In the eighth grade, Ruby Love (pictured above, right, at a Rainier FFA banquet) reached a conundrum. She didn’t like to sew. She already knew how to cook, bake and can vegetables from her time in 4-H, and she had to decide which courses she would take that would determine her high school path. Home economics was just not going to work for her.
“Luckily, my language arts teacher’s husband was the high school agriculture teacher,” Love says. “She mentioned in class one day that the agriculture program was going to allow girls into the classes and into the FFA chapter. I had to write an essay to the principal about why I wanted to take agriculture classes. I guess he thought the only reason girls would want to be in the program was to be around the boys. But that was the furthest thing from my mind.”
That fall, Love started her first agriculture science class. She was one of the first girls to become an FFA member in Oregon and at the St. Helens FFA Chapter. Two short years later, she found herself attending the first National FFA Convention where female members were invited to Kansas City.
“I had to work hard to earn enough money to go with my chapter, and it was the experience of a lifetime,” Love says. “We took the train halfway across the country to get there. Along the way, we stopped at the Denver Mint and Kansas State University, where the students were working on experimental soy products. Before that trip, I had never even heard of soy.”
Love’s FFA experiences made a significant impact on her future personal and professional goals. Fifty years after attending her first national convention, Love is an active member of the National FFA Alumni and Supporters, and she has been a founder of several FFA chapters across Oregon. She actively judges career and leadership development events at district and state conventions, and she’s been awarded an honorary Chapter FFA Degree.
“I learned more in FFA than in any other club or organization I have ever been a member of,” Love says. “I use so many of the skills still today that I learned in my agriculture classes decades ago. And there are very few programs that can make that claim.”
Photography: Courtesy Ruby Love