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February 16, 2014

Monday Q&A: FFA serves farmers and more

FFA member Tim Truax, of Turlock, talks about the organization, which hones technical and leadership skills for farmers and non-farmers alike.

Tim Truax has made the most of his four years in FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America.

The Pitman High School senior has held leadership posts, competed in many events and even started his own sheep-shearing business.

To mark National FFA Week, which runs through Saturday, The Modesto Bee asked Tim to reflect on what the organization means on the farm and beyond.

The 18-year-old is the son of Tami and the late Tom Truax; he has a brother, Terrance.

Why is FFA doing so well, with record membership across the state and nation?

FFA has many avenues other than being a farmer, and I think that the high schools are starting to realize that. Just in the walls of Pitman FFA, I can only name a handful of students who actually farm or who have been involved in production agriculture in the past. So where does that leave the others? I have witnessed firsthand members who have entered their ag class not knowing one fact about agriculture, yet graduate high school with their eyes set on the industry and leave college with a successful job. These members are doing what every education system wants — becoming leaders for tomorrow. This is why I believe many are joining the organization.

Why is FFA important to agriculture in the Valley and beyond?

This can be summed up through FFA’s motto: Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve. It is no secret that the Valley and nation are submerged in agriculture. However, this constant flow of goods on the supermarket shelf would not come without support. That is where the FFA comes in. I can surely speak on behalf of many FFA leaders when I say that we have taken on the major job of spreading agricultural literacy. With the constant depletion of farmland on a daily basis due to urban sprawl, how else can we protect modern-day farmers? This is the question that many of us ask, and the answer can come from the members in the blue corduroy jacket that are not only creating new agriculture leaders today, but also advocating for the industry of tomorrow.

What are some things FFA does that are not ag-related?

Although the FFA has a true agriculture foundation, there are many activities that are not just showing livestock, planting a garden and riding on a tractor. Since the beginning of our organization in 1928, the FFA has established numerous public speaking competitions, community service activities and other events that are not hands-on agriculture, yet bring to light ag issues and an awareness of the industry. We take pride in agriculture, so we make sure that we support it as much as we can through our various endeavors.

What competitions have you taken part in?

From a leadership standpoint, I have competed in project competition, parliamentary procedure, livestock proficiencies, creed, job interview, impromptu, prepared and extemporaneous speaking. While doing so, I am also in my fourth year as a member on our livestock judging team. In terms of livestock, I have shown sheep for 12 years (four in FFA) and from time to time exhibited cattle, goats and horses at a variety of shows across California.

What leadership positions have you held?

I have held chapter historian (fall 2011), vice president (spring 2012) and president (fall 2012 and spring and fall 2013). I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as the Tri-Rivers Section FFA vice president (2012-13) and the Central Region FFA president (2013-14), while holding a spot as a state delegate, national delegate, state committee chairman and state executive committee member. I have also had the opportunity to be a junior board member for the California Junior Livestock Association.

What has been your favorite experience so far?

This past summer, I traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Washington Leadership Conference, facilitated by National FFA. This was a jam-packed week full of fun, leadership building and making connections with other members from across the nation. If you ask any individual that has attended this conference, I’m sure that it will surely be a favorite as well.

What do you think of the governor’s proposal to end a $4 million grant program that helps ag ed?

Agricultural education is the program that serves as the driving force for the FFA organization. The Ag Incentive Grant provides funding for leadership conferences and travel expenses to valuable (I can’t stress the word enough) competitions and activities. The FFA takes pride in it not being labeled as an ordinary “club,” because we are a chartered program across the state. Unless you have an ag class, you can’t be in FFA. Without this funding for the education system of agriculture, we could see a decline in chapters across the state, which means less students having the opportunity to take part in the many character-building activities. We are not an extracurricular club, but an intracurricular organization.

How did you get into sheep shearing, and how is the business going?

I had the crazy idea of starting my own small-flock sheep-shearing business, Truax Shearing, three years ago with the mindset of reaching out to many breeders with small numbers in their flock where the professionals wouldn’t care to take time to travel. Since then, I have been blessed with about 20 clients from Stanislaus to Tulare County. I plan to have a big season in the warmer months this year, so be sure to check out the Facebook page.

Do you have plans for college and a career?

I plan to work toward a degree in animal sciences first at Modesto Junior College, then California State University, Fresno, where I aspire to earn my bachelor’s degree in animal nutrition and a minor in theology. This will hopefully lead me to a sector in the livestock industry and work in Christian ministry on the side.

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