What’s your journey? Is it the same as my journey? In all likelihood, we are not on the same journey, but we have had the same reactions to our ups and downs. This is the joy of an agricultural life! Whether you are a farmer, agribusiness woman, or agricultural teacher, I share with you in the “joys and discomforts of agricultural life” while still holding “an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.”
As a dairy farmer’s daughter growing up in northern St. Lawrence County, I was an active member in my local agricultural community having served as a leader in both 4-H and FFA. As a result of those experiences, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be able to offer those same opportunities and eye-opening adventures about just how vast the agricultural industry truly is.
In my twenty-three-year career as an agricultural educator and FFA advisor, I have certainly experienced many ups and downs. There is always the question of, “Am I doing enough?” in the back of my mind as I attempt to introduce more and more non-farm students to the variety of topics, experiences, and challenges involved in our industry. My goals have evolved over the years, but the true root of my educational goal remains the same - open my student's eyes to the trials and tribulations that such a small population of our region, state, and country take on to feed the world. If they can understand where their food comes from, and just how much effort is needed each day to meet the nutritional needs of the world, then I’ve succeeded. Awareness, appreciation, and understanding are all key concepts both in and outside of my classroom. I want to prepare students to be contributing leaders in the communities they choose to call home in their adulthood.
As we continue to work through this pandemic, I know that we all share in challenges and roadblocks that we never could have imagined possible. There are days that I celebrate having all my students in the classroom. There are days that I struggle with how to teach students how to weld virtually. Who would’ve ever imagined that we would be struggling to juggle such an overlap of home life with work life through a computer screen? As an educator, I feel that we often have to re-brand ourselves and our programs to entice students to walk through our classroom doors. Agricultural education is not a mandated course offering, so I find myself continuously having to remarket and sell what I teach. Does that sound familiar? The agricultural industry is always having to fight the stigmas that social media can quickly light a fire for those who don’t take the time to learn about the practices and importance of agricultural ways. Similarly, in education, students are more and more influenced by social media outlets. Their attention spans are short, so the need to consider how I am educating students is always evolving to reflect what they are exposed to via their electronic devices.
In agriculture, there are wins and there are losses. There are highs and there are lows. I think it’s important to remember that while we often feel alone, regardless of what aspect of agriculture we serve, we are all truly in this together. I know that isolating feeling all too well. If I see another adult throughout my school day, it’s often only because I seek them out. Sound familiar? While it’s easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to others around us, I think it is more important to remember that we make a difference every single day. We may not see or feel it, but each of us is contributing to an industry that is stronger together. You may be producing milk for the tri-state area. You may be offering a service to make the agricultural way of life just a bit easier. You may be educating the next generation on the importance of all these aspects. No matter your role, no matter your setbacks, you make a difference. So, do I. Do I question that fact? Yes. Every. Single. Day. Do I keep going back and keep trying? Absolutely!
Agriculture is a lifestyle, not a job. What we do matters! I see you, I represent you in education, I am building a generation of agriculturalists who will make a difference too. Together, we can continue to build up an industry that always has been and always will be the backbone of our country. “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.”