First Things

Need a little motivation?

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Bitten off a bit more than you can chew in the "projects" category? Have a little backlog in completions? Hearing increasingly edgy comments from your significant other on the growing mass of iron on the back forty? Perhaps all you need is inspiration to get you back on track. Look no further than this issue of Farm Collector.

In an article beginning on page 40, you'll read about the accomplishments of a group of west Texas teenagers. These 13 youths, members of Future Farmers of American (FFA) from Cotton Center, Texas, are giving as good as they get in the education department. In the course of eight months they coaxed a 1939 John Deere Model H from a rusting relic into the national champion in FFA tractor restoration competition. Learning as they go, the youths also teach their elders lessons in determination, enthusiasm and patience.

At first glance, a 2-cylinder tractor is as alien to the average 17-year-old as perhaps a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone is to a senior citizen. These kids, however, are open to new possibilities, to new challenges. They've learned and grown in countless ways through their project, and that's a lesson none of us is too old to master.

Personally, I love FFA. I've seen kids absolutely transformed by their FFA experiences. Other secondary-level programs - athletics, debate, theater, clubs - make an impact on kids' lives, but few with the consistency, enormity and solid, life-long values that FFA delivers on a regular basis. I sometimes wish FFA membership was a universal high school graduation requirement, but fear that a mandatory program would groan beneath the weight of inevitable bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, way off in Cotton Center, Texas, the FFA chapter has a six-year waiting list of project tractors to tackle. Chapter members are enthusiastic about the process of converting sow's ears into silk purses, no matter the challenges, no matter how many Saturdays are sacrificed. And all the while, they're learning: mechanics, body work, sourcing parts, deadlines, record-keeping, public speaking, budgeting … they're even soaking up a humanities lesson, one that comes as no surprise to folks in this hobby. "You can't believe," muses Advisor David Howell, "how many good people we've met in the tractor restoration business." Yes, we can, Dave; yes, we can.

Leslie McManus, Editor
lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com