Farm Food Facts

FFA and the Next Generation of Farmers

February 26, 2020 Episode 65
Farm Food Facts
FFA and the Next Generation of Farmers
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
FFA and the Next Generation of Farmers
Feb 26, 2020 Episode 65
USFRA

Over the past week, more than 700,000 FFA members across the country have shared the story of agriculture as part of national FFA week. We celebrate the future farmers of America week for good reason. As the top school-based youth leadership development organization in the nation, FFA continues to help young people meet the new agriculture challenges by helping members develop their unique talents and explore their interest in a broad range of career pathways. 

On today's episode is FFA President Kolesen McCoy, FFA Secretary Kourtney Lehman and Eastern Region Vice President Tess Seibel.

Show Notes Transcript

Over the past week, more than 700,000 FFA members across the country have shared the story of agriculture as part of national FFA week. We celebrate the future farmers of America week for good reason. As the top school-based youth leadership development organization in the nation, FFA continues to help young people meet the new agriculture challenges by helping members develop their unique talents and explore their interest in a broad range of career pathways. 

On today's episode is FFA President Kolesen McCoy, FFA Secretary Kourtney Lehman and Eastern Region Vice President Tess Seibel.

Phil:
0:01
Farm Food Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm Food Facts for February 27th, 2020 I'm your host Phil Lempert. Over the past week, more than 700,000 FFA members across the country have shared the story of agriculture as part of national FFA week. We celebrate the future farmers of America week for good reason. As the top school-based youth leadership development organization in the nation, FFA continues to help young people meet the new agriculture challenges by helping members develop their unique talents and explore their interest in a broad range of career pathways. With us, we've got three other officers who are on the road getting the message out there. First of all, we have Kolesen McCoy. We have Tess Seibel and Kourtney Lehman. Welcome all to Farm Food Facts.
Kourtney:
0:59
Thank you.
Phil:
1:00
So what's interesting to me is you're traveling tests. So you visit New York and West Virginia. Courtney, you're going to go to South Dakota and Hawaii and, and and Colson goes to the Virgin islands. Hey Colson, I want to carry your bags.
Kolesen:
1:18
I'm sure we can make some room.
Phil:
1:20
Great. So tell us about why the three of you are involved in FFA and what you hope to accomplish.
Kolesen:
1:28
I think for each individual FFA member, that journey is very unique to them. For me in particular, it was always something that I realized that around me agriculture was tied into every other industry in the entire world. I just so happened to have some really good mentors and agricultural educators that poured so much into me going through high school that I realized at one point that the leadership that I hope to pursue wanted to go beyond the high school level and eventually the national level and honestly it's been one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever been. A part of. My lens of agriculture has been incredibly broadened to an international scope and now I hope to be able to serve and input into those members around us and encourage them to be able to find the potential within themselves as well.
Phil:
2:09
Do you come from a family of farmers?
Kolesen:
2:11
No sir. I do not. I actually grew up in a military family. My grandparents grew up on a farm. However, my immediate family was not directly involved in production agriculture.
Phil:
2:20
So Kolesen I've got to ask you, with all the, all the careers that are out there today, whether it's Silicon Valley high tech, I mean just all the things that are out there, why farming?
Kolesen:
2:32
Well, we actually had a really cool opportunity to be able to travel on an international experience to Japan back in January. And during our time there we spent some time with the FFA, the future farmers of Japan. It's our sister organization and we've had a longstanding relationship for a number of years now. But when we were there, the common theme that we had all realized was that agriculture goes far beyond culture. It goes far beyond just our borders and our lines to global industry that everyone has a part in. And I think understanding that theme that's shared within the industry of agriculture, I believe that there's a place in opportunity for everyone to be involved in agriculture. Now, if we look at agriculture in the 21st century, that goes beyond so much than just farming. You know, the taking, you know, taking the farmer who or who's out in the field, who's doing great work in order to feed and sustain the world. But going beyond that to, like you said, Silicon Valley, people who are business leaders to science professionals, the folks who are working in day to day on policy. Agriculture is a broad lens that encompasses so much more than just production farming today.
Phil:
3:36
And Kourtney, what about you? How old are you?
Kourtney:
3:39
I'm 21 years old, sir.
Phil:
3:41
Okay. And why, why be part of FFA?
Kourtney:
3:46
You know, one of my favorite things to tell people is that I was truly blessed to be born and raised in agriculture. Um, my family used to Darien, Idaho when I was first born. So by the time I was in diapers, I would take my morning bottle out with my grandma to help bottle feed the cats. My first word was actually mu. The agriculture has always been part of my life. And by the time I got to high school, I had the opportunity to spend every day out on the farm with my dad. We know farm over in Eastern Oregon. And what I learned working with my dad is that agriculture is an incredibly unique industry because it's one that people don't rely on for convenience every day. People rely on it for survival. And so that's it. They drew me into this program because I realized that it goes so beyond just the leadership and agriculture aspect, it's about creating a future for the entire world and about making sure that everyone has dinner on their table and everyone has clothes on their back. And FFA is a great starting point to really dive into that.
