|The FFA Sentinel|
|The FFA Sentinel|
The history of the national FFA emblem goes back to 1926 when Henry Groseclose was working on the Future Farmers of Virginia constitution and bylaws. He discovered inspiration from drawings of an owl perched on a spade used in materials from a Danish agricultural organization. Working with R.W. Cline, Groseclose made some substitutions and additions, resulting in an emblem similar to the one used by FFA today.
The five symbols that make up the FFA emblem represent five individual aspects of FFA. Together they tell the story of our organization’s history, mission and vision.
The cross section of corn represents unity. Regardless of where one lives, corn is grown somewhere nearby. This agriculture crop signifies unity, and, from the first Thanksgiving feast on, corn has historically served as the foundation crop of American agriculture. It is appropriate then that the cross section of corn be used as the foundation of the national FFA emblem. Corn is also a major staple food in most herbivore diets. (An interesting side note to those who say they have no interest in agriculture: I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t like to eat.)
The rising sun signifies progress. Just as the industry of agriculture has developed new technologies and evolved to meet the next generation of consumer demands, FFA has continued to evolve as well and continually looks to the future to meet each member’s needs. The rising sun signifies progress and holds the promise that tomorrow will bring a new day, glowing with opportunity.
The plow signifies labor and tillage of the soil. FFA is an organization founded in agriculture, the backbone of our country. The plow, as mentioned earlier, demonstrates labor and tillage of the soil and is the historic foundation of our country’s strength. As the vice president states in the FFA opening ceremony, "...without labor neither knowledge nor wisdom can accomplish much."
The next symbol is the eagle, which symbolizes freedom. It also represents the national scope of the organization. The eagle is a national symbol which reminds FFA members of their freedom and the ability to explore new horizons for the future of agriculture.
The owl represents knowledge. Long recognized as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, the owl symbolizes the knowledge required to be successful in the industry of agriculture.
The words Agricultural Education and FFA also appear on the FFA emblem. Emblazoned in the center of the emblem, they signify the combination of learning and leadership necessary for progressive agriculture. From 1928 to 1988 the words Vocational Agriculture and Future Farmers of America were on the emblem and the jackets. In 1988 the Future Farmers of America changed its name to FFA and changed the usage of vocational agriculture to agricultural education.
As important as the emblem and its symbols are to FFA, one almost never sees the emblem by itself. It is almost always seen on an FFA jacket, which is one of FFA’s most widely recognized symbols. Dr. J.L. "Gus" Lintner, advisor of the Fredericktown FFA Chapter in Ohio, was looking for a uniform for the Fredericktown Chapter Band, which was to appear at the 1933 National Convention. His design of the blue corduroy jacket captured the attention of the official delegates and they voted to adopt it as FFA’s official dress.
The 30-member Fredericktown Chapter Band had been in existence for only a year and was in need of a uniform. According to Lintner, the official FFA uniform was dark trousers, white shirt with a yellow silk tie and a blue cotton cap. Linter is quoted as saying, "This sufficed for summer wear, but some other garment was needed for the nippy October weather in Kansas City." Thus, the beginning of the FFA jacket was because there was a need to stay warm.
The reason corduroy was chosen was simply because corduroy was popular in the 1930s. The original color was navy blue since national blue was not available. On the back of the jacket the emblem was affixed. The early version of the emblem did not include the eagle; only the cross section of ear of corn, the owl and the plow were featured.
At the outset, only three Fredericktown jackets were made. From the first navy blue jacket to other shades of blue, FFA jackets have been black and white. Today, however, the jackets are national blue.
It was not until the Utah State FFA Band showed up at the 1934 National Convention in the blue jackets and white pants that the sales of the FFA jackets went through the roof.
About 20 years following the first FFA jacket, Gus Lintner presented the first official jacket to the Ohio FFA Association. In 1952, there were 54,000 jackets sold; 60,000 were produced in 1953. The one millionth FFA jacket was sold in 1964. Twelve years later, in 1976, two million jackets had been sold. Today, more than 66,000 jackets are sold yearly.
The cotton used to make the corduroy used in FFA jackets is grown in Tennessee; the corduroy is woven in North Carolina and dyed in South Carolina. It takes 1.5 yards of corduroy to make one FFA jacket, so 1.5 yards times 66,000 jackets equals 99,000 yards of fabric!
In 2003 the Only Blue Will Do campaign was launched. It focused on restoring the official FFA jacket to true national blue and corn gold, as well as improving the overall jacket fit. The FFA jacket has also gone "Hollywood" having appeared in such movies as Napoleon Dynamite, Paris Texas and Charlotte’s Web.
The following appeared in the American Farm Youth magazine in 1961 about the FFA jacket. It is just as meaningful today as it was when it was printed.
"Be careful – your jacket is showing. Your colors of blue and gold, the motif carried out in the design of your jacket, marks you as a young man chosen by your leaders to represent the best we have in agriculture.
"It is your obligation...to conduct yourself in such a manner that will not degrade the great agricultural group the jacket symbolizes. When you don this cloth, think of it as a soldier does the uniform he wears...
"As you accept the dignity of wearing the jacket that carries the emblem and colors of FFA into the battle of life, may the world be greatly pleased with the good deeds it will see performed by the chosen few. When they see the FFA jacket they feel the leaders are being trained."
Maybe that’s why many former members still possess their jackets long after leaving FFA.
Philip Paramore is an Education Specialist with the Alabama Department of Education.