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Looking back at the future of farming

Agriculture.com Staff 03/23/2006 @ 9:58am

"I believe in the future of farming," are the first words of the creed of the Future Farmers of America. As a high school freshman in vocational agriculture in 1963 and a member of the FFA, I entered the creed speaking competition. I ended up representing my local chapter at the first level of competition against other freshman FFA students appropriately called Greenhands.

Forty-three years have gone by, and I re-read the FFA creed again. Forty-three years ago, I had no idea I would be where I am now or that farming would be where it is now. How's that for believing in the future of farming?

I re-read the FFA creed because I wanted to see how the words I recited at age 15 applied to today at age 58. What I knew about the future of farming then was little or nothing. What I know about the future of farming today might be a little more informed, but I am still not going to place any bets on the future. Any prediction would be my best guess, with the emphasis on guess.

Who could have predicted the concentration of the livestock industry? Who could have imagined precision steering and application of fertilizer and herbicide by satellite? Or how about a box in your combine that collects data that is fed to a computer resulting in a map showing the varying yields across a field?

In 1963 who would have thought of 24 row planters with 8- and 12-row combine heads? In 1963, 30-inch rows were the hot topic. Tractor cabs were a thought in someone's head and wouldn't become common for another ten years. In 1963, the biggest wagons were not as big as the size of today's combine bins.

Who would've thought that the vocational agriculture classes and FFA chapters that were practically in every school would decline in numbers with many schools not having an agriculture program today?

The FFA was established in 1928, and the creed was adopted at its third convention, which I assume would have been in the early 1930s. To say, "I believe in the future of farming" then was during the Depression. How could you "believe in the future of farming" at that time without laughing or crying?

The FFA creed was revised at the 38th and 67th conventions. The first change I saw was dropping the word "farmer" in favor of "agriculturalist." In the same paragraph after the phrase "live and work on a good farm" the phrase "or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits" was added. Then "farm life" was changed to "agricultural life." The FFA seemed to be recognizing that the numbers of farmers were declining and it was necessary to be more inclusive.

In the following paragraph "organized farmers" became "progressive agriculturalists." The sentence "I believe we can safeguard those rights against practices and policies that are unfair" was eliminated. Sounds like the FFA knew livestock concentration was coming.

The sentence "I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining" was left unchanged and in place. What was good in the thirties is still good today. The rest of the creed remains unchanged as well.

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