Celebrating National FFA Week and A Long Legacy of Experiential Learning
National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Week is a special time for me–an opportunity to reflect on the vital role agriculture has played in my life and the direct impact it has on the success of Tennessee.
One need look no further than the official Great Seal of the State of Tennessee to know that agriculture is entrenched in our state’s legacy and has played an important role in our history. Today, with 66,600 farms covering more than 10.8 million acres, agriculture continues to be Tennessee’s number one industry and remains the economic driver in many communities throughout the Sixth Congressional District.
Since its establishment, FFA has connected students with agriculture professionals providing agriculture-based education in schools across America. The organization teaches students using this motto, “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live and living to serve.” Many lives, including my own, have been positively impacted by FFA, which cultivates confidence in the classroom and in life.
Even as an eighth-generation farmer, FFA unquestionably and irrevocably strengthened my passion for agriculture, and in the process, became the most consequential learning experience of my life. The FFA was established in 1928 and granted a Federal Charter in 1950, and today more than 28,000 Tennessee student members are guided by the FFA mission to “make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.” The 220 chapters that make up Tennessee FFA represent 93 years of traditions while looking forward to the future. I personally served as the State FFA Vice President and Cookeville FFA President, as well as earned the American FFA Degree.
For nearly an entire year, schools have been closed across the nation, and we are seeing the negative effects of students being isolated from their peers and teachers, including increased mental health issues and a steep decline in academic success. Fortunately, for members of FFA, agricultural education has continued thanks to Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE), projects outside of school that apply the knowledge and lessons from the classroom to real life. During my time in FFA, I maintained multiple SAE projects, including raising commercial beef cattle and sheep, growing tobacco crops, owning a small lawncare business, and working on my family’s farm. I believe nothing compares to the contentment of an accomplishment earned and built by your own skill, sweat and bare hands.
Tennessee agriculture plays a vital role in helping to feed our nation, and that incredibly important, ongoing endeavor depends on areas like the counties I represent in Middle Tennessee to successfully cultivate the best and brightest to lead the agriculture industry. FFA plays an integral part in identifying and preparing these future leaders. If you know someone in FFA, you know how passionate these young people are about agriculture as they develop their skills to become agriculturists, biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers, entrepreneurs, or any number of careers.
As an FFA alumnus and your voice in Washington, I am proud to be an active and longtime supporter of this organization and advocate to ensure our government works for our farmers, not against. If we want American agriculture to continue to thrive, we must work with our young people to expand agricultural knowledge and leadership skills. Time spent in FFA, in the field, on the farm, in the lab, and in the classroom not only prepares students for successful careers, but imparts basic principles about life and the world in which we live.
Just one person, taking one step, can bring about change in their community, and FFA prepares students to be those agents of change. From the West Tennessee plains to the mountains of East Tennessee, FFA will continue to lift our state to new heights by carrying on its traditions and values from generation to generation with talent, determination, heart, strength, and dignity.
U.S. Representative John Rose is currently serving his second term representing Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District and resides in Cookeville with his wife, Chelsea, and their son, Guy. The Sixth District includes Cannon, Clay, Coffee, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Robertson, Smith, Sumner, Trousdale, White, and Wilson counties as well as portions of Cheatham and Van Buren counties. Representative Rose is an eighth-generation farmer, small business owner, and currently serves on the Financial Services Committee.