October 21, 2018
By Erin Cumings
Thinking about my upcoming trip to FFA National Convention has me reminiscing about previous convention trips; one in 2003 to Louisville, KY to see my middle sister receive her American Degree, and a few more back in high school, when National Convention was held in Kansas City, MO. I find myself “flashing back” to the countless ways FFA and Ag Education helped make me who I am today.
Erin back in her FFA blues.
I loved growing up on a farm and had been active in 4-H as a young kid, so joining FFA in high school made perfect sense. My first interaction with FFA competitions was as an eager Freshman. Mr. Pedersen, our Ag Instructor, had a contest for all Freshman students. The first student to memorize and recite the FFA Creed, got their FFA jacket for FREE. I was competitive, I was frugal, and I could memorize (three traits I still prize to this day)! I memorized the creed, won the FFA jacket that still hangs in my closet today, and later that year, competed in the Creed Speaking contest. Looking back, those experiences helped me build my confidence in public speaking.
My FFA career was filled with different competitions, from Livestock Judging, to Conduct of Meetings to Ag Sales. I always did well at sub-districts. Sometimes I advanced to districts and sometimes I did not. Each time I practiced, I got better, and even though I wished I would have gone farther and won more awards, I was proud of the personal gains that I made and the experiences it provided. Great life lessons in that you aren’t going to get every job or opportunity you apply for and you aren’t always going to be #1 – but I knew that I worked hard and was proud of the finished product.
I gained valuable leadership experience as Osceola Big Chief FFA Chapter Vice President, then President and participated in nearly all of our Chapter’s activities. I carry those leadership, project management, and time management skills with me every day. I also learned about balance. Through high school I balanced cheer, band, FFA, coursework, and farm chores – no different than I balance everything in my life today.
My SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) was sheep production and that led me to my Iowa Degree in 1999. I learned about entrepreneurship, record keeping, and ag production. My SAE serves as the building blocks for Matthew and I starting our full-service automotive repair business, our farm operation, and my side-hustle crafting habit, not to mention my role in Farm and Ranch Insurance at Nationwide.
Last, but definitely not least, I met my husband through FFA and while we cuss it on a daily basis, we have built one heck of a life together all founded on our shared experiences in FFA. He brags that he was Conduct of Meeting Sentinel, the hardest officer part possible on the 4th place Gold team at the Iowa FFA State competition in 1995. We may argue about who can still recite the Creed or Opening Ceremonies, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Earlier this year, we crossed a major milestone, working with a group of parents in our community to convince the School Board that we needed an Ag and FFA program at our school. Fast forward 12 months and the program is up and running and I couldn’t be more excited that with a little luck and a lot of hard work, our daughter will be able to have the same Ag Education and FFA opportunities that Matthew and I had. Through that work, we also became ♪♬ lifetime members of the FFA, hey ♪♬ and founding members of our local FFA and Ag Supporters group to ensure that our chapter has everything it needs.
Looking back, my involvement in the Osceola FFA, Big Chief Chapter laid the ground work for public speaking, resilience, leadership, entrepreneurship, record keeping, and ag production skills that I use every day as a Mom, Ag Professional, and FarmHer. I would not be where I am today without FFA.
I can’t wait to be surrounded once again by the sea of blue corduroy in Indianapolis. – I hope to see you there!
October 24, 2018
Now it all makes sense to me. I watch Erin do her job at Nationwide almost every day. I could never understand how she juggled all her responsibilities at work, and then went home to her family and farm to juggle even MORE. And, always maintains an even keel and a smile on her face. I always recognized FFA was an outstanding organization with exemplary members that is building our agriculture leaders of tomorrow. But this blog connected a lot of dots for me, including Erin’s competitive and frugal foundation. The memorization piece is a surprise! Thanks for sharing, Erin. Hope everyone has a great time … and wins awards! … at this year’s FFA Convention!
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