October usually brings the opportunity for me to attend the National FFA Convention, and 2017 afforded me that opportunity again. The FFA convention is a gathering of more than 65,000 attendees hailing from all 50 states and beyond. The great majority of the attendees are high school and college students, each of whom is dressed in the classic blue corduroy FFA jacket. It is literally a sea of blue anywhere you look.
For many years now, the AASV has had a booth in the expo area of the convention. The booth is staffed by me and AASV members who volunteer. We have a number of interactions with students, usually with an interest in either pigs or veterinary medicine, and sometimes both. We have various posters and educational resources for the students, but often they just stop in to visit with us. This year’s volunteers at the booth were Drs Joel Sparks, Brad Schmitt, and Kevin Eggers. They did a great job of representing the association, the profession, and the pork industry! Ask them about all of the selfies taken with FFA members.
We also interact with a number of FFA advisors. Dr Sue Schulteis sends 400 advisor packets to be distributed. This enables advisors to pop in and grab a packet on the run if needed. The packets provide resources that can be used in the classroom and by individual students for projects. One advisor put it this way: “Our kids are bombarded by information from a number of sources, but your information is practical, straight forward, and fact-based.” The advisors are very appreciative for these packets, but also for the fact that the AASV is there at the expo.
Our booth was located near an area where there was music, line dancing, and karaoke. The talent and energy of many students was on full display. Also on display throughout the convention was an enthusiasm for agriculture and for leadership. The FFA nurtures both by allowing students to grow and find their way into fulfilling careers in agriculture. This is the “power of blue” that I see at the FFA convention. It is astonishing to consider the power and influence that this group will have on the future of agriculture in just a few short years.
The AASV has its own shade of blue. The founders of the AASP designed a stylized logo (that is still in use today) and they wanted to add color to the logo. Being the good stewards of AASP resources, they chose reflex blue as the color because it was the cheapest to use for the logo. This blue is still with us today at AASV. My staff will tell you that when I am asked about graphic art for an AASV publication, my reply is invariably “it looks good as long as it is blue!”
The AASV is similar to the FFA in that the “power of blue” for the AASV comes from our members. It was our members’ enthusiasm for agriculture and leadership that formed the AASP in 1969. It is the same enthusiasm that has brought the AASV to where it is today. It is the same enthusiasm that will take us into the future. How the AASV nurtures and grows this enthusiasm is the responsibility of every member.
The AASV depends on the participation and input from its members. Sustaining and improving our existing programming must be complemented by meeting future challenges and seizing new opportunities. We can’t stubbornly rely only on what has worked in the past, nor can we abandon the success of the past in order to pursue an uncertain future. It is a balancing act that requires all members to carefully consider what the AASV can and should be doing for them.
Over the years I have found the FFA convention to be a refreshing change of pace from my duties at AASV. Maybe it is just the energy and enthusiasm of the kids, but I believe that it is really the view of the future that refreshes me. One last note: one of my personal goals is to someday meet an AASV member who remembers visiting the AASV booth as an FFA member at the convention. To me that would be the embodiment of the “power of blue.”
Tom Burkgren, DVM