The Pickens County Board of Education recognized senior Emma Long, a Pickens High School senior and state president of FFA.
The daughter of Greg and Ann Long, she has been showing lambs and ewes since third grade and recently won in FFA’s national talent show, singing “Small Town Girl,” by Journey. She said her view of FFA and agriculture changed when she enrolled in Todd Dobson’s Ag Tech class.
“My interest in FFA really started when Mr. Dobson asked me to be a part of the livestock judging team,” she said. “After that one competition, I immediately fell in love with everything that the program had to offer. I started to realize that the FFA was so many different things, and the incredible variety that the organization represents in the Agricultural industry has always fascinated me. “
The benefits of FFA
As a the Georgia FFA State President, Long said she’s learned to work with others.
“State officers go through a rigorous week long training all based in public speaking and facilitation. We had to participate in a practice called ‘Stand and Deliver.’ While the name makes it sound ok, when getting down to the nitty gritty, you draw a random topic that you may have to speak on or discuss in your role as a state officer.”
Once the topic is drawn, officers have about 30 seconds to prepare a two minute speech. At the board meeting, she was asked if she wanted to speak and although she admitted she hadn’t considered it, she went on to speak, with confidence.
“I want to thank you for this opportunity,” she said.
She said officers were also trained in facilitations using a similar technique, but were given a day to practice and plan with their teammates. The end result was a fifteen minute segment of the workshop to state staff.
“I often find myself using facilitation techniques in conversation, which is almost unnerving,” she said.
FFA also has given her the opportunity to make amazing connections, said Long.
Those connections include Governor Brian Kemp and wife, Marty as well as Brian Tolar, a lobbyist for private ag companies and farmers who works in the capital everyday.
“There are many, many more in the industry who are great and that’s not even mentioning my seven new best friends on my state officer team,” said Long.
The good shepherd
When it comes to her show animals, Long said she has about 20 sheep on her operation but can’t count how many she has had over the course of her entire showing career.
“I don’t really show the ones that I keep for my supervised agricultural experience and my proficiency application that I hope to turn in this year,” she said.
Over the course of showing animals, how many have you owned?
Long shows both sheep and pigs for FFA.
“I love both species, and I firmly believe in everything that the livestock program teaches youth,” she said.
After being involved with FFA, she now wants to teach agriculture to future students.
“My FFA experiences have an immense impact on my future goals,” said Long. “This amazing organization is already helping me in applying for college scholarships.
As far as my future goals are concerned, the things that I have learned in the few months into my term as State President have already allowed me to be more comfortable in my own skin, and also to effectively communicate with students and adults alike
No comfort in the growth zone
“I think that the most beautiful thing about this organization is how it pushes students to step out of their comfort zone. Emily Leonard, past South region State Vice President, said in her retiring address: ‘there is no growth in comfort zone, and no comfort in a growth zone,”‘ said Long.
She said FFA is for any student, regardless of where they live or what experiences they have.
” I believe that this is why the FFA is so important. It gives students from every walk of life the opportunity to grow. The FFA makes a positive impact in the lives of students by developing their potential from premier leadership, personal growth, and career success,” she said.
She described the impact of technology like genetic modification, embryo transfer, drone fertilization and GPS harvesting are “breathtaking.”
“it is easy to see that the FFA is a home to every aspect of the industry that its members call home. I will not coin the phrase ‘FFA is more than cows, sows, and plows’ because that implies that those members still living in production ag are less valuable, and that is definitely not the case. The FFA is a home to every student that walks through the doors of an ag classroom. And that home aspect is why FFA is so beneficial to students, because even when you graduate, you are still a part of the FFAmily,” said Long.