MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 8 — The crimson cross of Alabama’s state flag contrasted with corn gold and national blue today as about 150 FFA members climbed the Capitol steps for FFA Day on the Hill.
Gov. Kay Ivey braved the morning cold to welcome students before they moved to the Capitol Auditorium for presentations from state lawmakers.
“I certainly appreciate what you guys are doing,” said House of Representatives Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville. “Y’all are stepping out to be leaders in your communities by being part of this organization.”
Ledbetter, who served as a city councilman and mayor before being elected to the Alabama Legislature, credited FFA for inspiring his public service.
“I think the root of my success has been FFA,” he said.
State FFA Vice President Kaleigh McGrew of the Southern Choctaw FFA chapter in Gilbertown said it was encouraging to meet Ledbetter and other elected officials.
“I’ve never been to FFA Day on the Hill, so this was a first for me and a first for our chapter,” she said. “I’m happy to see students are able to be involved. It was really inspiring to meet these people, hear them talk to students and give us words of wisdom.”
McGrew, who was later interviewed for Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” said it was inspiring to hear legislators share personal stories from their FFA experiences.
“FFA trains the future leaders of tomorrow. That’s what prepares students for leadership, personal growth and career success through ag education,” she said. “It’s always nice to see it pays off — that all our hard work, if you get to these positions, can impact change. That’s what we are trying to do.”
Rep. Van Smith, R-Billingsley, taught agriscience education 13 years and was in school administration an additional 24 years before being elected to the Legislature. He said developing future leaders for Alabama is much like farming.
“Those skills are not planted and harvested in a day,” Smith said. “They are planted today and harvested much later.”
Smith, who also serves as Autauga County Farmers Federation president, said he was eager to hear from the students about their interests and concerns. It’s a lesson he learned early on in education and politics.
“People will vote for you if they don’t like you, but they won’t vote for you if they think you don’t like them,” said Smith, quoting an old acquaintance. “These young people, especially, can tell if you’re truly listening to them or if you’re just feeding them something back.”
Alabama State FFA Secretary Wesley Gaddy of the Alexandria FFA Chapter was surprised to learn both Smith and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, raise beef cattle.
“The main thing I learned is state legislators are just normal people,” Gaddy said. “Two of them have said they own cows. I work on a farm, so I deal with cows all the time. It’s just good to know I can relate to them.”
After receiving a proclamation from Ivey and hearing from legislators and State Treasurer Young Boozer, FFA students moved across the street to the State House. State FFA officers opened the legislative day in the House of Representatives and Senate with the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer.
Ledbetter encouraged students to talk to their representatives about supporting HB 124, which he’s sponsoring to allow students participating in FFA and 4-H Club events to be counted present at school. Alabama Farmers Federation supports the bill.
The majority leader also urged the students to work hard, surround themselves with good friends and demonstrate their personal character in little things — even picking up trash on their school campuses.
“Do what’s right,” he said. “Whatever you do, do it good enough you don’t care to put your name on it.”