This summer were thrilled to have Kailee Zimmerman as our summer intern. A past Arizona Beef Ambassador and Arizona FFA State Officer, Kailee shares about her FFA experience, and how important FFA is for the agriculture community.
We each probably have a few key childhood memories that stick out. Maybe these memories consist of visiting a favorite place, spending time with family, or experiencing new things. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing in my dad’s agriculture classroom during evening FFA chapter meetings and going to the county fair to watch his students show their animals. I can remember how kind the students were to me and I remember how much fun it was to sit in the bleachers and watch the “big kids” show. Family gatherings were also always filled with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents sharing story upon story of their time as FFA members and all of the fun memories they had. From a very young age, I began a countdown to the day when I could be an FFA member and have a blue corduroy jacket of my own.
The National FFA Organization is the largest youth leadership organization in the country with over 735,000 members across all 50 states and over 10,000 FFA members here in Arizona. More than anything, I wanted to be one of these students!
When the time came for me to enter high school and finally have the opportunity to be an FFA member, I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. I was going to a school that I loved, but it did not have an FFA chapter. I had to decide if I would stay at my school and miss out on FFA or move schools to one with an agriculture program. After lots of consideration and talking to many people, another option was presented! With the help of our principal, my school was able to get an FFA chapter chartered in 2016 when I was a sophomore. This decision and the forethought of my principal truly changed the course of my life.
Because I attended a small charter high school that focused on classical education, my experience in ag class did not look like I had always imagined it would. We did not have a big facility with a large greenhouse, I was the only student in my chapter that had grown up around livestock, and many of my friends had never even heard about the FFA until they joined ag class. Looking back, I am very grateful that my experience was different than I expected it to be because it allowed me to have a unique perspective on the importance of agricultural education.
Most people entered the class having no idea where their food came from and some even had some negative views about agriculture as a whole. However, these were the students that soaked up the lessons and gained the most out of their experience as an FFA member and an agricultural education student. I learned that there is no “one-size-fits-all” description of who should be involved in agriculture and who should be telling our story. We need everyone – no matter their background – to spread the truth about agriculture and to be better consumers. I believe that agricultural education and the FFA play a major role in doing that. My time as a member of the Trivium FFA chapter taught me that everyone has a place in advocating and working in agriculture, we just simply have to help them find it.