Blue corduroy jackets can be seen this week across the nation, as FFA members celebrate ‘National FFA Week.’
Dennis Morrice of KLEM Radio of Le Mars tells us more about the largest agriculture-based youth organization, in this week’s Agriculture Report.
“I believe in the future of agriculture,” those are the first words of the FFA creed, and thousands of young people are celebrating agriculture and the national organization this week.
Brett Oetken serves as the Agriculture Advisor for the Le Mars Community FFA program.
He says, the reason FFA celebrates this week is because it has a rich tradition with our first president, George Washington.
“Initially, this week was selected because this is the week of George Washington’s birthday. And so, being part of President’s Day week was one of the reasons they selected this. George Washington plays a big symbolic role in FFA, as the founding father of our country, but also recognizes he represented a lot of the high ideals that the FFA was trying to aspire to also. So, we use George Washington in a lot of parts of our ceremonies and other parts of the organization,” said Oetken.
Oetken says the organization has evolved through its 80 years of existence.
It started as an organization called Future Farmers of America, and was created to teach young men about the benefits of farming.
However, today, young women account for more than half the membership, and the name was changed to reflect the expansion of agriculture.
“Over time, the opportunities in farming and the number of farmers continued to shrink. But the opportunities in Agri-business and associated professions and careers continued to grow. So, back in the ’90’s, we changed from Future Farmers of America to the National F-F-A Organization, in an effort to represent the F-F-A was about all agricultural careers, and not just farming,” said Oetken.
The Le Mars FFA instructor says, today’s FFA emphasizes leadership development, public speaking, parliamentary procedure, and a host of other character building qualities.
Oetken says the leadership and speaking skills, along with the networking contacts, that a student learns today through FFA will remain with the individual through college and beyond when they pursue their career.
“FFA and ag education at the high school level, gives the students the opportunity to make connections with people from all over the area… all over the state… all over the nation, if they get involved at that level. The whole purpose is to help students develop skills that they can carry out into the future as career skills, as skills they can use in the job world, or working for themselves as entrepreneurs. We think that everything we do is something students can take it out and apply it in the real world, when they are ready to use it,” said Oetken.
Oetken says, Vocational Agriculture and FFA falls in line with the state’s educational goals of implementing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, or STEM into the classroom.