Seabiscuit, resilience and the FFA Creed

Here we sit in the middle of “National FFA Week” and I feel like the minister on Sunday morning pulling a verse from the Bible and sharing a sermon. Only in this case I am reading the insight of E.M. Tiffany from 1930 in what we call the FFA Creed.

I looked back at the United States farming sector in 1930 and found some very interesting points of emphasis that I think would be worthy of sharing here today.

I will not share the entire creed but just two paragraphs I want to dig deeper into. Clearly, the opening statement gives us the insight this man had at the time. I would encourage you to look it up, or better yet, find an FFA member and have them recite it for you.

I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds—achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

Let’s touch on the struggles of that time. A news account from LeMars, Iowa, tells us that farmers were desperate in the Dust Bowl era. A group of mad farmers stormed the local courthouse, took a judge in the street and attempted to place the fear of God in him if he ran another farmer off their land. The governor of Iowa called in the National Guard, rescued the judge, and jailed the distraught farmers but clearly they brought attention to the issue.

Farmers across the country tried to band together by withholding food items such as milk and wheat from the marketplace but the folks in town had lost their jobs so their ability to buy anything was already gone. Farmers actually had their own gardens, chickens and a milk cow so the only real expenses they had to pay at the time were taxes and bank notes. To put that into context, the the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells us that in 1938 only 58% of farmers had cars, 34% had phones and 13% had electricity. We lost power for one hour and some lost it for up to a week during the last winter storm and you’d have thought the world was coming to an end. It is all about what we are used to, is it not? And it certainly makes us realize the importance of those things we take for granted.

Let’s look at paragraph four of the FFA Creed:

I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.

In today’s world of producing more with less, we strive to be efficient food producers with the smallest carbon footprint possible. At a time when only 13% of all farms had electricity, the first dairy cattle were artificially inseminated. Who would have ever guessed that a technology that isn’t even widely used today in the beef business was available then? Of course today we can also use DNA fingerprinting technology to really ramp up our efficient food production.

An interesting factoid popped up about fingerprinting this week. We learned that researchers have recently retrieved DNA material from a horse that inspired a nation to succeed despite the odds; his name was Seabiscuit.

How ironic that a horse that helped rebuild the morale of the nation near the end of The Great Depression is once again regaining national attention. As it turns out, Seabiscuit’s DNA suggests that he did combine the qualities of excelling in both short or long distance races. As a late bloomer, he peaked after many had dismissed his potential for great success. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you should check it out.

In 2021, I clearly see the value of every single citizen learning from and living by the FFA Creed in the leadership of serving the public interest and in being progressive yet mindful of the history of the former toil to generate the essentials of life. Life is truly like a horse race; you can never give up no matter how much mud, dust or other stuff comes flying into your face. You must remain focused on the finish line just as Seabiscuit did and, against all odds, remain resilient and get the job done. That’s the challenge that agriculturalists have accepted and completed for many generations and, God-willing, will continue for many more.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at, or email Trent at [email protected].