Perspectives​​: Thank you, FFA!

Since the Connect campaign launched in September, we have heard hundreds of wonderful stories on the impact FFA has had on so many lives, from members and alumni to advisors and supporters. Here is an example of one that touched our hearts.

When I entered high school from a one-room rural school, I immediately fell in love with FFA. Applying science to farming was fascinating to me and I was eager to learn more. We were studying the same technology that was being taught to many adults. As part of the GI Bill, many World War II veterans were taking classes on applying science to farming. I thrived on the leadership opportunities that FFA offered and engaged in everything I could. Living on a farm with no or very little transportation to town, we country boys could not participate in sports because we could not stay after school for practice or even make it to the games. But we could be on teams and enter contests in FFA and travel all over the state. I became president of my chapter my junior year, which was unusual because a senior was normally the president. FFA had speech contests, and I enjoyed entering them. I even took a speech class to improve my speaking skills. FFA offered me opportunities that I would never have otherwise.

I had filled out college scholarship applications during my senior year at the insistence of Mr. Redhair, the FFA advisor, and had been accepted for a University of Missouri Curators scholarship, which paid my course dues, and a Sears Roebuck scholarship for $150.00 per semester. I did not know what I wanted to do. I had essentially given up on being a dairy farmer, having been discouraged by the loss of my prize cow, and not having the capital to launch into dairy farming. Mr. Redhair had encouraged me to attend the University of Missouri, Columbia. Other teachers encouraged me in a negative way. Some of them indicated that we were not as smart as they were and would never make it in college. That was a challenge for me. One day near the end of school, Mr. Redhair asked my friend and me if we were going to MU. We said we were thinking about it and he said, “Good. I will be out to pick you up next Tuesday and take you all to MU and get you enrolled.” He drove us up there and we were registered and now committed with a place to stay off campus.

Years later, my friend said, “You know if it had not been for Mr. Redhair, we both would be cutting wood in St. Clair County, Missouri, for a living.” My friend got a degree in forestry and retired from the Forest Service. I graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in agriculture, served as an officer in the Army and went back for a masters and Ph.D. I spent 30 years developing space food and packages for NASA, traveled on Apollo recovery ships and to Russia to negotiate the food system currently being used on the International Space Station. I am the lead author on the book The Astronaut’s Cookbook.

FFA was responsible for developing my leadership abilities and providing the encouragement and confidence that I could succeed. My advisor, Mr. Redhair, started me off in the right direction for a rewarding career.

--Charles Bourland

Tell us your stories! Connect! with FFA, www.ffa.org/connect.