June 20, 2024

FFA Corner: Travel teaches FFA officer about the backbone of America

The beginning of June started in the Northeast. I spent a week visiting schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and learning about their agriculture programs.

It always surprises me how different agriculture is all over the country. It’s not all corn and soybeans that I grew up with in western Illinois.

The schools I visited were Dover, Seacoast School of Technology and Alvirne in New Hampshire, and Franklin County and Smith in Massachusetts.

After that week, I spent some time in Connecticut at their State FFA Convention. It was held at the University of Connecticut, with about 250 members in attendance.

While there, I was introduced to Moxie, New England chips and the almost overwhelming accents of the Northeast.

A quick plane ride after that landed me in Lexington, Kentucky — land of racehorses and sweet tea!

I spent some time attending their State FFA Convention, where I was introduced to bluegrass music, some “hole in the wall” pizza and ice cream places with the state officers and, of course, the accents of Kentuckians just as one would expect.

With Kentucky being a short drive away from home, I was fortunate enough to have some of my family come down and join me for a weekend in Kentucky. We spent the weekend visiting Kentucky Horse Park and one of the oldest distilleries in the state.

A drive up north landed me in Springfield to attend the Illinois FFA State Convention for the last time in blue corduroy. It was a great experience getting to be surrounded by all my people.

I was able to meet with so many people I met in previous years in the blue jacket and watch them grow into incredible leaders.

I got to meet up with my home chapter, Macomb, for a night and got to spend some time with my team, Adam, Jaton, Lauren and Kara.

Most of my family also got to come over to Springfield to watch me give my keynote speech on stage and that was heartwarming to be able to see them.

Being home reminded me why I care so much about agriculture, people and authenticity. It also reminded me why I decided to take the steps in the blue jacket that I did.

After I wrapped up convention season in Illinois, I took a flight to South Dakota to attend their East River Leadership Retreat. The week was full of camping, lake jumping, sports, line dancing, card games and a lot of memories made.

After South Dakota, a plane ride brought me to Tennessee for their Leadership Camp. This week, again, was full of laughter, learning and fun — at the oldest FFA campgrounds in the nation!

Camps are one of my favorite things I have done as a national officer because it’s time members just get to spend together and have fun and I love to be a part of those experiences while also listening to the wonderful stories of people all over the nation.

For the month of July, I will be in Arkansas and New York and then spend the rest of the month in Washington, D.C., with the rest of my team and state officers from all across the nation for the 2023 State Officer Summit.

With less than four months left in my position, I have learned quite a bit about the world. Agriculture looks different everywhere we look, but the passion and heart in the people involved is always consistent.

There is a lot of value in knowing who you are. There is so much good in this world that deserves more attention than it gets.

This year has been nothing short of meaningful with ups and downs, but I have learned more than I could have imagined about myself, people, this organization and the industry that is the backbone of America — agriculture!

Gracie Murphy of Macomb, Illinois, is the National FFA eastern region vice president. She is a freshman in agricultural systems and education at Southern Illinois University.