This week is National FFA Week. To celebrate, Annalee Witte is guest blogging today. Annalee Witte is currently serving as the Indiana FFA State Secretary. She is 18 years old and the daughter of Mike and Jana Witte. Annalee is excited to serve the Indiana FFA and all its members.
During Annalee’s four years wearing the blue jacket, she has been highly competitive and incredibly active. She has been an officer at the chapter and district level. She served as the Vice President of Eastern Hancock FFA for the 2012-2013 year and the 2013-2014 year. This past year she served as the Treasurer for her chapter. At the district level, she served as the Reporter for the 2013-2014 year and as the Secretary for the 2014-2015 year. In addition to these leadership positions, Annalee has also attended Premier Leadership Training, CDE Camp, FIRE, and SOAR. She volunteered as a conference counselor at both SOAR and FIRE. One of Annalee’s favorite trips to take with her FFA chapter has been state and national convention. She has attended both for the past four years and has participated in the community service projects hosted at each one, including Kids Against Hunger meal packing events. Annalee has a passion for mentoring younger members, especially in leadership CDE’s. She enjoys helping younger members prepare for their competitions at district and state convention.
Annalee has been active in many community organizations including the Women’s Resource Center, 4-H, and Junior Leaders. She developed her own program called Little Princess to teach young girls about positive self-image through the Women’s Resource Center. She is a 10 year member in 4-H and has served as President of her 4-H club. She was also the President of her Junior Leaders Club and enjoys the monthly meetings and community service opportunities that come with it.
If you walk up to someone on the street and ask them what their first thought is when they hear the word, “Agriculture,” chances are you will hear many different answers. Personally, my mind immediately jumps to livestock.
I grew up on a small, family farm in Central Indiana, raising sheep, cattle, and hogs. Every year, I worked tirelessly during the summer to make sure my pigs were ready for the county fair. I would walk them up the road to the white fence post by our neighbor’s house and then back down to my house. Yes, I walked the pigs up and down the road.
After we returned to the barn, they would immediately walk to the wash rack all by themselves. They laid down on the cement in the small pen anticipating a cold, soapy bath to cool down after their work out. I scrubbed them down with Suave shampoo from Dollar General as they snorted in appreciation. Squeaky clean and bright white, I put them back in their pens, where they collapsed onto fluffy white shavings.
When I hear the word, “Agriculture,” this is what I see. But for others, the picture is completely different. Some see Grandpa’s farm with big red barn. While others see large farms where animals are living in miserable conditions. But, really technology has allowed for farms to evolve and learn from generation to generation. Unfortunately, today people with personal agendas to eliminate the consumption of meat or market their product as superior to another have created negative campaigns. These campaigns use fear mongering tactics to persuade the 97% of the population unconnected to agriculture that the industry is filled with deceitful people only interested in the in making money at an cost to the land, animals or community. They say certain practices like use of gestation stalls on pig farms are bad. Yet, farmers are doing things during the winter months that make sure pigs are warm, fed, and healthy.
This greatly saddens me, and it is something I will try to combat for the rest of my life. I have always wanted people to see agriculture as I do. However, lately I have realized maybe that’s not always not the right to have them see agriculture as I do, but just to see agriculture based on reality and not marketing campaigns. In order for me to help people see all the aspects of agriculture, I too have to expand my horizon and views of agriculture. Because, right here in my own backyard, there is a lot for me to see and learn, even on a pig farm.
After all, the scene I described earlier probably sounds very odd to someone who has never been to a county or state fair. What does “showing a pig” mean? Why would you take a pig for a walk? Why would you wash a pig? This year as an Indiana FFA State Officer, I have realized my view of agriculture is not all encompassing. It’s actually very narrow.
Growing up, I was only exposed to one, tiny part of the agriculture industry. After traveling around the state and country this year, I have seen many different parts of the agriculture industry. The truth is agriculture is everything. Your clothes, shoes, house, books, crayons, footballs, gas, furniture, and of course, food are all from the agriculture industry. Agriculturalists must become better at sharing this message. Sometimes we focus too much on our own experience and forget to share just how big agriculture is.
During this National FFA Week, we celebrate leadership, youth, tradition, and innovation. Who would ever guess agriculture is connected to those four things? As I travel this week, attending different events and meeting new people, I will be sharing this message—Agriculture is everything. Showing livestock may not resonate with everyone, but perhaps, telling people the apple they are biting into is agriculture will resonate. Perhaps, it will make them stop and think about how many parts of their life are being touched by this diverse industry.