The first time I put on an FFA jacket, I felt something inside of me shift. I was not raised in a traditional farming background, in fact, you could even say the opposite. My family has no connections to the agricultural world besides me. So when I heard about the FFA my sophomore year of high school, I was intrigued but knew absolutely nothing about agriculture. From the time I could talk, I’d had a goal to be a veterinarian, and so my passion for animals is what found me investigating the FFA to begin with. I expressed my interest to my advisors and they tossed me into the deep end from the very beginning, and I’ve never been so grateful for anything in my life. My first experience with an FFA jacket was when my chapter was going to do an Ag In the Classroom educational day at our local intermediate school (6-7th graders). This involved us hauling everything from horses to ice cream to the intermediate school. This was soon after I first joined, and I’d been to one chapter meeting where I admired the seven individuals in their blue corduroy but never really thought I’d wear it myself. Little did I know that two weeks later I would be the one being admired in the corduroy by three hundred eleven and twelve year old.
When I was asked to help with the event, I agreed and found myself in the planning meeting for the activity. Everything was planned out, and at the end our advisor added that we would all be wearing “OD” or Official Dress for the whole day. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, so I asked one of the senior officers and she was kind enough to explain it to me. Black skirt, nylons, shoes and a white button up with an FFA scarf, and of course an FFA jacket! I was embarrassed to tell her that I didn’t own one, but she said that many of the members didn’t and just borrowed from the cupboard full of them whenever they needed one. She pointed me to the cupboard and told me to find one that fit.
Easier said than done! The jackets ranged in all sizes, and since I didn’t have the slightest idea what the measurements meant, I took maybe three or four of them down to the bathroom with me so that I could try them on with a white button up to get the full effect. Well, the first two were too small and the third was too big, so I had high hopes for the last one. Luckily, it was a little shorter in the sleeve length than I would’ve ordered but it fit me just about everywhere else. I stepped out of the stall and looked at myself in the mirror. Ratty black Chuck Taylors, my usual ponytail and jeans combination, same blue eyes and light brown hair, and yet something was different. The FFA Emblem on my chest seemed to make my face light up, and the cut of the corduroy made me look sharp. I looked older, and most of all, I looked like those seven officers who I thought were so incredible. I turned around and looked at my state and chapter on the back, and realized that with that jacket on my body, I represented something more. Not just my chapter, or my state, but an entire national organization.
That was the start of my love for the blue corduroy. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical of the old looking fabric and the seemingly unchanging uniform that’s been around forever, but as soon as I saw myself snazzed up to represent my chapter for the first time, I was sold. Now I have my own blue jacket that’s been through so many situations and made so many memories that it’s one of the objects I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. But it all started with a standard, old and worn out chapter jacket that had been in that cupboard for who-knows-how-long before I gave it a shot.
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