If the enthusiasm and energy at the Iowa FFA Conference last week is any indication of the future of agriculture, we’re all in good hands.
An estimated 5,000 students, teachers, industry leaders and others were in Ames for the 89th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference. Some came to participate in contests, while others were there to support other FFA members. But they were all there because they believe in the future of agriculture.
One such group of students — a group of 30 Iowa high school seniors — attended the FFA conference to sign their letter of intent to teach agriculture. Much like student-athletes who commit to playing a sport at a chosen college, these high school students signed their papers to commit to studying agricultural education and return to the classroom to teach.
Much like those involved in agriculture today, the students came from various backgrounds — some from the farm and some not — but were ultimately inspired to someday educate other students.
Carli Grau from the Newell-Fonda FFA chapter said she found her place in agriculture through a program in fourth grade. An agricultural exploratory program in Buena Vista County teaches students about animal science, animal safety, renewable resources and other pieces of agriculture.
She liked the program so much that in fifth grade she began teaching fourth grade students at that event. Eight years later, she’s still involved. She signed her letter of intent to attend Des Moines Area Community College and then Iowa State University for an agricultural education degree.
Seeing the spark
"I love seeing kids’ eyes light up when something sparks." she said. "Starting with 4-H telling them all about animals and then seeing them in the showring against me and seeing them move up in FFA and seeing their transformation and see them grow was an amazing experience," she said.
Students like Logan Zaabel from the Newton FFA Chapter and Adam Koch from the Osage FFA Chapter expanded their view of agriculture by being involved in FFA. Both grew up on cattle farms but were inspired to teach agriculture by being part of their chapters.
Both Zaabel and Koch will be attending Iowa State University this fall to earn degrees in agricultural education.
Riane Vickery, a Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA member, said her plan has always been to go to college for a degree in education, but she wasn’t always interested in teaching ag.
FFA is for everyone
Vickery, from Sibley, was interested in being a music teacher. Having no agriculture background, Vickery was swayed by a friend to join the FFA. There, her FFA advisor encouraged her to try out for the National FFA Band. That’s when she realized that "FFA is for everybody," she said.
"My teachers have had an impact on me, and I want to give that to my future students and help them realize their potential," she said.
Vickery will be attending Oklahoma State for agricultural education and then plans to return to the classroom as an ag teacher and FFA advisor.