“From the moment you put on this blue corduroy jacket, you become part of something bigger — you become part of tradition. You become part of the fabric of FFA.”
As members of Medora Junior-Senior High School’s new FFA chapter were handed their jackets Monday, they found this wording on a note card.
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The FFA emblem is on the front and back of each jacket. On the right side of the front is their name stitched in gold. On top of the large FFA logo on the back is “Indiana” and below is “Medora.”
Blue and gold have become synonymous with pride, dignity and honor.
“They have become a symbol of commitment and dedication for all who wear the corduroy jacket,” the back of the note card reads. “And have filled a canvas with stories of courage, leadership, personal development and FFA.”
For each member, the jacket is a physical reminder of the personal accomplishment achieved through the organization.
It’s also a reminder of October 1933 when FFA members from Fredericktown, Ohio, marched into the National FFA Convention wearing their newly designed blue jackets. The official delegates were so impressed that they voted to make the jacket part of the organization’s official attire.
Now, Medora students are a part of the tradition.
“I feel more involved when I have it,” said sophomore Kaitlyn Cobb, treasurer of Medora FFA.
“It’s nice to have something that even though we come from a small town … it’s something that happened that’s good,” said secretary Victoria Starr, a senior.
The purchase of 20 jackets was made possible through donations from the community. On Monday, adviser Ashley Shoemaker and President Kenley King handed them out to the members.
“It’s really nice of them helping us out,” said sophomore Rachel Jones, vice president of Medora FFA.
“I think it’s nice because they actually care that our school is doing something,” Starr said.
Since the chapter was established at the beginning of 2018, members didn’t have the jackets to wear to events.
“Them not having their jackets was holding them back a little bit on what we could do,” Shoemaker said. “We went to the Seymour farmers breakfast in early spring. Even that was something that other schools wear official dress to, so now that they have their jackets and they have official dress, they can feel more a part of what everybody else is doing. Being able to get them official dress has opened the doors for them to be involved.”
Some people in the community donated money to sponsor a jacket for a specific member. Shoemaker and school administration also ensured members who have been active and involved received a jacket.
Shoemaker said 40 high school and five junior high students are members. Medora is an affiliated chapter, meaning students enrolled in agriculture classes are automatically in FFA.
The donors stepping up also means the members didn’t have to pay dues and won’t have to pay to attend contests and other events this school year.
“If one of them says, ‘Hey, in March, I want to do district contest,’ they don’t have to pay that $20 or when kids move and out, it just makes it nice to be able to get them involved and not have to think about the money,” Shoemaker said.
To see nearly all of the high school students involved in FFA means a lot to Shoemaker, considering agriculture classes weren’t offered until she arrived in the 2017-18 school year.
“It makes me really proud of them to see them want to get involved in their education, want to get involved in their school, bringing pride to that,” she said. “Even just taking their agriculture knowledge that they already come from growing up with and wanting to increase that and improve that, it just makes me really, really proud of them and proud to be at a school where those kids want to do that.”
Shoemaker had been involved in FFA while attending Southmont High School and received an agriculture education degree from Purdue University.
Before coming to Medora, she was a student teacher with Brownstown Central High School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Blake Hackman. She also had connections with Jeanna Eppley, who was her high school FFA adviser before coming to Seymour High School to hold the same title and teach agriculture.
Since FFA and agriculture shaped Shoemaker’s life, she knows it will benefit Medora kids, too.
“I hope it helps them find their fit in life and their career,” she said. “I hope that it shows them what agriculture careers are out there and there is a need for them and also help them make what they are doing today matter.”
Medora is the fifth Jackson County high school to offer FFA. The other chapters are at Brownstown Central, Seymour, Crothersville and Trinity Lutheran high schools. Seymour and Crothersville also have middle school students involved in FFA.
In September 2017, Shoemaker and six students attended the District 11 kickoff in Scottsburg, where they learned more about FFA while interacting with state officers and working on activities with other FFA members.
Since becoming chartered, members have helped at a district parliamentary procedure contest in Brownstown, officers were elected and attended training and members attended another district kickoff.
“Really, it has just been getting these kids acclimated to what FFA is and showing them what the fun they can do could be,” Shoemaker said.
On Monday, the five Jackson County high school FFA chapters’ advisers and officers were invited to a dinner at Rose Acre Farms’ corporate office in Seymour. That was the first time for Medora’s officers to attend an event wearing their FFA jackets.
Earlier this month, Rose Acre Farms donated $5,000 to jump-start the Medora FFA chapter. That will assist the school in funding equipment, transportation and future uniform needs for students in the program. It also will cover expenses related to attending leadership conferences, competitions and state and national conventions.
“We enjoy being able to help young people learn through agriculture, and we hope that this program enables these students to become successful in their futures,” said Tony Wesner, chief operating officer for Rose Acre Farms.
This weekend, the four officers will attend a camp at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center in Trafalgar.
“They are going to come back hopefully with what they want the chapter to look like because obviously, this is their program,” Shoemaker said. “I want it to be what they want to do. I want to be able to step back and just say, ‘OK, how do you want the banquet to look like? What about the county fair?’ I want that to come from them and not necessarily be forced. I want them to have a choice.”
The officers already have discussed plans for National FFA Week, which is Feb. 16 through 23 this year. King said they will focus on getting the whole school involved and educating them about FFA.
“We want to get the elementary involved so they know that it’s in their future,” she said. “There are some really big opportunities in FFA. It offers a lot of stuff, like a lot of careers. If you plan on going to college, it can help you. Even if you’re not going to college, there are a lot of jobs in agriculture.”
On April 22, the FFA chapter and the Medora Makers 4-H Club plan to have a combined banquet at the school. Also that month, FFA members will participate in a leadership contest.
Then in June, they will attend the state convention at Purdue University in West Lafayette. And at the end of July, they will be involved in the Jackson County Fair.
Shoemaker said she appreciates the support of all of the donors and the other FFA advisers in the county for helping FFA become established in Medora.
“I think our community as a whole will benefit from this program,” Shoemaker said. “With the leadership skills gained through FFA, we believe that some of these kids will come back to Medora and make the community stronger. The student officers are already thinking of ways to give back to the community.”