National FFA Week highlights agriculture and members
National FFA Week: A Celebration of the Agricultural Industry
National FFA week is a week of promoting agriculture and agriculture education, celebrated in communities across the country from February 20 through the 27. Beginning in 1948, the National FFA Board of Directors designated a weeklong tradition to honor America’s first president and founding father, who was an agriculturalist and farmer himself. This week is strategically placed on the week of George Washington’s birthday to recognize that fact.
FFA is the leading school-based youth organization in the United States, and during the 2021 National FFA Week, over 700,000 members joined together to recognize achievements in their own communities and chapter FFA programs. FFA Week showcases and brings awareness to FFA and how it directly impacts the development of agriculture’s future leaders.
Don Thorn is the Executive Director of the Colorado FFA Foundation and works year-round to support FFA programs by means of raising funds. During National FFA Week, the Foundation has an opportunity to recognize the local chapters, members, and teachers that they advocate for every day. The Foundation focuses their time on highlighting students who are recipients of their grant programs. In addition to that, they also recognize those chapters and members who are going above and beyond with their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects and other leadership development events offered within FFA. Usually, the Foundation would also host the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame event, however, they took the precautions to postpone the event until May because of the current COVID circumstances.
February 25 is also National FFA Give Day. On this day, the National FFA Foundation hosts a 24-hour giving event where community members and donors can support the members and future of agriculture through financial gifts and sponsorship. This is a crucial element to the success of the FFA organization, and the program would not be possible without these generous donors. Thorn also mentions that FFA week has an impact on those who aren’t in FFA, and do not have an agricultural background. Because FFA has such a diverse spread of career development events, there is a project to suite the interests of many different students. During FFA Week, members encourage their peers to join FFA and bring awareness to the fact that there are many different outlets for a variety of talents and skills to be utilized in the agricultural industry. Thorn said, “With such an evolving population, it is very exciting to see FFA numbers really begin to climax”.
Agriculture impacts the daily lives of all people living around the globe, from the clothes on their back to the food on the table. With the help of FFA Week, the next generation of leaders will be more equipped and prepared to sustain a growing population. It takes an extensive number of entities for an agriculture education program to be successful, such as the community members, parents, teachers, schools, and the member. Thorn said the Foundation is thankful to take this week to highlight all the incredible individuals who make this organization possible.
FFA leaders across the nation are using this week to increase member engagement and involvement. Caleb Wertz, the Colorado State FFA President, and his team members have been busy organizing and facilitating multiple virtual activities for the members of Colorado. They have prerecorded an “Ag Olympic” session for each day of the week, which are games and contests that have a central theme on different facets of agriculture. A few of the team members also hosted a live virtual event on February 24 where they baked cookies and answered questions from members in the comments. Furthermore, like the Foundation, the State Officer Team showcases Colorado FFA members along with industry professionals on their social media platforms. Wertz explains that during FFA week, it is the team’s job to be the middleman between the public and the FFA organization so that more people have a better understanding of the progress happening in the agricultural realm. Along with that, recruiting new members into FFA is a fundamental element to FFA Week. By making others more aware of the opportunities presented through FFA, Wertz hopes to see that other young people will be given the same opportunities that he has been able to experience.
“FFA is an incredible organization that has led me to discover my true passions and helped boost me to become the individual I am today,” Wertz said.
Looking at National FFA Week on a more local scale, the Manzanola FFA chapter in southeast Colorado has used the week to promote agriculture in their community and school. Becky Ball is the FFA advisor and said throughout the week, her students celebrated each day with different events. One of the days out of the week, the chapter celebrates first year members, otherwise called “Greenhand” members. They serve these members breakfast and symbolically paint their hands green. After, they put their handprint onto a banner and sign their names. Additionally, the week is packed with many other events like agriculture-related dress up days, a petting zoo where members of the chapter bring in their farm animals to share with the school, agriculture Olympics where they have agricultural trivia contests or hay bale throwing contests, and member meals together.
The Manzanola FFA chapter also makes it a priority to get everyone in the school involved, not just those who are in FFA. They use this week as an opportunity to encourage others to join their chapter. They want others to see that FFA is a fun and enjoyable experience, as well as all the benefits that come along with being a member. As part of their weekly activities, the chapter members also create lesson plans on an agricultural topic to eventually present to the elementary students. Ball said that her students’ favorite part of the week is getting to work with the kids, and that “National FFA Week makes them proud; they enjoy sharing what they love and have learned with the community”. National FFA Week is a time when students are recognized for their hard work and success in the organization, while also raising awareness and advocating for the prosperity of agriculture.
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