National FFA Organization boasts record membership
Interest in FFA and agriculture education continues to grow, meeting demand for highly skilled graduates to fill jobs in agriculture and related fields.
The National FFA Organization recently announced a record-high membership of 700,170, an increase of more than 30,000 members over 2018. Virginia membership is increasing as well, and the state will have seven delegates at the organization’s national convention this year. The state sent six in 2018.
To keep students interested, the organization has had to evolve with changes in agriculture. Many local FFA chapters have expanded their education programs by focusing on local interests and what’s relevant in a community.
“FFA has adjusted with agriculture and society, but it remains vastly important because it helps keep people in agriculture and gets those interested who may not have grown up on a farm,” said Andrew Smith, associate director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and a former FFA member. “FFA is a great way to keep young people’s interest and build their understanding and knowledge in our industry.”
Members of the curriculum clubs develop projects that give them hands-on learning experiences. Agriculture is a core focus, but students also learn leadership skills like public speaking, advocacy and communications.
Farm Bureau recently held an advocacy and media training session for Virginia state FFA officers, who learned how to communicate with the media and advocate for agriculture.
“We gave them an update on some big agriculture issues and put them in front of a camera, challenging them, giving them the hard questions, to prepare them for when they talk to the media and the public,” Smith said.
In addition to learning valuable skills, FFA students have opportunities to gain financial support for their education goals through scholarships.
FFA “opened up doors for me,” Smith said, “not just in agriculture, but with speaking, communication, advocacy and leadership.”