Phil:
4:42
So, so Kourtney, let me ask you, the average farmer actually loses money in this country. They have to have a second job in order to survive. You know, when you look at the prospects of farming, it's sort of bleak. Why would you choose of all the careers that that you could have, why would you choose farming?
Kourtney:
5:03
I think that's a question my dad asks himself every day. One of the phrases in the FFA creed, which is a five paragraph article that our members always learned at the beginning of their time, and SFA talks about the joys and discomforts of an agricultural life and not as something that I've got to experience growing up. You're right, it's not always easy. And the average farmer doesn't make enough half the years to cover the costs that they put into the industry. But every day when I watched my dad go out and work 20 hours a day in the summer for day after day, I realized that it's so much more than just an income. Agriculture is a way of life and every farmer knows that it's not just about making sure that we have a check to take care of our own families, but it's about making sure that we're putting in the work to take care of the families of the world.
Kourtney:
5:49
And I think that's what really draws me to be part of this industry is it's not always the most profitable, but to me it's one of the most worthwhile to be part of because it's so impactful on everyone's life. And it's so important because at the end of the day, if we don't have agriculturalists, we don't have anyone taking care of the world. We don't have people making sure that people are being fed and people are being closed and having that food and fiber products that we all really rely on. And so it doesn't have to be a profitable industry for me because the other benefits that we get for the people around us is what makes this industry what it is. And I think that's what really creates the culture of agriculturalist families is knowing that their work is really important for the people around them.
Phil:
6:29
So Tess, what has been the highlight of being on the farm for you?
Tess:
6:34
Feed on the farm. For me, I'm like Kourtney, my first word wasn't new, but it started when I was a little kid. My family is a vineyard and we planted that vineyard when I was about two years old. So I was actually small enough to fit inside of the holes that those plants are being planted on. So the most rewarding part about growing up in agriculture to me has just been to see the growth within my own family. My dad grew up on a dairy farm, actually on the same land that we currently have our farm, but in his lifetime alone, they diversified to have beef cattle. And then in my lifetime alone, we diversified to have a vineyard as well as beef cattle. And throughout sofa I began to develop a love of science and started asking questions. So in my lifetime of 21 years, we've diversified, but if we look at that over generations, we see farmers and families that are asking questions and figuring out how they can be sustainable into the future.
Tess:
7:29
I feel really blessed to have grown up in agriculture and blessed to grow up around people that are willing to make changes and to figure out how we're going to continue our family farm for generations to come. It's really inspiring to overcome challenges as a family, but to realize that growing up on a farm and agriculture has left us with some values of hard work and perseverance and realizing that the honest way of life and doing things the right way. It may be hard and it may be challenging, but it's worth it in the end because we know that we can lay our heads down at night and realize that we're doing something that's worthwhile and helping secure an abundant future for thousands of people that may be removed from the farm. But ultimately, I'm still benefit from agriculture.
Phil:
8:14
You said that, you know, in your generation you've expanded to vineyards is the next step to actually be bottling wines.
Tess:
8:24
Um, so the next step with my family is not to be bottling wine, but where I see myself coming back to the farm in the future is to diversify further and have a wedding venue and event space on our family farm. You know, it's, it's continuing to ask those questions about what is sustainable for my family. Putting in a winery is, is not the best option for us at this point. But
Phil:
8:47
it's a tough business.
Tess:
8:48
It's a tough business. But we see the possibility of bringing the public into agriculture through agritourism. I find a passion in that and sharing that story. And I've realized through FFA, the power of our stories and the power of stories, especially within agriculture and growing up on a farm. And I feel like it's my place and my responsibility as a young agriculture's to continue to tell those stories. So hopefully in the future, if you ever in Virginia, you need to get married, come buy our farm. But that's, that's where I see myself making an impact.
Phil:
9:21
Well, I'll get married for the second time on the farm.
Tess:
9:24
Sounds good.
Phil:
9:25
Second time with the same person, I should, I should clarify that. Reaffirm our value. Not a, not a second marriage. So let me, let me ask you all the same question. Look into your crystal ball and where do you see farming both the challenges and the opportunities in the next 10 years? Tess. Why don't you start?
Tess:
9:47
