Believe in the Future of Agriculture

Latham Seeds Tyler Stenjem

Tyler Stenjem grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm but developed a love of swine genetics through the FFA. As an active member of the Cambridge FFA Alumni Chapter, he mentors student members who are interested in raising or showing pigs.

Every generation has its hardships and triumphs. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, we continue to survive and thrive.

While spending many hours in the car by myself recently, I started thinking about the timelessness of the U.S. Constitution. How did our forefathers have the foresight to write words that are just are relevant today as they were in 1787 as they are today? Likewise, how did E.M. Tiffany have the foresight to write the FFA Creed in 1928?

National FFA Week seems like an especially fitting time to reflect upon the Creed:

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

I believe that to live and work on a good farm, or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement, I cannot deny.

Although there are more paragraphs in this creed, I want to ponder the first two. Everyone across the world has experienced discouragement in the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many Iowa farmers also suffered loss from the derecho in August 2020, which is the most costly thunderstorm disaster in U.S. history.

Every generation has had to face massive changes. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do as Iowa’s storyteller and historian Darcy Maulsby explains.

“Farmers 100 years ago needed this grit more than ever,” writes Maulsby, who authored Iowa Agriculture: A History of Farming, Family and Food. “I think of my grandfather Glenn Dougherty, who was born in 1897 on the family farm north of Lake City, Iowa. He came of age during ‘long depression’ that started in the 1920s, a decade before the Great Depression engulfed America.”

West Fork FFA 2020

West Fork FFA 2020

“What a swift, shocking change this was from the Golden Era of Agriculture that started in the early 1900s and culminated with World War I,” adds Maulsby. “By then, all sectors of the American economy were producing as much as possible to help the war effort, and ag exports boomed. In the years just after World War I, however, prices for farm goods fell by half, as did farmer income. Banks did not renew notes but mortgages and bills still came due.”

Record production also caused prices to plummet in the 1980s, and my parents’ generation experienced the Farm Crisis. The Federal Reserve’s tight money policies were intended to bring down high interest rates but caused farmland values to drop 60% in some parts of the Midwest from 1981 to 1985.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment during these unnerving times, but history provides us with valuable perspective. The last paragraph of the “FFA Creed” puts into words what I feel in my heart:

I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.

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Members of the Mountain Lake FFA program show at the Minnesota State Fair.

I feel blessed to be part of a family-owned seed company that is headquartered in America’s heartland. I am honored to work with a network of other agriculturalists across the Upper Midwest who share my passion and who also are committed to being a positive influence in their communities.

Today we celebrate those who continue to carry on the tradition of wearing the blue jacket. I will forever be thankful to my dad, who was a member of the Riceville FFA and encouraged me to join FFA when I was in high school. I also am thankful both of my kids participated in FFA activities, too.

Join us this week as we celebrate the blue and gold tradition. Below are links to FFA-related blog posts: