Growing up the son of an agriculture teacher on a fourth-generation dairy farm in Ceres, Turlock High School alum Bobby Marchy knew from a very young age that the Future Farmers of America organization was calling his name.
Ag wasn’t ever really a choice for him, he said, but spending his childhood days helping with calves, milking cows and tagging along with his mom and her class on their high school FFA field trips instilled in him the values of agriculture early on.
“I always told myself that I wanted to wear a blue jacket like those big kids,” Marchy said.
Marchy recalled feeling awestruck when he attended his first National FFA Convention at just nine years old, and then reliving that feeling during his senior year of high school when he traveled to Indianapolis for the event once more. The journey in between those two moments led to one of the most memorable experiences of his life – spending the past year as Sentinel on the California FFA State Officer Team.
A member of the THS FFA chapter throughout all four years of his high school career, Marchy originally had a plan of showing and judging cattle throughout high school, graduating and then attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Along the way, however, he realized the leadership opportunities available in the FFA and decided to make the most of them.
At the end of his senior year in 2017, Marchy filled out the application to run for State FFA office.
Ag has a bigger impact on our society and our community than maybe some of us know. It’s not just about the farmers and ranchers…we are all a part of ag and it just takes one person to share our stories.Bobby Marchy
“When it came time for senior year, I wasn’t ready to let FFA go,” Marchy said. “I knew I could do this year of service to give back to the FFA and all it’s done for me.”
The California State FFA Officer Team is an elected body of leadership whose job it is to provide guidance and direction to the organization throughout the school year. They motivate members at conferences throughout the state, act as goodwill ambassadors by visiting California agribusinesses and provide direction to the organization as a whole.
After filling out an application for the position of Sentinel and a character survey, Marchy then had to pass an exam to be considered by the nominating committee. At the 2017 California State FFA Convention, he was screened by the committee through countless interviews and evaluations, and upon being nominated for the position of Sentinel, the student delegation voted for their favorite candidates.
“It’s intense because the stakes are so high,” Marchy said. “When my name got called, I knew that everything in my life was going to change: perspective, growth, connections. You can’t quantify that into a value.”
After he was elected, Marchy and the five other newly-selected officers, including a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and reporter, were whisked away for training and to see their new home. The six young adults spent the past year living together and spent their summer touring agriculture’s different industries: bee farms, orchards, dairies, organic farms and more.
“Since we were the six new, guiding voices, we needed to gain a well-rounded knowledge of ag so that we could better serve and be a better voice for those aspects of our industry,” Marchy said.
After summer was over and school was back in session, Marchy and his State Officer Team colleagues spent the 2017-18 academic year visiting 110 different FFA chapters at high schools throughout the state. The team traveled up and down California, going as far north as Butte Valley and as far south as Calexico, which is close to the Mexico border.
“We went everywhere, and it was so cool to see those students and the diversity in each classroom,” Marchy said. “It was different learning techniques, different students and different passions all coming together in one place.”
While serving as State FFA Sentinel and visiting with countless students throughout California, Marchy noticed a need. Only two percent of students throughout the United States come from an agricultural background, he said, and in order to captivate the nation’s youth and help them become interested in the industry, that two percent needs to share their story.
“We thought, ‘How can we give back to our roots and stay anchored in agriculture and its ideals,’” Marchy said. “We didn’t want to just share information with students; we wanted to share a story.”
Marchy, who grew up on a generic dairy farm, and another state officer, who grew up on an organic farm, decided to not only share their own stories that are rooted in ag, but also asked students throughout the state to share their own. What followed was an influx of videos from students across California sharing their own ag experiences, and why the industry is so important to them.
Encouraging students to embrace their agricultural backgrounds has been inspiring, Marchy said, but he has also enjoyed introducing the subject to those who may not have a past in ag, but who definitely have a future.
“I think it opens a door of opportunity to so many students for them to realize how special they are and how unique of an opportunity agriculture is,” he said. “Not only are we sharing with them what the FFA program offers, but it also shows them that they have that ability to grow themselves into something more.”
Serving as State FFA Sentinel changed Marchy’s life, and at the recent California State FFA Convention in Anaheim last month he and the rest of the State Officers passed the torch to the 2018-19 team. Now, Marchy can fully focus on post-grad life, he said, through his internship with Western United Dairymen and, in the fall, classes at Oklahoma State University where he is majoring in Ag Communications and International Agriculture.
The past year serving on the State Officer team helped him to realize the power of ag, he said.
“Ag has a bigger impact on our society and our community than maybe some of us know. It’s not just about the farmers and ranchers…we are all a part of ag and it just takes one person to share our stories,” Marchy said. “I’m honored that I was given this opportunity to serve, and I hope I made my community and high school proud.”