A Family Legacy–Blue Corduroy Jackets and the FFA

**Mikayla is an Iowa State University agricultural education student, and she also works as an administrative assistant at CAST. She has plenty of farm roots that are still growing and thriving–and she believes the FFA organization has been a big part of that. In this essay, she explains her family ties with FFA.
Learning and Serving with the FFA–the Iceberg Beneath the Water
A few Sundays back, my pastor flashed a picture of an iceberg on the screen. A sliver of the floating mass perched above the surface of the ocean, while the other enormous chunk hovered below. As the sermon

continued, he noted that the piece showing represents success and the portion beneath denotes hard work, late nights, courage, failures, persistence, discipline, criticism, and adversity…to name a few. The dissimilarity between the connected sections was what people see compared to what really happens. As the message concluded, he stated that our potential lies deep within the unknown–resembling the part of the iceberg underneath the exterior.

Recently, I was asked to write an article about my family’s success within the National FFA Organization and what it has truly meant to sport the jacket. Each time I look at a blue corduroy jacket, I am reminded of the iceberg illustration my pastor preached that July morning. The blue corduroy jacket may proclaim “outdated” and “unfashionable” to some on the outside, but it is what people do not see (hard work, late nights, courage, failures, persistence, discipline, criticism, and adversity) that triggers my smile each time I spot the emblem.
The legacy of my family’s involvement within the organization stems from the iceberg beneath the water. It began with my dad and two uncles in the 1960s when their interest in agriculture combined with a dynamic youth organization within agricultural education. Eventually my dad, Steve, and uncle, Vince, turned to farming in 1972 as Dolch Brothers LLC after attending Colorado State University and Iowa State University. My dad recalls most farming veterans stating that the two would never make it with their 4020 gasoline and A John Deere tractors, but they had a desire to give it everything they had. In fact, the two have worked extremely hard over the years to give us kids endless opportunities. As it happens, their dream of opening the door of possibilities for us became a reality. Our childhoods were filled with picking up apples, tagging calves, hauling buckets of feed, filling water tanks, learning to operate the farm machinery, and climbing the grain bins on our corn, soybean, and beef production farm/ranch.
As my brothers, cousins, and I grew older, we followed in our fathers’ footsteps by joining the country’s largest youth organization–not because we had to, but because of the rich opportunities the blue jacket provided us to let our lights shine. By sporting the emblem, ten Dolch family members have been fortunate to serve as Southwest Iowa District Officers and receive the Greenhand, Chapter, and Iowa FFA Degrees. Thanks to the organization’s widespread possibilities, I will have the humble opportunity to join the “Golden Key Club” as the seventh Dolch–and the less than one percent of members nationwide–to acquire the American FFA Degree. The late nights and early mornings of chopping hay, scooping feedlots, and organizing records allowed me to find my center point of interest through my beef production entrepreneurship-supervised agricultural experience.
My uncle, brothers, and I have served as state officers for the Iowa FFA Association, and we concede that without the jacket, we are isolated individuals. Isolated voices. But with the blue corduroy we know that half a million others have our back, as well as helping us tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges such as feeding the growing population, stewarding our natural resources, and finding solutions for agricultural sustainability together. 
The National FFA Organization has become a part of who we are as a family–not because of the impeccable achievements earned and honors won–but because of our advisors, teachers, teammates, political stakeholders, and friends who have simply believed in us by pushing us to do our very best. My family and I are not involved because we have to be but rather because we enjoy serving others, paying it forward, and making everlasting friendships and memories. The organization is powered by its members and guided by its mission. It has taught us to understand that we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
by Mikayla Dolch (quote in final line from Winston Churchill)

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