The value of agriculture lies in its values

This week is National FFA Week! The week-long tradition began in 1947 when the National FFA Board of Directors designated the week of George Washington’s birthday as National FFA Week in recognition of his legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. The first National FFA Week was held in 1948. Today, FFA Week always runs Saturday to Saturday and encompasses Feb. 22, Washington’s birthday.

FFA was an integral part of setting my future in agriculture, and the values I gained from FFA are truly invaluable. Today, sharing about agriculture and its values, I have the great pleasure of featuring a guest blogger to start out this FFA Week, Indiana State FFA Secretary, Annalee Witte.

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ODAnnaleeMany times this year as Indiana FFA State Officers, my team and I have been required to talk about the value of agriculture. We can talk about the trade deficit, the GDP, imports, exports, surpluses, and shortages until we are blue in the face. We could tell you all about the hard times agriculture went through in the 1980’s, and the upswing we have been on recently. We can recite policy on GMO labeling, WOTUS, and various tax issues pertaining to farmers. We know the value of agriculture in percentages, dollar signs, and excel spreadsheets. However, we will all tell you the true worth of agriculture will not be found in those things. Calculators, computers, pens, and paper could never truly express the value of agriculture. The truth is—The value of agriculture lies in its values.

Maybe that was confusing, so let me say it again. The value of agriculture lies in its values. Still confused? Don’t worry. This was a concept I had never even thought of until this year, but first let’s go over some background.

Currently, the agriculture industry is in the middle of a huge public relations crisis. The average consumer is three generations removed from the farm. This means the average consumer has no idea where their food comes from, leaving plenty of room for fear mongering campaigns to come in and convince them of the evils of agriculture. When agriculturalists try to convince consumers the agriculture industry is, in fact, not evil we often use a lot of the same language I started this blog with—facts. We tell them about the economic benefits, the science, and the safety. However, we are all slowly starting to come to a very important realization. The value of agriculture lies in its values. If we want consumers to trust us, we have to start sharing our values in the agriculture industry. In today’s world, people do not trust institutions. Big is not better. Big companies, big government, and big agriculture are seen as untrustworthy in the eyes of the average American consumer. Rattling of factual information dehumanizes agriculture even more. However, sharing our values shows we are human. People want to know your core beliefs and morals.

So what are the values of the agriculture industry? As someone who has grown up in it, I think they are best outlined in the FFA creed. The creed is five paragraphs long, and from each paragraph a different value can be drawn.

From the first paragraph—faith—because we believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deeds. From the second paragraph—work ethic—because we believe in living and working on a good farm. From the third paragraph—honesty— because we believe in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest. From the fourth paragraph—charity—because we believe in playing square with those whose happiness depends upon us. Lastly, from the fifth paragraph—service—because we believe we can exert an influence in our homes and communities which will stand solid for our part in that inspiring task.

2015-2016ODPictureDuring this National FFA Week, we will celebrate the innovation, efficiency, and discoveries agriculturalists have made. However, we must never forget to celebrate the values we have held for centuries. Faith, work ethic, honesty, charity, and service are the reason we believe in the future of agriculture, and that is something worth sharing.

Annalee Witte
2015-2016 Indiana FFA Secretary

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