I think one of the biggest challenges that we're facing within farming, but also within agriculture in general is just, um, the idea of how we can continue to ask questions and to remain relevant in our society while respecting our traditions. That's something we're, we're facing within FFA. We're founded and we've had, we're close to a hundred years of history right now within our organization.
Phil:
10:15
Hey, you were founded in 1928, I think.
Tess:
10:18
Yes, 1928. So we're celebrating 93 years this year at our annual convention. But we recognize that to stay relevant in our world, uh, within FFA or within agriculture, it tastes, it tastes some verse and it takes doing things a little bit differently over time. For me, it was diversifying my family's farm, but for FFA and figuring out how we can remain up to date with what students need. But the thing that we also recognize is that there is a lot of value in tradition and the people that have come ahead of us, and I think that's especially relevant in agriculture where we're the backbone of America and especially rural communities. But we've recognized that those rural communities are a lot of generations deep at this point. And I think that the challenge that we're facing in we'll have to overcome is how can we tie tradition together and remain, um, respectful of all of the people that have come ahead of us, but continue to ask questions, continue to challenge ourselves to remain relevant so that we can go into the next, hopefully 100 years within FFA, but thousands of years within agriculture and continue to have a presence.
Phil:
11:28
Kolesen, what's in your crystal ball?
Kolesen:
11:30
You, you know, kind of going back to that point, I think the scope of farming is just constantly changing. I mean, we look back 10 years and we just had a visit recently with core Tevin. So much of what Cortef agriscience does is a research and development. And the reason why that is is because when you look at agriculture, when you look at farming, you have to constantly look ahead every 10 years and 10 year increments. And you have to, you know, look at the farm economy, what that's to look like. You have to consider general environment or climate impacts upon that? Um, general social changes within a society and a culture as well. And I think within the FFA, I think what's so unique is that the thing that I've always said is the SSA is a great reflection of the agricultural industry. I mean we are really shaping what the future is going to look like.
Kolesen:
12:13
And the best way that you can see the future of the industry is just to take a moment to go to a local FFA program, step inside of a classroom and look around and you're probably going to see a reflection of what the next generation of agriculture is going to look like. And the solutions that we're working towards a national level, we're really like working on our, our branding and our mission statement of what we truly believe in and what we're providing for young minds and agriculture across the entire country. And we do strongly believe that we're growing the next generation of leaders who are going to change that world and who those leaders are, what they look like are going to vary. But ultimately they share that unified purpose and mission, uh, feeding the world and creating a very sustainable solution to all of that.
Phil:
12:56
And Kourtney, what's in your crystal ball?
Kourtney:
12:58
I think I would definitely have to echo what both tests and Colson had talked about, but I think as we continue to grow as an industry, the thing that we have to remember is a lot of it goes back to consumers. That's who drives our industries and helps us make those decisions for research and development. And when I look at the future of agriculture, we talk all the time about the 9 billion that we're going to have to feed and close by 2050 and to do that we're going to have to increase agricultural production by 70 to 75% which is a huge task. And that's going to take a lot more of a workforce than we have right now. And so I think even as we continue to grow and develop and ask these great questions and molds what our industry looks like, it's really important that we make sure that we involve consumers and that we make sure we continue to tell the story of agriculture so that more people will want to participate in what we do. Because at the end of the day, a 70 to 75% increase in global production is going to take a whole lot of people and so to really do that in getting that involvement, we have to really focus on making sure that people understand not only who we are and what we do, but understand the role they are going to have to play in making sure that that happens.
Phil:
14:02
And Kolesen as the national FFA president, you get the last word and the question is what would you like existing farmers, consumers and retailers to know about FFA?
Kolesen:
14:18
One of the greatest ways that you can better understand what the FFA organization believes in is to take a look at the folks who are wearing the blue jacket themselves. They are. What I like to say is a breath of fresh air for folks involved in the industry, at what? Anything from production to consumption. They truly are a, what this country is, is a great reflection of and our deepest values. And we'd like to say that we are students of the past. All of us solve the problems of today to create a better future for all tomorrow. And that those are the beliefs of FFA members from all different backgrounds and ideals who are coming together to solve some of the biggest problems that we're facing in our industry. But ultimately it's for the betterment of our entire world.
Phil:
14:57
And if you want to know more about FFA, it's simple. Just fsa.org thank you all for joining us today on farm food facts. Thank you for more information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit food dialogues.com under the programs and media tab and visit us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.
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