FFA and the Grange

This week, FFA chapters are celebrating National FFA Week. The Grange continues to have a strong commitment to this ag education youth organization. Subordinate Granges provide ag education scholarships and outstanding students in agriculture awards. State Granges connect with state officer teams. And many Grange members, including myself, have rocked a blue corduroy jacket and a blue subordinate Grange sash.

In honor of FFA Week, I am reposting the story I wrote back in the fall of 2010 talking about the connection between the two organizations. The story is as follows.

The Connection Between FFA and Grange

Walk the halls of almost any high school in America, and there are few things as universally recognizable as the blue corduroy of an FFA jacket. It is not only the unique style and bold colors that make it stand out, but also the young men and women who wear these jackets with pride. For many, the FFA is a focal point of their high school career. However, from the first time a student dons their FFA jacket, in the back of their mind, they realize it will one day come to an end.

Hanging up the blue jacket can be an emotional time for a retiring FFA member. They have invested countless hours in preparing for contests, developing leadership skills, and organizing their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project. Many are faced with the question of “what now?” For many, the Grange serves as the springboard for FFA alumni looking to take the next step in life.

Across the country there are Grange members, both current FFA members and alumni, who call the Grange home and say the blue sash of the Grange is a perfect fit.

From its inception, the Grange has advocated agricultural education, and has been an ardent supporter of FFA. Formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, the FFA was formed in 1926 to augment what was taught in the classroom with extracurricular activities. The Grange supported vocational education efforts, including the passage of several laws that lead to the FFA’s formation. The first FFA Executive Secretary, Henry Groseclose, was also a Seventh Degree Grange member, and is the author of the FFA Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Some might think the similarities between the two organizations are coincidental. However, look beneath the surface, and the connection is profound.

Victor Salazar, 2010-2011 Connecticut FFA State President said, “Both organizations are rooted in agriculture, both promote excellence, and both make the member a better individual.” Salazar served as the 2008 National Grange Youth Master as part of the National Grange Youth Officer Team.

“I believe the best way to illustrate the connection between the Grange and the FFA is to look at the closing charge of the Master in the Grange and the President in the FFA;” he cited the charges’ common themes of diligence in labor, honesty and fairness. While each is said differently, the similarity is undeniable.

“These were written more than 50 years apart from each other, yet they say basically the same thing. To me this exemplifies the connection between the two organizations the best,” Salazar said.

National Grange Master Ed Luttrell said the FFA provided him with several life skills that he utilizes today in his Grange duties. However, he is quick to point out that it was in the Grange that he was able to take the classroom experience and apply it to real life.

“That is why the connection is so positive. You learn the skills on one side (in FFA) and then use them on the other side in Grange,” said Luttrell. During his time in the Hillsboro Mid-High chapter in Oregon, Luttrell said he participated in every FFA contest possible, soaking up information “as a sponge.” A favorite contest was parliamentary procedure, a skill that comes in handy in his current role as National Master.

Former Pennsylvania FFA State Reporter, and Elizabethtown Grange member, Suzannah Mellinger said that the one unique aspect of the Grange is its sense of family among its members. It is one of the reasons she joined the organization near the conclusion of her State Officer career. She also noted that for FFA alumni looking for the next step in leadership, the transition into the Grange is an easy one.

Caroline Tart, the 2009-2010 National Grange Youth Mentor and Rosewood FFA Chapter member, is facing this difficult phase of her FFA career; putting on her blue jacket for the last time. Like Salazar, she has had an active FFA career, including chapter and regional FFA offices and serving as a National FFA convention delegate for her home state of North Carolina.

“Hanging up my blue jacket was a very tough realization and the end of an era,” Tart said. “However, having the Grange there helps fill the void immensely. I know that it is an organization that has a passion for agriculture and helps improve the youth of today and those two things are what I am passionate about.” She also noted her dedication to agriculture and education did not have to end with FFA and that she is able to continue her work, just in a different way.

