Revived FFA ready to contribute to our most vital industry

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

FFA is a great activity for boys who want to follow their fathers into farming, right?

Well, yes, but anyone who accepts the statement, and its limitations at face value, has a lot to learn about FFA.

They should have that chance, now that what many have seen as a serious shortcoming at McCook Senior High School has been corrected. It was such a shortcoming, in fact, that at least two of the current board of education members campaigned on the issue.

We agree, it's unconscionable that agricultural education not be offered anywhere in Nebraska, especially the rural Southwest region of the state. We're glad that situation has been rectified.

But some statistics from the National FFA Organization reveal just how much FFA has changed from the old-time stereotypes of boys in blue jackets, showing their steers.

In fact, 38 percent of FFA?members are female, and women hold more than half of all state leadership position.

And, while 27 percent of FFA members live in rural, farm areas, 39 percent live in rural non-farm areas and 34 percent live in urban and suburban areas.

FFA chapters are in 11 of the 20 largest cities, including New York Chicago and Philadelphia. And, while Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio are among the top FFA states in the nation, California leads them all.

This year's classroom instruction includes economics and introduction to agriculture, and four classes are planned for next semester, thanks to the help of McCook Community College.

In fact, according to the National FFA?Organization, a shortage of qualified agriculture teachers is the greatest challenge facing FFA and agricultural education.

But local members are enthusiastic, and anxious to get McCook's FFA?Chapter up and running at full speed.

Collectively, FFA members earn $4 billion annually through their hands-on work experience, along the way, they learn advanced career skills in 45 national proficiency areas and 23 career development events such as public speaking, environment and national resources and meats evaluation and technology.

But that's only a beginning. Those skills will equip them to become part of an industry that employs more than 22 million people in every phase from growing food and fiber to selling it at the supermarket.

It's up to all of us -- parents, students and the community -- to support FFA and ensure that it continues to thrive and grow in coming years.

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