Aims and Purposes of the FFA

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Aims & Purposes of the FFA
Dr. Jim Connors, University of Idaho

Most former FFA members can still answer the question posed during opening ceremonies of FFA members: FFA members why are we here?  To practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Many can also recite the Mission of the FFA: Premier leadership, personal grown, and career success.  And of course, all FFA members can recite the motto and creed.

But how many former FFA members can recite the Aims & Purposes of the FFA.  Just as the Boy Scouts of America have their Scout Law – A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, etc., the FFA has had a list of aims and purposes since its inception in 1928.  However, these attributes have gone through slight modifications and changes over the course of nine decades.  This Friday Footnote will look at the history of the Aims & Purposes of the FFA.

This subject began with a simple question posed by Josh Berg, agriculture instructor at Okawville, IL.  Josh shared the picture of a large FFA banner with a list of characteristics and wondered what these were. Thanks to the knowledge and experiences of Dr. Gary Moore and David Laatch, retired agriculture teacher from Beaver Dam, WI, we had an answer.  These were the Aims & Purposes of the Future Farmers of America.

1929-1930 Manual

The Aims & Purposes first appeared in the very first FFA manual in 1929-1930.  The original list included:

  1. To promote vocational agriculture in the high schools of America.
  2. To create more interest in the intelligent choice of farming occupations.
  3. To create and nurture a love of country life.
  4. To provide recreation and educational entertainment for students of vocational agriculture.
  5. To promote thrift by members establishing savings accounts or making investments in agricultural enterprises.
  6. To afford a medium of cooperative buying and selling.
  7. To establish the confidence of the farm boy in himself and his work.
  8. To promote scholarship.
  9. To develop rural leadership.

The words in red are themes that will run through the Aims and Purposes for the next 70 years.

1931 Manual

The 1931 FFA manual included the same nine purposes with one slight change.  Purpose #9 was changed from Develop Rural Leadership to Develop local leadership.  By 1936 it had changed again to: Develop competent, aggressive, rural and agricultural leadership.  It would be interesting to know why “aggressive” was included with rural and agricultural leadership. There were also 2 new purposes added to the list:

  • To supplement the regular systematic instruction offered to students of vocational education in agriculture.
  • To improve the rural home and its surroundings.

1940 Manual

The 1940 Manual included 12 aims and purposes.  The primary aim of the FFA was listed as:

                The development of agricultural leadership, cooperation, and citizenship. 

The number of purposes had also grown to 12.  This was a significant change because the new purpose included three new characteristics that would eventually end up on the Aims & Purposes banner.

  • To develop character, train for useful citizenship, and foster patriotism.

Below are two photos of Aims & Purposes posters distributed to chapters by the national FFA organization.  One is titled Purposes and the other The Aims and Purposes. There are no dates on the posters.  It was reported to me that these are from the 1930s and late 1940s/early 1950s respectively.  Special thanks to David Laatsch and the Wisconsin FFA Advisors who shared these photos.

Figure 2: FFA  Purposes Poster (c. 1930s)

 Figure 3. FFA Aims & Purposes Poster (c. 1940s/1950s)

1970 Manual

In the earlier versions of the FFA Manual, the Aims & Purposes took up several pages and included detailed descriptions of each purpose.  By 1970, they had been reduced to 10 purposes that were printed on the back cover of the manual.  These are the same purposes as those listed on the banner from that era.

  • Leadership
  • Citizenship
  • Character
  • Scholarship
  • Improved Agriculture
  • Cooperation
  • Service
  • Thrift
  • Patriotism
  • Recreation

The addition of Service to the list of purposes is interesting.  Nowhere in earlier versions of the Aims & Purposes does the word service appear.  A more thorough review of all FFA manuals from the late 1960s and early 1970s may provide more information on this change.  However, at this time, I have no access to a complete set of FFA manuals to conduct this review.

