Last week’s Friday Footnote looked at some of the founding fathers of various agricultural fields. Since we are talking about Fathers, this week we will learn about a different group of fathers. This group is the “Dads of the Future Farmers of America” or the D.F.F.A. Your first response might be I have never heard of such a group. And you would be correct. However if you lived in Minnesota in 1940 it is likely that you might be aware of this group.
Introducing R. E. Hubbard
R. E. Hubbard, the agriculture teacher at Montevideo, Minnesota started the Dads of the Future Farmers of America. It was not some haphazard organization but was well thought out with very definite guidelines.
Figure 1. R. E. Hubbard. Photo from the 1952 Montevideo, Minnesota High School Yearbook
Reuben Hubbard (he always went by R. E.) was a graduate of Iowa State and taught agriculture in Iowa as early as 1917 before moving to Minnesota to teach at Montevideo in 1929. He was awarded the honorary state farmer degree by the Minnesota FFA in 1949, the same year he earned his MS degree from the University of Minnesota.
The January 1950 issue of The Visitor (the newsletter published by the Agricultural Education faculty at the University of Minnesota) had a short article recognizing Mr. Hubbard as an exemplary teacher (See Figure 2)
Figure 2. Article from the January 1950 issue of The Visitor
What Was the Dads of the Future Farmers of America and Why Did it Exist?
The July 1940 issue of The Visitor featured an article titled “D.F.F.A. Dads of the Future Farmers of America” written by R. E. Hubbard. He starts the article with these words (1940, p, 1):
The agricultural program in the schools of Minnesota is a busy and ever challenging one to the teachers of agriculture. All – day classes, part – time classes, adult classes, F. F. A. activities, together with many outside duties in urban and rural services demand that the teacher of agriculture receive local help in carrying out a good agricultural program as set up by the state and national departments of education and expected by the local community. Three years ago I found this help in the Dads of the Future Farmers of America. The thought that other teachers might be interested in the idea has prompted me to write this brief story of our helpful venture.
Mr. Hubbard observed that the dads were interested in what their sons were doing and if the dads were better acquainted with the FFA and involved in it, this would result in a better agriculture program. So, in 1937 Mr. Hubbard organized the “Dads of the Future Farmers of America.”
First, Mr. Hubbard shared the idea, aims, and objectives of the Dads FFA with his students at a FFA meeting. The students were in favor of the idea and (1940, p. 1) “not only asked their fathers to attend but urged them to come” to the first meeting. Then Mr. Hubbard went out and visited with the dads and then wrote a letter to the dads that went like this:
This is what your son calls you in school. I have your son in my class and he is a fine fellow. I have 49 other farm boys, a group of boys who have so many problems it is hard for me to help solve all of them. Maybe you did not know that your son is interested in some of the many things you are doing. And do you know he is very much interested in doing something for himself, and he wants your help and advice.
I know some things about your son that you do not know, and you know many things that I do not know. Your son is a member of the F. F. A., a national organization of farm boys studying vocational agriculture. As a father you will be interested in knowing the program of this organization.
The letter then goes on and invites the dads to an organizational meeting of the Dad’s Future Farmers of America. At the time Mr. Hubbard wrote this letter the FFA was only nine years old and was not as well known as today.
Mr. Hubbard developed a well thought out constitution and by-laws for the organization. There were ceremonies for advancing the fathers through the various degrees (the fathers held the same degrees as their sons). Of course, the ceremonies were modeled after those of the FFA.
Figure 3. Photo from That Inspiring Past: The Future Farmers of America in Minnesota, 1930-1955.
Mr. Hubbard writes (1940, p. 1) “…but we soon discovered that mother is also very much interested in the activities of her son. Therefore, after the first year, the mothers were voted in as honorary members. All mothers are interested in the programs and they have brought into the organization more color, song, sociability, interest and a larger attendance.”
