This is National FFA Week, so I wanted to let Kentuckians know how important FFA is to me.
Growing up on a farm in central Kentucky, where my family has lived and farmed for more than 200 years, I proudly wore the blue corduroy jacket as an active member of Scott County High School’s FFA chapter.
FFA is important to Kentucky because it prepares our next generation of farmers and agricultural leaders. Who knows? A future Kentucky commissioner of agriculture might be a member of FFA right now, just as I was.
The average age of an American farmer is 58, having increased by nearly eight years over the past 30 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. FFA prepares its members to take the place of their fathers and grandfathers on a family farm, or start a new farm from scratch, or embark on a career in a related agriculture field.
National FFA Week has been celebrated every year since 1948, when the National FFA Board of Directors designated the week of George Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22) in recognition of Washington’s legacy as an agriculturist and farmer.
National FFA Week gives FFA members, alumni, and sponsors across the nation a chance to share with local, state, and national audiences what FFA is and the impact it has on members every day.
For those reading this who may not be aware, FFA is a co-curricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership.
The letters “FFA” stand for Future Farmers of America. The name was abbreviated to FFA in 1988 to reflect the growing diversity and new opportunities in the agriculture industry.
FFA began in 1928 with a mission to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.
The National FFA Convention took place in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1928-98. Kentucky holds the distinction of being the event’s second home from 1999 to 2005, when Louisville hosted the convention. It moved to Indianapolis from 2006-12, then returned to Kentucky’s largest city the past three years. Kentucky holds the record for attendance when 62,998 members, teachers, supporters, and guests packed the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville for the 2013 convention.
The convention will be held in Indianapolis for the next nine years, through 2024.
Today, 629,327 student members ages 12-21 belong to one of 7,757 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the National FFA website. While 73 percent of all FFA members live in rural and farm areas, 27 percent live in urban and suburban areas.
Formed in 1930, Kentucky FFA has more than 14,000 members in over 140 local chapters, according to the Kentucky FFA website. Three Kentuckians have been elected National FFA president: Steve Meredith of Hardin County in 1984, Kenneth Kennedy of Trigg County in 1964, and Howard Downing of Jessamine County in 1957.
FFA helps the next generation of Kentuckians prepare for careers in agribusiness, agrimarketing, science, communications, education, horticulture, production agriculture, natural resources, and forestry, to name a few. Even if a student member pursues a career outside of agriculture, the lessons of discipline, integrity, service, and teamwork that FFA teaches will serve that student well in any endeavor.
That is why FFA is so important to Kentucky.