Figure 4. Official FFA Manual – 1970 (back cover)

1990 Manual

Fast forward to 1990 and once again, the 12 Aims & Purposes reappear in more detail in the manual.  Wording changes to some purposes had been made to better reflect the changes in agriculture and society.  The 1990s version includes references to the global importance of agriculture, individual agricultural experiences (SOE or SAE), communications, human relations, management of resources, and farming had been changed to agriculture.  The complete list included:

  1. To develop competent and assertive agricultural leadership.
  2. To develop an awareness of the global importance of agriculture and its contribution to our well-being.
  3. To strengthen the confidence of agricultural students in themselves and their work.
  4. To promote the intelligent choice and establishment of an agricultural career.
  5. To stimulate development and encourage achievement in individual agricultural experience programs.
  6. To improve the economic, environmental, recreational, and human resources of the community.
  7. To develop competencies in communications, human relations and social abilities.
  8. To develop character, train for useful citizenship, and foster patriotism.
  9. To build cooperative attitudes among agriculture students.
  10. To encourage wise management of resources.
  11. To encourage improvement in scholarship.
  12. To provide organized recreational activities for agriculture students.

Five of the themes that appeared in the original aims and purposes in the 1929-1930 FFA manual remain.  These include leadership, agriculture, cooperation, scholarship, and recreation.  Two of the original purposes, thrift and cooperation have been rebranded as “economic resources” and “cooperative attitudes.”  The term “recreational” actually appears twice in the 1990s version.

2000 Manual

Jump ahead another decade to 2000, and once again the aims and purposes have been relegated to 10 ideas on the back cover of the manual.  Thrift, Service, and Cooperation have reappeared.  In fact, these are the same 10 purposes that appeared on the back cover of the 1970 manual, 30 years earlier.

Figure 5. Official FFA Manual – 2000 (Back Cover)

Mission and Strategies

By the year 2000, the FFA had started to promote the new Mission and Strategies for the organization.  The 1999-2000 FFA Manual has 10 purposes listed on the back cover. The Mission and Strategies are found on page 4, but the purposes on the back cover do not match up perfectly with the strategies on page 4. The 2000-2001 FFA Manual is the first manual to have the FFA Mission Statement on the back cover instead of the purposes.  A copy of the 2000 Manual Oficial for Puerto Rican FFA members includes the new Mission and Strategies in Spanish.

The 2002-2003 Official Manual includes the complete Mission and Strategies on page 4 and the Mission statement alone on the back cover.

As most FFA members know, the Mission of the National FFA Organization is to:

Make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. 

The 11 strategies closely resemble the aims of the organization. To accomplish the mission the FFA:

  • Develops competent and assertive agricultural leadership.
  • Increases awareness of the global and technological importance of agriculture and its contributions to our well-being.
  • Strengthens the confidence of agriculture students in themselves and their work.
  • Promotes the intelligent choice and establishment of an agricultural career.
  • Encourages achievement in supervised agricultural experience programs.
  • Encourages wise management of economic, environmental and human resources of the community.
  • Develops interpersonal skills in teamwork, communications, human relations and social interactions.
  • Builds character and promotes citizenship, volunteerism and patriotism.
  • Promotes cooperation and cooperative attitudes among all people.
  • Promotes healthy lifestyles.
  • Encourages excellence in scholarship.

 Four themes that have appeared in all lists of Aims & Purposes since the beginning of the organization have been carried over to the strategies.  These include leadership, agriculture, cooperation, and scholarship.  The concept of recreation has now been changed to healthy lifestyles.  Citizenship and patriotism which were added to the aims in the 1940s are still included in the list of strategies.

 Conclusions

The Aims & Purposes of the FFA have gone through many changes in the long history of the organization.  Over the decades, the content and wording of the document changed to reflect changes in both the organization and society.  As an agricultural youth organization, certain themes such as agriculture, leadership, cooperation, and scholarship remained prominent throughout the years.  During the war years in the 1940s citizenship and patriotism were added to the list of aims.  As the country moved away from its agrarian roots, the aims changed from a focus on “farming” to the more diverse focus on the big picture of agriculture and agricultural careers.