2009 National Youth Officer Team Master Joe Stefenoni of California encourages FFA members to seek the Grange to use their talents; “Once FFA members are out of high school they have very few places to use those skills, and the Grange is one of the places they can.” He is a member of the Sebastopol- Analy FFA chapter.

As an FFA member who has an appreciation for the opening and closing FFA ceremonies, Stefenoni said he has developed a passion for such Grange traditions as its rituals, describing them as “beautiful.”

Pennsylvania’s Gail Switzer, 2008-2009 National Grange Youth Mentor, and Conrad Weiser, FFA Alumni, said the National Grange Youth Department activities allow her the opportunity to continue her leadership growth through contests such as public speaking, gaining responsibility by completing tasks, and making her community better through Grange service projects.

The Grange is noted for its traditions of family and rural advocacy. It is those traditions that have made the lasting impact for FFA alumni in the Grange.

“The thing I remember most from FFA is the friendships we had,” said Luttrell. “We were the ag boys when I was in FFA… in reality, we were a close bunch because of the activities. Those things are exactly the same in the Grange, except the friendship and fellowship is far deeper and much longer lasting. There is a real difference from being a group of just high school students to being a part of a group that includes grandparents and little kids. The family structure of the Grange fills the void from FFA. It’s more than a bunch of peers, it’s a family. As we go through life, family becomes more and more important to us.”

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Motivational Monday: You have to do the hard things

I do enjoy reading the thoughts of great business leaders, agriculture bloggers or an inspirational book. One of my favorite bloggers is Lee Cockerell. Cockerell is the former executive vice president of operations for Walt Disney World Resorts. He runs a blog and I have several of his books on my to-do “wish list” talking about leadership and creating that Disney magic.

Today, Cockerell posted a blog about doing the hard things for success. The 19 item list comes from Dan Waldschmit, a business strategist and speaker.

Below are Waldschmidt’s list on what it takes to be successful. While this has been designed for businesses, many of these same principles can be applied to our work as Grange youth, Grange young adults or Grange youth/young adult program leaders. My challenge is to select a couple to apply to your Grange work this year.

Let me know what ones you select, and how you will answer the challenge. Several responses could be selected for a future blog posting.

You Have To Do The Hard Things.

  1. You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
  2. You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
  3. You have to give more than you get in return right away.
  4. You have to care more about others than they care about you.
  5. You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
  6. You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
  7. You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
  8. You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
  9. You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
  10. You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
  11. You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
  12. You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts”.
  13. You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
  14. You have try and fail and try again.
  15. You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
  16. You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
  17. You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
  18. You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
  19. You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

“The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on,” Waldschmit says, “Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

“The hard things are the easiest things to avoid. To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you. Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are.”

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Freeda Findings: Promoting Grange Youth

Charlene and I have spent plenty of time talking about how do we raise awareness to Grange youth and young adult opportunities in the community or subordinate Grange. Because, it’s the local Grange, that has the greatest impact on encouraging Grange Youth and Young adults.

In about six weeks, Grange Month will be here. We both think what a great opportunity Grange month provides for Grange Youth and Young Adults to have a lot of fun, encourage others to join their Grange and the chance to show others the impact of a Grange on its local community.

What better way to promote the Granges ideals of American Values, Hometown Roots.?

Need some help getting started? Here are some ideas. Also feel free to share your other successful ideas.

1.         Have a food drive-in.

2.         Organize job shadow days with Grangers, for youth and others to learn about different careers in their communities.

3.         Work with local and school newspapers, radio and TV stations to run public service announcements highlighting local Grange activities.

4.         Host a “fun night” at the Grange Hall with games like “Minute-to-Win It” or other game show activities, invite friends to attend.

5.         Partner with other local agriculture organizations to host a farm/city exchange between a local farm family and government official/local media personality. Host a Farm/City dinner/reception at the Grange to hear from both groups about their experiences.

6.         Work with elementary school students or your Junior Grangers to plant a tree—or two – in honor of Grange month.

