Kentucky FFA is the Good Stuff
I’ve always been so proud to work for Kentucky FFA, raising support for our hard working FFA members and connecting with Alumni whose heart still beats for National Blue & Corn Gold jackets. However, I can honestly tell you, that I’ve never been more proud to work for Kentucky FFA than through the COVID-19 pandemic that has flipped all of our lives upside down. When schools closed in March, it was right in the thick of “FFA season”. Agriculture teachers and members across Kentucky were preparing for regional contests, opening their greenhouses and recognizing graduating FFA members at local banquets. Then the world changed.
As event after event was canceled, Kentucky FFA State Staff and agriculture teachers didn’t stop. They shifted, adapted and provided opportunities for Kentucky FFA members. As part of our Virtual FFA Convention, over 1,000 Kentucky FFA members competed via Zoom in various speaking & career development events. This was no small feat! It took hundreds of judges, volunteering hours of their time to support our members. It took all of our sponsors to make sure we could have a high quality virtual event and recognize our students. It took agriculture teachers encouraging, coordinating and delivering content remotely. And most of all…. It took Kentucky FFA members, zipping up their FFA jackets in their kitchens and living rooms, shaking off the nerves and giving their best effort in front of a computer in their homes. It wasn’t ideal, but we didn’t cancel. Agriculturalists are the most resilient and resourceful folks on the planet, and our members are growing those qualities of perseverance now.
I recently got to visit with our 2020 Kentucky State Star Farmer, Randall Mattingly from Marion County. He told me that at his first State FFA Convention, he watched our “State Star” program and told his ag teacher that day that he was going to be Kentucky FFA State Star Farmer. The highest honor we can bestow in Kentucky FFA typically comes with a lot of fan fare, a big stage, bright lights, music, parents & teachers running on the stage from the crowd…. It is one of my favorite moments of convention each year. This year, Randall took a break from running an excavator, tuned in to Virtual FFA Convention from his phone and found out he received our top honor while he was by himself and working.
I’ve shed a few tears about that. First, I am really sad that he didn’t get to have his moment and I’m sad for the thousands of students across Kentucky that missed out on life milestones they had dreamed of. But it also makes me really proud and it drives home an important lesson I’ve learned from COVID-19 - at the end of the day, the fanfare isn’t so important, it’s about the stuff you’re made of when no one else is watching. Folks, let me tell you, FFA is proving what we’re made of, and it’s the good stuff.
For the past year, the Kentucky FFA Foundation has been working on a new major gift program and my plans for 2020 included events across Kentucky sharing the great opportunity folks had to support FFA. Though the big events full of hugs and handshakes are postponed, our mission and vision has not. So just like FFA members have taught me, it’s not about the fanfare, it’s about the substance… and that’s what our new giving program is. Substance.
We have now created an opportunity for folks to make an endowed gift to the Kentucky FFA Foundation, choose HOW it will impact FFA members and then choose WHERE their dollars go. That means that if your heart for FFA is located in your hometown, you can make a gift to the Kentucky FFA Foundation and the fruits of your gift will forever, be given back to those members. The “Forever Blue” program is built along three pillars of philanthropy that support our vision: Growing Leaders, Building Communities & Strengthening Agriculture. This ensures that in 50 years, your gift is still relevant to the initial gift, always honoring a donors intent.
There are so many ways you can make a legacy gift like this. I would love to tell you more, but you can always see the details about this and ways to make a gift on our website: kyffa.org/ways-to-give
If this pandemic has made you stop and think about your priorities, the important things that have mattered in your life, the things that built up substance in you…. I hope FFA stays on the list of important things and I hope you know that we still need you. Today, you can make a lasting impact on the FFA members of tomorrow. They inspire me every single day and we need them more than ever. It would be a pleasure to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org or 606-782-4620.
This article was orginally featured in The Farmer's Pride.