Even though the title of Aims & Purposes is no longer used, the strategies are still a very important list of what the FFA strives to accomplish.  Just as new FFA members are taught the ceremonies, motto, creed, and the Mission, they should be taught the strategies. Perhaps the National FFA should consider rebranding the strategies back to the original title of Aims & Purposes and promoting them as it does the Mission.

Contributions

I would like to thank the following individuals who contributed the idea and valuable information to this topic.

  • Josh Berg, Agriculture Teacher – Okawville, IL
  • David Laatsch, Retired Agriculture Teacher – Beaver Dam, WI
  • Dr. Gary Moore, Professor Emeritus, Ag. Education/FFA Historian, Friday Footnote Editor

___________________________________________________________

Appendix

The Aims & Purposes first appeared in the 1929-1930 edition of the FFA Manual.  The earlier lists included very rich and detailed description of how the aims and purposes could be attained.  They are very worthwhile reading.  The following are the complete Aims & Purposes from:

  • FFA Manual 1929-1930
  • FFA Manual 1931
  • FFA Manual 1936

Purposes of the Organization – 1929-1930

The purposes of this organization are:

1. To promote vocational agriculture in the high schools of America by:

  • Developing the pride of Future Farmers in vocational agriculture.
  • Encouraging members to improve the quality of their work in vocational agriculture so that other schools will want to establish similar departments.
  • Preparing stories for publication on supervised practice work.

2. To create more interest in the intelligent choice of farming occupations.

3. To create and nurture a love of country life by means of:

  • Hobbies.
  • Home and Farm Beautification and Improvement.

4. To provide recreational and educational entertainment for students of vocational agriculture by means of:

  • Father and Son banquets.
  • Vacation tours and summer camps.
  • Fish frys, weiner roasts, and swimming parties.
  • Judging contests
  • Agricultural plays, minstrels, and other similar kinds of entertainments.
  • Public speaking contests.
  • Entertainments put on with home economics class.

5. To promote thrift by members establishing savings accounts or making investments in agricultural enterprises.

6. To afford a medium of cooperative buying and selling by:

  • Members buying pure seed, fertilizers, food, etc., collectively.
  • Members pooling their supervised practice products for sale at the best available market.

7. To establish the confidence of the farm boy in himself and his work by:

  • Affording him an opportunity to make decisions for himself in important matters.
  • Giving him a chance to measure his agricultural skills against those of his fellow Future Farmers and the adult farmers in his community.
  • Suitable awards.

8. To promote scholarship by:

  • Requiring high standards for classroom and supervised practice work among the Future Farmers.

9. To develop rural leadership by:

  • Giving members a chance to exercise leadership in the organization.
  • Giving them a chance to assume worthy responsibilities.
  • Giving them an insight into the need for rural leadership.

 

The Future Farmers of America Organization and its Purposes – 1931

The purposes of this organization are:

