The First FFA Manual (09/14/2018)

Do you remember your first FFA Manual? I was excited when Jack Lacy, the agriculture teacher, passed out the FFA manuals to my Vo Ag I class (yes, it was Vo Ag back then). I took mine home that night and read it from cover to cover. I thought it was wonderful and was excited about all the opportunities in the FFA and marveled that I was part of this glorious organization. So, what did my manual look like? It is pictured below.

Nah. This is not my manual. Everything I have written so far is true except the manual pictured was not the manual I received. I received a 1961 FFA Manual my freshman year in high school. The FFA Manual pictured above is the FIRST FFA Manual from 1929-30. The first manual was originally mimeographed then was later published as a pamphlet.

For this footnote, I thought we should have some fun. I will pose a question and then use the 1929-30 Manual for the answer. Then I might add a comment or two. So, let’s get started

What are the official FFA colors and why were they chosen?

The F.F.A. colors are old gold and national blue. These colors are the same as those used by the American Royal Livestock Show which acts as host to the Future Farmers National Convention once a year. The golden corn color on a background of national blue has been found to be the ideal color combination. (p. 4)

Comment – Even though “golden corn color” is mentioned, the official color was old gold.

What does the Future Farmer Creed say?

I believe in the beauty of God’s open country; that life out of doors and in touch with the earth is the natural life of man.

I believe that work is work wherever we find it, but that work with nature is most inspiring, and challenging.

I believe that the dignity of labor depends not on what you do, but how you do it; that opportunity comes to a boy on the farm as often as to a boy in the city, that life on the farm may be full, happy, and free and that a prosperous agriculture is essential to our national welfare, that my success depends not upon my location, but upon myself, not upon my dreams, but what I actually do, not upon luck but upon pluck.

I believe in working when I work and in playing when I play; in giving and demanding a square deal in every act of life. (p. 4)

Comment – This creed was originally published as The Country Boy’s Creed in 1912 by Edwin Osgood Grover (Grover also wrote the 1901 School Teacher’s Creed). At the 1930 FFA convention, the delegates voted 39-16 to use E. M. Tiffany’s Creed instead of this one. There is also a Country’s Girl Creed and a Canadian adaptation of both the boys and girls creed. To learn more about the FFA Creed this article by Conners and Velez is a good read.

Which FFA chapter officer did not exist in the first manual?

There is no mention of a Sentinel in the opening ceremony. (p. 16). However, the Green Hand Initiation ceremony involves the “Farm Watch Dog” who has a speaking part (p. 19). The Sentinel doesn’t show up until the 1940s.

The reporter, in the opening ceremony, states that the Future Farmers of American is a national organization the reaches from which four states?

Oregon to Florida and from Maine to California (p. 16)

In the opening ceremony for an FFA Chapter, where is the advisor stationed?

Here at the owl’s next (p. 17)

Comment: nest is misspelled; I doubt if it was caused by autocorrect)

Where should one get the owl for the opening ceremony?

A stuffed owl should be secured and perched upon a realistic limb of a tree above the station of the Advisor. There is hardly a town or village in America that does not contain a stuffed owl. (p. 18)

What is the second degree that an FFA member can earn?

Future Farmer (p. 31 & 32)

Comment: This was changed to Chapter Farmer at a later date.

Who can be an active member of the FFA?

Any student of vocational agriculture, who is enrolled in a part-time, day-unit or all-day class is entitled to active membership… (p. 31)

Comment: The language is clear – “any student”. There is no gender differentiation in the first constitution. I guess that “error” will be corrected in the near future (and will be the subject of a future Friday Footnote).

What is the major difference (ignoring the color) between the Green Hand, Future Farmer, and State Farmer compared to the American Farmer degree pin?

All members elected to the degree of “American farmer” are entitled to wear the gold insignia directly mounted on a key, and surmounted by the American eagle. (p. 36)

Comment: The American degree pin was the only one with an eagle on it. The eagle was missing from the lower degrees. The rationale for this was the American degree was a national degree while the others were not. If you can find an FFA degree pin without the eagle this means it is a pre-1938 pin and is worth more than $100 on e-bay.

What is every Future Farmer encouraged to have?

Every Future Farmer should have a hobby. (p. 56)

What is Beating the Sheriff to Farmer Brown?

A one-act play suitable for presentation by Future Farmers. A number of plays are listed. (p. 59)

 Teaching Ideas

1. When I was a first-year agriculture student I was given a copy of the FFA manual. It was mine! I could take it home. I valued it. Today many programs have a handful of manuals in the classroom that students have access to and there is even an online manual. However, there is something to be said about the “old” practice of having a physical copy of the manual that belongs to the student. If students have their own manual they might actually take it home and read it and get motivated. And it doesn’t hurt to have a parent see the manual their child has. This practice might actually help some of your students.

2. A teacher could have the students do a “scavenger hunt” for information in the FFA Manual. However, if you want to really foster critical thinking among your students and to teach at higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (analyzing and evaluating) you could give students access to the1929-30 Manual and the current FFA manual and have individual students (or teams of students) compare and contrast the two manuals and identify and evaluate the differences. There could be a minimum number of differences they are required to find or you could see which team can find the most.

3. After having students look at the old and new manual, ask them to identify new sections or features they might like to see in future manuals.


Grover, E. O. Country Boy’s Creed Rural Manhood 3 (April 1912):106.

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