Pinke Post: FFA is a game changer for kids

I didn't know about the FFA organization when I was in high school. But my husband, Nathan, was a FFA member. Now we're raising a next generation of members.

Photo courtesy of Katie Pinke.

I didn’t know about the FFA organization when I was in high school. But my husband, Nathan, was a FFA member. Now we’re raising a next generation of members.

A few days ago, Nathan, son Hunter, my parents and I gathered with many friends and hundreds of FFA supporters at the 87th annual state FFA convention in Fargo, N.D.

In five to 10 years, I plan to attend again when our daughters are members.

My first state FFA convention was more than a decade ago as an ag communications career

development event judge. It was then I realized FFA members have a unique skill set - they know how to look someone in the eye, give a firm handshake and speak with confidence and passion, even if they’re nervous.


FFA members don’t all look the same or have the same interests; they are as diverse as the dozens of contests the organization offers.

Since my first CDE judging event, I’ve experienced FFA at the local, district, state and national level as a speaker, judge, coach and mom. My depth of appreciation can’t be put into words alone. Hunter participated in all but one extracurricular activity our high school offers. For the past five years, his schedule has been overflowing. But far and away, FFA has had the most impact on his character and career development as any other extracurricular activity.


Hunter won more awards in FFA than any sport or music activity. But it isn’t the winning that influenced his character or future. It’s the people. One evening while studying for state FFA ag mechanics and farm business management CDEs, I said, “FFA was a game changer for you in eighth and ninth grade.” Hunter looked up at me and said, “Actually, Mr. Brown was a game changer.” Mr. Brown is the former Wishek ag education teacher and FFA adviser. He pushed Hunter and forced him as a young and unorganized junior high student to prepare and perform because he recognized Hunter’s talents.


Mr. Brown lit a fire under Hunter, and Hunter responded. As his FFA experiences strengthened his confidence and skills, Hunter pushed himself more in other activities and in the classroom. By ninth grade, Nathan and I knew FFA was defining Hunter’s future career goals and direction.


As I sat at the state FFA convention, I looked around to see dozens of other FFA advisers like Mr. Brown who inspire students to venture out of their comfort zones and push for new goals. There are FFA parents, alumni, supporters, businesses and others who all comprise a huge network changing the lives of thousands of students.



FFA is unlike any sport. It goes beyond winning or losing. It’s not about keeping score. FFA stays with a person forever. It’s why at the state convention my husband can see dozens of people he knows from his FFA years among the 1,200 in attendance. People are loyal. They come back and donate their time and money to rise up a next generation in FFA.


If you haven’t heard about FFA, Google it. Read the FFA motto. Watch a video of a passionate member reciting the creed. If you ever get a chance to attend an opening ceremony, you’ll hear the presiding president say, “FFA members, why are we here?” The members jubilantly and in unison reply, “To practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities and develop those qualities of leadership that a FFA member should possess.”


Thousands selflessly contribute to the brotherhood and sisterhood of FFA. Some of you have official titles and others do not. You each give of your time and skills to train up and prepare the leadership qualities FFA members possess.


FFA is a game changer because of the people who care about the impact it has on a next generation. You are appreciated, even by the young members who might not tell you today. But when you’re 40 years old, like my husband, and see your former FFA adviser still teaching and advising, you can shake his hand and share your thanks.


Mr. Vannett lit a fire under Nathan decades ago, and at his 45th connective state FFA convention, Nathan was honored to give him a handshake of appreciation.

Editor’s note: Pinke maintains a blog at

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