  1. To promote vocational agriculture in the high schools of America by developing the pride of Future Farmers in vocational agriculture, encouraging members to improve the quality of their work in vocational agriculture, and the like. The publication of news stories of chapter activities and the staging of Future Farmers exhibits and window displays are legitimate means of promoting this organization.
  2. To create more interest in the intelligent choice of farming occupations.
  3. To create and nurture a love of country life. Such things as the beautification of home and school grounds, woodland hikes and the study of natural phenomena make for increased appreciation of the country and country life.
  4. To provide recreational and educational entertainment for Future Farmers of America. The old saying that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, holds good for Future Farmers. Therefore, some provisions should be made whereby chapters can stage Father and Son banquets, go on vacation tours, hold summer camps, picnics and other recreational activities. Local and state judging contests, agricultural plays, minstrels, public-speaking contests and other similar kinds of entertainment are a welcome break in the monotony of school life.
  5. To promote thrift by membership through the establishment of savings accounts, and investments in agricultural enterprises.
  6. To afford a medium of co-operative buying and selling. Future Farmers should avail themselves of the opportunity to co-operate in the purchase of pure seed, fertilizers, feed and the like, as well as pool and sell co-operatively the farm products which are a result of their supervised practise [sic] work.
  7. To establish the confidence of the farm boy in himself and his work. This organization allows members to advance from grade to grade upon the basis of their achievement. Ample opportunity is given them to measure their agricultural skills and make decisions for themselves. Suitable awards are for those who prove themselves unusually capable.
  8. To promote scholarship. High standards of classroom and supervised practice work are required of Future Farmers who desire advancement in the organization.
  9. To develop local leadership. Future Farmers given ample opportunity to exercise whatever powers of leadership they possess. They are allowed to assume responsibility in order that they may be able to carry the burdens of leadership that fall upon the shoulders of local leaders in every community.

The Future Farmers of America Organization and its Purposes – 1936

The purposes of this organization are:

  1. To develop competent, aggressive, rural and agricultural leadership. Future Farmers assume responsibility and are given that measure of competent guidance to assure the successful completion of worthwhile undertakings which are within the scope of experience, training and ability of the membership. All activities taken by a chapter are the result of the given chapter setting up its own program of activities each year. Members are encouraged to assume responsibility in order that they may be able to carry the burden of leadership falls upon the shoulders of local leaders in every community.
  2. To strengthen the confidence of the farm boy in himself and his work. This organization allows members to advance from grade to grade upon the basis of their achievement. Ample opportunity is given for each to measure his agricultural and other skills and to make independent decisions. Suitable awards are made to those individuals and groups proving especially capable and worthy of recognition in chapter, state association and national organization.
  3. To create more interest in the intelligent choice of farming occupations.
  4. To create and nurture a love of country life.
  5. To improve the rural home and its surroundings. Such things as the improvement and beautification of the farm home and school grounds, providing labor-saving devices and modern conveniences, conservation projects, outings, and travel make for increased appreciation of country life and the home.
  6. To encourage co-operative effort among students of vocational education in agriculture. Members avail themselves of the opportunity to co-operate in the purchase of pure seed, fertilizers, feed and the like, as well as pool and sell co-operatively the farm products which are a result of their supervised farming work. Likewise, they act co-operatively for recreational purposes, for conservation of natural resources, in fire prevention, group insurance, group credit, relief of distress, and a multitude of other ventures adapted to group action.
  7. To promote thrift among students of vocational agriculture – through the establishment of savings accounts and investments in agricultural enterprises.
  8. To promote scholarship. High standards of classroom and supervised farming achievement are demanded of members who [are] advancing from one degree to another.
  9. To encourage organized recreational activities among students of vocational agriculture. Chapters hold Father and Son banquets, go on vacation tours, hold summer camps and picnics and provide a variety of group activities of an athletic character suitable to the season and facilities of the rural community. Local and state judging contests, agricultural plays, minstrels, public speaking contests, bands, orchestras and similar activities contribute to valuable outcomes of a recreational character.
  10. To supplement the regular systematic instruction offered to students of vocational education in agriculture. The F.F.A. organization is a self-teaching device because the boy-initiated and boy-directed activities included in programs of work provide a wealth of actual practical experience which otherwise might not be available to the student. Such experience further improves the member as farmer and as a citizen.
  11. To advance the cause of vocational education in agriculture in public schools. The organization develops pride in the program of vocational agriculture through encouragement of superior results being achieved in supervised farming, and all activities relating to the vocational program and the work of the F.F.A. organization. The publication of news stories of chapter activities; state and chapter papers; radio programs; exhibits at local, county, state and national fairs and exhibitions; and window displays; are representative of activities to advance the cause of vocational education in agriculture.

Attachments

    Outcomes