7.         Hold a Grange Open House for the community and conduct interactive activities for participants.

8.         Connect with our agricultural heritage, host an ag career day to learn about different job opportunities. Invite local speakers, farmers, Extension agents, agribusiness owners and managers. Statistics show this will be an employment growth industry for young people.

9.         Conduct a “Flat Stanley” contest for members to photograph their Stanley at different Grange events.

10.       Organize a community clean-up campaign.

11.       Invite your state Grange youth royalty to speak at a community Grange meeting or participate in a local Grange event.

12.       Work with a local FFA chapter on a joint community service or agricultural awareness activity.

13.       Partner with other youth or young adult organizations on a community service project.

14.       Determine your “Top Ten Reasons” to join Grange and utilize them during an event to generate awareness to your Grange.

15.       Host a Grange movie night, invite the community to the Grange hall.

16.       Host food and clothing drives or other community-wide outreach.

17.       Tweet it. Post it. Like it up! Post your activities and encourage them to go viral through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

18.       Organize a school supply or toy drive.

19.       Create a fun video of Grange youth/young adult activities, post the video online and use to promote your local Grange’s impact.

20.       Put on a petting zoo, pedal tractor pull or coloring contest for elementary students.

Invite non-members to a meeting.

21.       Host a dance in your Grange Hall or organize a barn dance.

22.       Look into hosting events like a lock-in, pizza party, movie night, bowling, karaoke, and more.

23.       Have a local mayor and/or other community officials sign a Grange Month Proclamation.

24.       Present a community service award/ honorary membership awards to a Grange youth supporter.

25.       . Volunteer for a day with Habitat for Humanity.

26.       Host a bowl-a-thon, raise funds for the National Grange Youth Foundation.

27.       Organize a celebrity “cook off” – could be chili, ice cream, or other local food specialty – invite the community in to sample the entries, and select a winner.

28.       Organize a “youth/young adult officer” night. Let youth and young adult Grange members run a Grange meeting.

29.       Invite your state youth director or youth committee member to speak at a Grange meeting about state youth/young adult events/opportunities.

30.       Invite your state master and Grange herd partner to speak with your Grange youth. Get a photo with their Grange herd mascot and share on my Facebook page.

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

Posted in community service, Freeda the Mouse, Grange, Grange Month, Uncategorized, youth idea | Leave a comment

Freeda Findings: Ponderings from the National Grange Youth Mascot

Greetings Grangers! I hope everyone has had a great weekend and is looking ahead to a positive week. For those who don’t know who I am, I am the Grange Herd representative assigned to help grow the National Grange Youth Department.

I have been settled in at my new home in Pennsylvania with National Grange Youth Director, Charlene Shupp Espenshade. I have not been to as many meetings as some of my fellow herd mates, but Charlene has kept me busy working on ideas for the National Grange Youth Department.

Looking around Charlene’s house mixed in with all of her Grange items are things from a fraternity she belonged to in college. Actually there were two, one was Kappa Alpha Theta, a member of the Panhellenic Council, the second was Alpha Zeta, an honorary, agricultural fraternity. It was interesting to learn about both of these organizations.

One item I found interesting is how often she wore her letters for the two organizations. Charlene said that especially with Kappa Alpha Theta, on Fridays, they would have either – “dress to pin” or letter day. On dress to pin days, she said members would dress up, usually in business casual and wear their fraternity pin. On letter day, the members would wear a shirt with their fraternity letters on them. The idea was to promote awareness of the chapter on campus.

I, of course, was fascinated. It also got me thinking. Why couldn’t Grange youth have their own version of this? Proper attire for attending a Grange meeting requires members wear a Grange emblem, tie tack or pin. Why could that not work amongst the public?

I have asked Charlene about the idea of establishing a “Grange dress day” where Grange youth and young adults would be encouraged to show their Grange pride one day a month. She says it’s a good idea, but she needs more feedback as to what others think. I think selecting the third Friday of the month might be a good idea for a National date, plus local and state Granges encourage “Grange dress days” the day of a Grange event or the day before if heading off to a state Grange event. Thoughts? Leave a comment here.

