By: Travis Wyrick, Visalia VTEC
Los Angeles traffic, crowds, everything is expensive. State Conference has been held in Anaheim, again. An hour or more away from anything we would call production agriculture. Absent orchards, fields, steers, crops, poultry, and more. I would bet many agriculture teachers feel the desire to get in and get out of the city as quickly as possible. Yet I want to come back.
It was illustrated to me the Saturday night of State Conference that Anaheim gives my students pride. That evening, one freshman student came to me excited and elated. We were at dinner, and she had gone inside for more food at the buffet when someone asked her, “What is the FFA? What is the blue jacket and official dress all about?” A freshman, all of nine months in our program began to explain. Some call it the elevator talk, sound byte, “the convo” or simply the talk. Whatever your term is, we know all about that 1-2 minute talk with the public.
I found myself having that conversation at California Adventure and at the Convention Center multiple times. People wanted to know more about the FFA, those that had never met FFA members before and others that wanted to recount their past adventures in the blue jacket. Students in my car all had similar experiences, either as an individual or as a group. They were asked what we were in Anaheim for? What was the conference was all about? What they were involved in within the FFA? The best part was our members could answer their questions and more.
After her elevator talk, that young freshman came back excited and proud of the conversation she had. She related it all to me and the older students at the table while we smiled. The older students and I reminisced about the first time we had been asked the very same questions. She was welcomed into a fraternity of members all connected by one similar experience that we all share. Bless the person that talked to my student, they complimented that freshman on her poise and ability to communicate. When they finished, that person asked, “what year in college?” my freshman student was. That question sent her excitedly back to me and inspired this article.
These stories didn’t end, and the pride our students felt in themselves grew. This is what Anaheim brings to the California FFA. We are no longer preaching to a choir; no longer agriculture ambassadors in an agricultural county. Away from all that makes us and our students comfortable, we are now in the middle of it. Surrounded by a public that has little connection to agriculture and the FFA; where one conversation can impact a person and change an opinion. It’s true we are also among those whose minds can never be changed, but it is in Anaheim that our students gain confidence in themselves and their knowledge not often seen in other environments. Yes, the elevator talk is why I want to go back again.
I wish we had a pin that said, “Ask me about FFA!” “Ask me about Agriculture!” That conversation, if only for a minute, has a long-lasting impact on both our students and those that ask the questions. So long until next year, when the city is overrun with white vans and white trucks again.
For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/