31 October 2010- FFA Develops Great Leaders

October 20 through the 23rd was my annual battery charging time at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. What an opportunity, once again, to witness the leadership-building program provided by the FFA.

It also gave me the opportunity to again be reminded of the immense change in agriculture and in the FFA Organization. For many years it was called the Future Farmers of America. It is now officially known as The National FFA Organization, because with more than 300 career opportunities in the world of agriculture and agribusiness, many of these members will not become farmers.

There was a time when ladies were not allowed to be members of the FFA. I remember back in the 60's, going on the air for several years saying “Well, at the FFA convention again this year, the boys voted against the girls”. Today 42% of FFA members are female and women hold more than 47% of state leadership positions.

I remember when the membership of the FFA consisted of all white students and African-American students had their organization, the New Farmers of America. Again, back in the 60's, they merged into one organization. Today 79% of FFA membership is Caucasian, 15% is Hispanic, 4% is African-American and 2% is Native American.

We’ve expanded the leadership building program beyond farms and ranches and moved it into urban and suburban communities; today 69% of FFA members still live in rural/farm areas, but 10% live in urban and suburban areas and 10% live in small towns. And FFA itself has moved...its headquarters left Alexandria, VA and re-located in Indianapolis, IN. And in a very controversial move, the FFA Convention, held for decades in Kansas City, left town and now alternates between Louisville and Indianapolis.

Finally, as agricultural technology has changed so has the agricultural curriculum, with heavy emphasis on science. 92% of agricultural education programs offer agriscience; 71% offer advanced agriscience and biotechnology; 59% offer agricultural mechanics; 49% offer horticulture; 43% offer animal science and 24% offer environment related courses.

Now let me talk about a very important part of the FFA program, the Agriculture Teacher/FFA Advisor. The shortage of qualified agriculture teachers is the greatest challenge facing FFA and agricultural education today. If you are a student looking for a rewarding career with immediate job openings across the country, consider becoming an agriculture teacher. I speak from experience when I say you will have the opportunity to change lives as my ag teacher did for me in 1951 when he led me to this career in agricultural communications.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.