Learning, Doing, Earning, and Serving
Colton Chambers seems ordinary enough. A soft-spoken 18-year-old in a buck print T-shirt and worn camouflage hat, he is sorting through photos of trapping trips and taxidermy mounts, wildlife and the prom, which he attended with his girlfriend, Hayley, the pretty, dark-haired girl sitting beside us in the workshed. Stylish as any city girl, she’s excitedly telling me about their competitiveness on fishing and hunting outings. Then we flip through clipping after clipping of newsprint, detailing Colton’s awards. Yet he is more interested in discussing a recent loon sighting, and how the outdoor activities he loves benefit wildlife management, than the competitions he has won.
I should have expected it really; FFA members are never ordinary. Nor is their understanding of conservation issues.
Being an FFA member requires dedication and ambition. The group’s motto is, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” As such, expectations go beyond strong performance in the business of agriculture; the organization promotes excellence in scholarship, building interpersonal skills through teamwork and social activities, volunteerism, healthy lifestyles, and wise use of natural resources. The Department of Conservation takes pride in assisting the organization in the last.
“FFA is really important to conservation,” explained Veronica Feilner, the Department’s agriculture education coordinator. “In the long term, agriculture cannot be successful without conservation, and conservation cannot be successful without responsible agriculture. If we don’t conserve our resources and use them wisely, they won’t be available for either agriculture or wildlife.” The Department supports FFA’s efforts by developing programs and materials for teachers, assisting with annual FFA leadership camps, creating exhibits and displays for conference and career shows and by awarding the United Sportsmen League Wildlife Conservation Grant to FFA chapters. FFA supports conservation by promoting good land stewardship and respect for the resources we all depend on.
There are few partnerships more critical or mutually beneficial than the one between agriculture and conservation, and FFA not only merges these two interests, but benefits a third as well—education. “The additional resources and opportunities that FFA brings to schools helps students develop valuable study, life and professional skills,” explains Veronica, “as well as improving agricultural literacy in a society often removed from the sources of its food, fiber and natural resources.”
While conservation education is woven throughout the FFA curriculum, students may also choose to learn advanced career skills in a conservation or environment-related field. One of the proficiency areas offered is