National FFA Week (February 18-25) holds a special place in my heart. As an alum, I recall the lessons and experiences I had in my iconic corduroy blue FFA jacket.
FFA gave me a new appreciation for the diversity of opportunities within agriculture. I grew up a farm kid, but FFA helped me appreciate those experiences and build on them. Through Career Development Events (CDEs), I discovered agriculture communications, which later became my major and helped land me an internship with the Iowa Farm Bureau in online marketing.
With the agriculture industry expanding over the past few decades, so has the FFA. I’ve often heard it said that FFA is now “more than sows, plows and cows,” and I would add that it’s certainly for more than just farm kids.
In fact, in 1988, FFA even changed its name (from Future Farmers of America to National FFA Organization) to reflect the growing diversity of the ag industry and to appeal to more than just aspiring farmers. Today, the organization is for future teachers, doctors, chemists, veterinarians, engineers and entrepreneurs. It appeals to these students through targeted CDEs focused on food science and technology, nursery, livestock evaluation, mechanics, environment and natural resources, public speaking and many other fields.
Embracing the diversity of agriculture and life sciences has brought more students from cities into the fold. In 2013, urban students made up 10% of national FFA members. In Iowa FFA’s 2015 survey, 48% of FFA students lived in a city or town, showing that programs and grants aimed at urban FFA chapters are having a significant impact. Agriculture truly touches all of us, and FFA is a terrific opportunity to explore the industry.
This National FFA Week I’m celebrating the positive impact that being involved in FFA had on me and others close to me. And, given the evolution of FFA over the past few decades, your doctor, your child’s teacher, a local business owner or farmer just might have an old corduroy jacket hanging in their closet too.
By Megan Striegel. Megan is a Tri-County Community FFA Chapter alum, an Iowa State University student majoring in agriculture education and public relations, and Iowa Farm Bureau’s online marketing intern.