Lead Out Loud

November 24, 2010 04:25 AM

Did you know the nation’s largest annual youth gathering is all about agriculture? This bodes well for the next generation of top agricultural producers.

FFA recently held its annual national convention in Indianapolis, Ind., with more than 53,000 young people in attendance.

Roger Beachy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, recently challenged FFA officers with these questions: “What can you do to make a difference? What can you do, as state leaders, to be a factor in educating others about agriculture?”

FFA members are leaders who shape the future of agriculture education, according to Brenda Dann-Messier of the U.S. Department of Education, who recently met with FFA students. “You are the future of this generation,” she told them. “You will be ushering in a new generation of innovation.”

The challenge for the students, according to Dallas Tonsager, USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development, is to be advocates for their local communities. “We need leadership,” Tonsager said. “Leadership is the single most valuable commodity, and we need you to keep doing what you’re doing. We need you in every element of rural America.”

Membership Record. This year, the National FFA Organization shattered its all-time membership record and surpassed the 520,000 mark. The 2010 total represents a jump of more than 10,000 members compared with the previous record of 509,735, which was set in 1977.

National FFA Chief Operating Officer W. Dwight Armstrong attributes the increase in part to the growing popularity of an affiliation membership plan that allows FFA advisers to extend membership to all of their agriculture students through a flat fee based on chapter size.
The plan had 200 local pilot programs this year alone.

The National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a national youth organization of student members who are preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. Founded in 1928 with 33 farm boys, the organization now has 7,429 local chapters in 50 states.

Leaders in Training

Today there are 523,309 FFA members, aged 12 to 21, in 7,487 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
> 38% of FFA members are female; women hold more than 50% of state leadership positions.
> 75% of the membership is Caucasian, 11% is Hispanic and 4% is African-American.
> 89% of FFA members are in grades 9–12, 6% are in grades 7–8 and 5% are high school graduates.
> 27% of FFA members live in rural farm areas, 39% live in rural nonfarm areas and 34% live in urban and suburban areas.
> FFA chapters are in 16 of the 20 largest U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
> The top five membership states are California, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Missouri.
> The 2009 National FFA Convention was host to 53,473 members, FFA advisers and FFA supporters.

Top Producer, December 2010

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