National FFA Week, Feb. 18-25
You might be at an ag banquet or another function where blue corduroy jackets are prevalent and you would realize you are in the company of the cream of the crop students, FFA members who are wearing their signature attire. Their chapter name and state are embroidered on the back and the FFA emblem is prominently featured in the center. A small FFA logo, the member’s name and office held, if applicable, is on the front.
These distinctive jackets started showing up locally when the Hot Springs, S.D., Chapter was activated in August 2017, after several years of diligent work by FFA alumni and others. Five years later, in 2022, the chapter had a state officer, Megan Sanders, (full disclosure she a granddaughter of the writer.)
After a year as state vice-president, I asked her to share some thoughts. Sanders said, “On any level beginning at the local chapter FFA teaches leadership and career development, both vital to success no matter what you end up doing. We improved our public speaking skills, learned parliamentary procedure, and gained confidence. Part of our duties was to visit FFA sponsors and other ag businesses. The Lazy J Dairy at Wolsey, S.D., was the most interesting as I didn’t know about dairies, and they milk 900 cows, twice a day.”
Unlike many organizations, the National FFA Organization is a resource and support group that doesn’t control nor supervise state associations nor local chapters. Sanders stated, “South Dakota has six state officers. Some states have as many as 14. To become a state officer in South Dakota there is an application and extensive interview process. Interviews are conducted by past state presidents and retired ag teachers. Some states hold election of officers. Our state conference is held in April, other states go up through July. It’s been eye-opening to learn how each state differs.”
As part of their months-long officer duties, they plan camp activities and conferences, visit chapters throughout the state, and have time for fun too. Sanders said, “This year was my third trip to the National FFA Convention, held in Indianapolis, where there were 69,596 FFA members in attendance. I competed in Employment Skills and earned a silver placing. To compete at nationals, you first have to do well at districts, then state. At each level, I met people who increased my network. Now as a student at South Dakota State University, I see fellow FFAers on a daily basis. Our officer team spent five days in Washington, D.C., where we met with our congressional delegation and toured. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., is the majority whip and his office is in the White House so we got to see that.”
Sanders stated, “South Dakota has seven FFA districts. My brother, Kyle, is currently the president of District Five. It all starts at the chapter level, that’s where you learn more about leadership. The more you put in, the more you will get out of it.”