As part of the honorary membership ceremony, the mothers were presented with a red carnation by their Greenhand sons. The D.F.F.A. President then asked the advisor to explain the significance of the flowers. The advisor (Mr. Hubbard) then stated (1940, p. 4):
Mr. President and Mothers: These flowers presented to you by your sons are to show you just a little of their appreciation of the many things that you have done for them throughout the year. They want and need your counsel and guidance. Wear these flowers, if only for tonight. Tomorrow you may lay them away with your precious belongings and may your sons again next year be allowed this pleasure of showing you their love and appreciation.
In That Inspiring Past: The Future Farmers of America in Minnesota, 1930-1955 Agnes Mueller wrote about the Dad’s Future Farmers of America (1955, p. 54):
Another noteworthy project was initiated by R. E. Hubbard, the teacher of agriculture at Montevideo Mr. Hubbard conceived the idea of enlisting the aid of the fathers of FFA members to make his chapter more vital.
During his years of work with boys Mr. Hubbard had observed that dads were usually much interested in the progress of their sons. With this in mind and the knowledge that many youth groups are sponsored by adults, he went into the homes of his boys and urged the fathers to come to a meeting to organize a Dads’ group.
A constitution and initiation ceremony were developed. The dads are active members while their sons are enrolled in school. They assemble 12 times a year at evening meetings. Their opening ceremony is similar to the one used by the boys at their meetings. The dads map out their own program for the year and decide whom to ask to speak and lead each session. The most successful farmer in grain raising might tell how he produces good crops. The main talk is followed by a round table discussion, then perhaps a movie which relates to the topic. After that there is lunch and a social hour. After the first year the mothers were voted in as honorary members. They are honored at a banquet each spring and each boy presents a bouquet of flowers to his mother.
The Results of Having a Dads of the Future Farmers of America Chapter
Mr. Hubbard identified twelve benefits of having a Dads of the FFA chapter (1940, p, 4).
- Parents were invited once a month to the agricultural department
- Parents became acquainted with their sons’ project books, references , laboratory equipment and the school in general.
- Problems of the boy, home and community were presented throughout the year as they appeared. At each meeting the dads used the F. F. A. manuals for opening and closing ceremony.
- Dads learned the different F. F. A. degrees and because their degrees are the same as their sons’ they seemed to take a great deal of interest as to the kinds of projects the sons should carry on.
- More and better varieties of corn and grain were grown.
- More sons secured and are raising higher grades of cattle.
- Cars for trips are now easily obtained. Dads will often go along to such places as the West Central School and Station at Morris.
- Several dads have expressed a desire to attend the marketing school.
- This year they are sending an F. F. A. member to the National F. F. A. Convention.
- Several financial problems were solved.
- For the first time, the boys had a chance to initiate their parents into an organization, present them with emblems and congratulate them.
- It has given me closer friendship with many parents and a greater enjoyment in the last line of the F.F.A. motto – Living to Serve.
To fully appreciate what Mr. Hubbard did you should read his article in The Visitor and pay special attention to the Aims and Objectives for having the Dads of the Future Farmers of America. You might also enjoy reading the scripts for the various ceremonies and looking at the constitution and bylaws.
No matter what you call it (alumni, advisory councils, adult and young farmers, etc.), every agricultural education program needs a support group. In 1955 there was a group known as “The FFA Mothers Club” in Lambert, Oklahoma. They supported the local FFA chapter. When Greenhands were initiated into the FFA, their mothers were also initiated into the FFA Mothers Club (The Carmen Headlight, November 17, 1955).
The group that has the most invested in your program are the parents of the students. So, what are you doing to involve them in your program?
FFA and Mothers Group Met Monday. The Carmen Headlight, Carmen, Oklahoma. November 17, 1955.
Hubbard, R. E. (1940, July), D.F.F.A. Dads of the Future Farmers of America. The Visitor. Division of Agricultural Education, University of Minnesota.
Mueller, A. Harrigan. (1955). That Inspiring Past: The Future Farmers of America in Minnesota, 1930-1955. Saint Paul: Printed by the Webb Publishing Company.