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10 ways FFA is growing tomorrow’s ag leaders

Curt Arens FFA members
BLUE AND GOLD: FFA members from across the state will converge on Lincoln from April 6-8 for their 94th state convention.
The 94th Nebraska State FFA Convention is ready to convene from April 6-8 in Lincoln.

Nebraska’s FFA members from across the state are preparing to gather in person for the first time in two years for the 94th Nebraska State FFA Convention, set for April 6-8 in Lincoln.

As always, the convention will recognize the hard work of students through the year with their Supervised Agricultural Experiences and showcase career preparedness through competitive events. The jam-packed convention schedule offers members a chance to network, gain new skills and prepare to be agriculture leaders for tomorrow.

FFA members are easily identified by the official dress of national blue and corn gold, swarming the state capital city during their annual convention. But beyond the jacket is a student dedicated to reaching his or her fullest potential.

Ellie Wanek, Aurora, is serving as the Nebraska State FFA president. She says that FFA is committed to the growth and success of Nebraska’s youth, on and off the farm.

10 ways

Here’s a list of 10 ways Nebraska FFA is growing today’s youth into tomorrow’s agriculture leaders, according to Wanek:

1. Record-setting numbers. This year saw a record number of Nebraska youth in FFA, Wanek says, with a whopping 11,019 members enrolled across the state.

2. Chapter growth. The heart of FFA starts with local chapters. There are 202 FFA chapters across Nebraska, involving students in high school and some middle schools. According to Wanek, Nebraska FFA added three chapters in 2021-22, including new chapters at Bancroft-Rosalie, Hastings St. Cecilia and Pleasanton. Next year will be monumental as Nebraska FFA is planning to add 10 more chapters in 2022-23.

3. School curriculum. FFA may be chartered in any school with an agriculture education interdisciplinary curriculum. To join FFA, you must be enrolled in an agriculture course. “What sets FFA apart from other organizations is the fact that students can work toward their FFA careers right in their daily schedule by getting information and instruction in the classroom,” Wanek says.

4. Project diversity. You don’t have to live on a farm or ranch to reap the benefits of FFA, Wanek says. “Find that golden nugget of interest, whether it's serving in restaurants or hospitality management,” she says. “If you don’t have access to ag directly, it's super cool that there’s still something for everyone to find their place and people within.”

5. Balanced education. By using a three-circle model of learning, agricultural instruction is delivered with these major components — including classroom and laboratory instruction, Supervised Agriculture Experience, and FFA. This framework of learning offers a balance between contextual, experiment-based and engaged learning. When all three of these are implemented, the result is a successful FFA member.

6. Competition builds esteem. FFA students compete based on their knowledge on a particular subject, usually for their school team. The contests offer competitions in 50 different areas. Leadership Development Events (LDE) would include parliamentary procedure, public speaking and creed speaking. Career Development Events (CDE) involve contests such as livestock evaluation, agronomy, vet science and floriculture.

7. Mentorship. During her freshman year of high school, Wanek was the only one in her friend group to be in FFA, so she sought out older members to guide her through those initial experiences. Wanek encourages older students to take younger members under their wing to make them feel comfortable and get involved. In the long run, it helps everyone in the chapter be successful and harvests long-lasting friendships.

8. Promotes leadership. The goal is to teach students how to develop skills and tools in order to become an excellent leader. Aubree Eldridge, a senior with the Cozad FFA chapter, says her favorite course at Cozad Community School is her agricultural leadership class. “We get to work on our FFA career, study guides for competitions, plan banquets and get ready for chapter meetings,” she says. “FFA has given me so many learning experiences and leadership skills that I never imagined.”

9. Foundation support. Created in 1990, the Nebraska FFA Foundation is the fundraising arm that keeps FFA programs available to the next generation of students. It's the investment promise made to young Nebraskans in order to become adult leaders in their communities and successful agriculture producers and businesspeople.

10. Historical. FFA is rich in traditions and history. Nebraska was the sixth state to charter in 1928. At the root of agricultural education, FFA is committed to both the modern and traditional ways of solving problems for agriculture and beyond. Although many things have changed in the world of agriculture, the founding principles of FFA — and those blue and gold corduroy jackets — are still the same.

To learn more about Nebraska FFA, visit neaged.org. To support youth FFA programs and scholarships, contact Nebraska FFA Foundation at neffafoundation.org.

Wortmann writes from Crofton, Neb.

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