As journalists, we have a standard set of questions we use to get people talking and help them relax at the beginning of an interview. When covering the National FFA convention, I usually start by asking an FFA student what it is like attending the convention. This gets them talking, usually rather excitedly, and helps them forget about the microphone or camera that is in their face. I have been covering the FFA convention longer than all of the students attending this year’s meeting in Indianapolis have been alive; so I have heard about every response possible. Yet, this year, I heard something new.
My partner Andy Eubank was interviewing Jake Judge from Nebraska. When asked what it was like to attend convention he said, “The atmosphere here is unreal fostering 65,000 members who are just crazy passionate about agriculture.” The phrase “crazy passionate” jumped out at me as not only a good way to describe what goes on at the convention, but also is a clarion call for which all of us in agriculture should strive.
I think it is safe to say that most of us who farm or work in agriculture have a passion for agriculture, but it is that crazy part we need to work on. Let’s face it, most of the radical environmentalists, animal activists, science hating foodies, and mothers against Monsanto are certainly crazy but also passionate; however, their crazy passionate involves changing the way we farm and the food we eat. So why shouldn’t we be a little crazy? All of us need to get a bit more outgoing when it comes to promoting a better understanding about agriculture.
I have noticed that, over the last few years, FFA has been talking more and more about advocacy as well as leadership and career development. Top FFA officials are now openly talking about how their students can play a role as advocates for agriculture. But, youthful enthusiasm will not be enough. We need to be strategically smart as well as crazy passionate.
Connecting with consumers and policy makers and helping them connect the dots is also needed. Explain why biotechnology is important to preserving the safety, nutrition, and availability of our food supply to a mother. Show a member of Congress why supporting crop insurance, renewable energy, and a guest worker program benefits all of their voters, not just farmers.
When the Blue and Gold Jackets don’t fit anymore, let’s keep that crazy passion for agriculture — but add some strategic practicality as well. It is easy to be crazy passionate when you are in a room with 65,000 other people who are also crazy passionate about agriculture. The real challenge is to take that crazy passionate attitude into the real world and make a real difference.
By Gary Truitt