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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

FFA’s lasting impact on my life

By Kendra Ashendorf | Feb 22, 2018
Kendra Ashendorf

As I sit in my high rise condo, looking out over the modern east coast city I’ve called home for the last six years, I remember back more than 10 years ago to my sophomore year of high school, when I joined FFA.

I had never lived on a farm. I liked pets, but never had, let alone dealt with livestock. The only experience I had with crops was the small garden my mom, Vicki Tillis, would grow every summer in our backyard full of tomatoes, lettuce, corn, cucumbers, onions, or whatever else she felt like planting that year.

I wasn’t a “farm kid,” but I joined FFA because my cousin had a typical schoolgirl crush on a good ol’ Iowa farmboy who happened to be a member, and I, being a good friend, agreed to take the agricultural class and join the organization with my cousin. Little did I know how much of an impact FFA would have on my life in the future.

 

More than farming

Most people automatically think of farming when they think of FFA.

Granted that it is a big part of it, farming is not the only focus of the organization. One of the biggest things I learned in FFA was parliamentary procedure. All of the meetings were run according to procedure, and I even participated in a competition with a group of students to show our understanding and knowledge of how procedure worked. In FFA, I truly learned how a meeting should be held in order to be positive, effective, and productive.

Fast forward to the present, and I still use these procedures. Now that I own a condo, I’m part of a Home Owners’ Association who holds meetings every two months.

I never realized how necessary parliamentary procedure was until I went to our board meeting. It was not run by procedure, and there was so much negativity and unnecessary yelling that nothing was really accomplished.

Although I ran last election cycle and lost, I plan to run again next election cycle. Our HOA board needs some order, and hopefully I can teach them what I learned in FFA.

 

Ag 101

Living in Towson, a suburb of Baltimore, I have run into many different people from various backgrounds and walks of life. My husband comes from an Italian Jewish family, and our closest friends and neighbors are an Albanian and her French-American husband, a Korean-American man, and a former (US) Army brat and his Jewish wife.

I’ve even met those typical cliche yuppies who have no clue where food comes from. Yes, some people actually think brown cows make chocolate milk. They also don’t realize chicken that you pick up at the grocery store is the same as the feathery animal at the petting farm section of the zoo.

I always try to reeducate them, explaining farms are essential to life and they produce everything from the cotton that their designer T-shirt is stitched from, to the ethanol/gasoline blend they put in their luxury sedan, to the entire three-course meal they ordered for dinner. Their faces always contort into shock and awe when I share my “farming knowledge,” and I guarantee they’ll never forget what a gomer bull is.

 

Knowing where food comes from

Although FFA may not have inspired me to buy some land and start up my own farm, I gained so much knowledge and appreciation for farmers and everything that they do. Through the friendships I made, I saw how hard farming really is. Early mornings, late nights, whether it’s planting season, harvesting season, or calving season, there’s always something going on.

Farming is long hours and hard work, and FFA really made me appreciate that. I found a family-run farm that makes and sells its own ice cream, milk, pies, cookies, and even butchered meat. I always prefer to drive the 30 minutes to get their products rather than walking across the street to the mall, because it’s a great example of knowing where your food comes from.

The dairy cows’ pasture surrounds the creamery, and the cows will come right up to the fence. I like knowing that my money is going to a hardworking farm family, not a big corporation. Plus, it’s always nice to see the adorable Jersey cows with their big black eyes.

 

Future generations

FFA has taught me so much, and I know it will continue to do so for future generations. On my most recent trip to Iowa this past fall, I picked up a children’s picture book about Iowa at the Dutchman’s Store in Cantril. It was a gift for our best friends, as they had just told us they were expecting their first child.

Now that winter is becoming spring, their little girl is almost here. I know that she’ll grow up beautiful, well-dressed, well-educated, multilingual, and will no doubt be a world traveler as her family is scattered around the globe.

I also know that even if she grows up a city kid, she’ll know about farming, because she’ll have me to teach her. I hope she gets the chance to join FFA when she’s in school, and I’ll highly encourage her to do so. FFA can teach her so much, including leadership skills and the value of hard work.

Who knows, maybe the organization will even inspire her to start her own farm.

 

— Kendra Ashendorf graduated from Fairfield High School in 2006. She resides in Towson, Maryland.

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