Our View: FFA about more than farming 

Published 9:39 am Thursday, February 2, 2017

On Wednesday, Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner and Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham proclaimed Feb. 18-25 as FFA Week in Winchester-Clark County. FFA Week will also be recognized nationally during this week, which serves as an opportunity for FFA members, alumni and sponsors to advocate for agricultural education and the program.

The week-long tradition began in 1947 when the National FFA Board of Directors designated the week of George Washington’s birthday as National FFA Week in recognition of his legacy as an agriculturist and farmer. The first National FFA Week was held in 1948.

Future Farmers of America was founded 20 years earlier when a group of 33 students gathers in Kansas City, Missouri, to address the issue of many young men losing interest in farming.

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The organization was initially founded to “offer farm boys a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way they will develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys.”

While FFA still stands for Future Farmers of America, the organization is no longer just for students who want to be farmers. FFA grows students into a variety of successful careers, some become teachers, doctors, scientists and business owners. Burtner remarked that even he was once a member of FFA.

Other notable FFA members include former U.S. president and Nobel Prize winner Jimmy Carter; country music artists from Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett to Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw; James Oesterreicher, former chief operation officer of J.C. Penney; Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The New York Times; and Jim Davis, creator the Garfield comic strip.

Today, the organization focuses not only on promoting agriculture, but on building a chain of young leaders.

There are charters in all 50 states and two U.S. territories representing more than 620,000 students and more than 7,650 local FFA chapters. In Clark County, the local FFA chapter at George Rogers Clark High School is an active organization with members that often volunteer and do community outreach.

The organization volunteers to help at many local agriculture events by serving food and doing clean up. The members also volunteer to collect and deliver Thanksgiving food baskets each year. Many of the members are active with the Clark County Fair, the 4-H/FFA Youth Livestock Show and assist with events like the Farm Bureau Ag Day each year. The traditional blue and gold corduroy jackets are sure to be seen at nearly any event promoting agriculture in the county.

While the focus on agriculture is important, there are many other facets of the organization that help students become the best they can be, like teaching public speaking and writing, livestock judging, relationship building, leadership skills, science and math, career development and job skills.

Throughout FFA Week, it’s important to not only give a big applause to the men and women who make agriculture their living, but to the wonderful traits the organization instills in the youth who are involved.