresh Recipes Offer Guilt-Free Eating
- Iowa Public TV's "Market to Market" Features Expedition Yetter, Agri-Tourism, Des Moines Water Works' Lawsuit
- 62 Years and Counting: Calhoun County, Iowa, Families Maintain 4th of July Picnic Tradition
- “A Culinary History of Iowa” Satisfies: Iowa History Journal Book Review
- For the Love of Baking: Lake City's Ellis Family Showcases Favorite Iowa Farm Recipes (Caramel Rolls, Pumpkin Bars and More!)
- Remembering Sept. 11: Iowa Community’s Potluck Honors America
- Talking Iowa Food and Culinary History on Iowa Public Radio
- Talking "Stilettos in the Cornfield," Taxes, Trade and More on CNBC
- FarmHer #RootedinAg Spotlight--FFA Attracts More Women to Careers in Ag
- Rustic Cooking Refined: Iowan Robin Qualy Embraces Global Flavors
- Voice of Reason: Iowa Pork Producer Dave Struthers Offers Top 10 Tips to Speak Up for Ag
- Iowa Eats! Why Radio Iowa, Newspapers and Libraries are Hungry for "A Culinary History of Iowa"
- Iowa Turkeys Carry on National Thanksgiving Tradition
- Riding with Harry: 2016 Presidential Election Reflects Truman's Iowa Revival at 1948 Plowing Match in Dexter
- All Aboard! Rockwell City’s “Depot People” Offer a Taste of Iowa History
- Is This Iowa's Favorite Appetizer?
- O, Christmas Tree! Small Iowa Towns Celebrate with Trees in the Middle of the Street
- Slaves Escaped Through Dallas County on Iowa’s Underground Railroad
- Adel Barn Accents Penoach Winery in Iowa
- Celebrating New Year's Eve in Style at a Classic Iowa Ballroom