Also, don’t forget to “like” my Facebook pageFreeda.

Posted in Freeda the Mouse, Grange, Uncategorized, youth idea | 1 Comment

Can You Make a Difference in a Life?

Paying it forward. Random acts of kindness. Making a difference. This past Saturday, Jan. 18 one small gesture went viral online. Sgt. Ariel Soltura wrapped up a routine traffic stop in Rosenberg, Texas. He saw a boy standing alone, tossing a football, looking for someone to play with.

What happened next, tugged at the heart strings of America. With Soltura’s dashboard camera still running, he stopped the car. The kid leaves the frame, only to return running, going deep to catch a football, tossed by the officer.

“Everyone that sees it has probably at one time thought that they were that kid,”  Soltura said.

Think of ways you and your Grange can make a difference. Isn’t that how we make our communities better? One person at a time?

ABC News named the officer “America Strong” to see the segment go here.

 

 

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Seahawks Player Provides Inspiration, Deaf Awareness

Seattle Seahawks player Derrick Coleman is a one-of-a-kind NFL player. He’s made national news this week, not as a member of a Super Bowl Bound team, but because he is legally deaf.

The national stir began with the release of a Duracell battery commercial. The commercial has reached more than 7.5 million hits.

The premise of the commercial focuses on his long road to overcome obstacles to achieve NFL greatness. While the commercial is geared to promote batteries, Coleman says it is so much more.

“It’s spreading awareness not just for the hearing impaired but for everybody,” Coleman said to the Associated Press. “Everybody has problems, but we can still do what we want to do.

“I’ve been doing this since I was in college. Like I always tell everybody, there might be 100 people in the room, but if one walks away knowing, ‘I can still chase the dream,’ that is all I care about. It’s heartwarming.”

In so many ways, Coleman’s story is exactly that, too. As a kid, he was a strong, fast athlete, but often was chosen last in pickup games because of the hearing aids. He also was picked on because of his deafness. But he’s never allowed it to be a handicap, as his place in the NFL confirms.

Coleman was a standout at UCLA before being picked up last winter by the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent. He’s proven his worth to the team, and continues to serve as inspiration to others about achieving their dreams.

The National Grange Youth Department, and National Grange, has long supported projects that raise awareness to deaf and hard of hearing. Both issues challenge rural America. Hearing loss of farmers, who spent their career working around loud equipment, is still a problem today. Young people are at risk by misuse of earbuds, playing music, videos too loud. And, for families with deaf or hard of hearing at home, assistance may not always be easily accessed.

Grange youth should take up the challenge this year to learn how to sign the sign language alphabet or learn how to sign a song to compete in their state sign-a-song contest. There are plenty of deaf educational resources available online.

While each Granger will pick a side in the 2014 Super Bowl, I believe every Granger should root for the awareness Coleman is bringing to a legacy issue of the Grange.

To see the Coleman video go here.

To learn about the William Ireland Deaf Achievement Award go here.

Posted in Deaf Awareness, Grange, Uncategorized, William Ireland | 1 Comment

Hello world!

We’re your neighbors

The Grange is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in more than 2,100 hometowns across America. We have nearly 150 years of history, a spirit of grassroots advocacy, and a fraternal spirit that we’re happy to share with you.

To learn more about the Grange, read our Declaration of Purposes) or download a membership brochure . You can also learn more about Grange Youth for those 14 to 30 years of age and Junior Grange for children 5 to 14 . Grange members enjoy many benefits, including discounts on energy, vacations and medical services. To learn more, read our member benefits brochure .

We’d love to tell you about the exciting opportunities the Grange offers. Stop by a meeting anytime. They’re always open to the public. If you’d prefer to support rural America and agriculture on your own time, you can look into E-Membership. E-Members enjoy the same benefits as community Grange members and have all materials delivered to their inbox. American Values. Hometown Roots.

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