For many farmers and rural residents, it is incomprehensible that someone might not know what FFA is. The reality is there are a lot of people, even those in rural Nebraska, who don’t know what FFA is or the impact the organization has.
Stacey Agnew, executive director of the Nebraska FFA Foundation, has played a huge role in finding funding for the organization. Her role is especially important as Nebraska is the only state where there is not direct state aid to support most of the career and technical programs, such as FFA.
However, there are some advantages, as it allows Nebraska FFA to be locally controlled by school districts, not the state. This gives advisors the space to make the curriculum fit their students’ needs. But this means money from agricultural businesses is crucial to keep FFA programs alive and well.
Mission True Blue
One way the Nebraska FFA Foundation creates opportunities for funding is by putting on Mission True Blue programs. This consists of telling the FFA story to potential donors and business leaders. Mission True Blue shares the story of FFA, and how the Nebraska FFA Foundation affects students, teachers and programs.
The main goal is to educate people who don’t know about the organization. They then might decide to volunteer or financially support FFA after hearing about needs of the group. Their mission is, “The Nebraska FFA Foundation financially invests in over 12,000 FFA members and their advisors in Nebraska by growing leaders, building communities and creating career connections.”
The foundation supports advisors and gives them tools and resources to successfully grow students into leaders.
“We’ve funded over 145 professional development training programs of ag teachers, including a program called Accelerate,” Agnew says. “Professional development can help address the teacher’s shortages by providing curriculum content or personal development. Professional development may help retain teachers who need support in those areas. We don’t want cost to be an issue for a teacher to attend a professional development program. That is why we are about supporting teachers.”
The foundation seeks to properly equip FFA chapters to help build up their community. Through the Nebraska FFA local chapter grant program, funding is awarded to support community building projects FFA members do in their communities.
“Just this year, grant money was pushed out to fund animal learning labs where they raise cattle, and then the beef will be used for the school lunch program,” Agnew says.
Creating career connections
The foundation is partnering FFA chapters with agricultural industry leaders. “We will have industry partners tell us what resources they have, and we will give that list to ag teachers and say how they can help your classroom, or here is a speaker that can come into your classroom,” Agnew says.
They accomplish this by having state officer visits to establish that connection with industry leaders.
The foundation raises $1.3 million per year and spends it all to help support FFA programs and advisors. However, they still need support as Nebraska FFA continues to grow. The foundation’s funding has had to dramatically increase to match the needs of state and local FFA programing.
Success for the Nebraska FFA Foundation is not measured in money. It is measured by the success of the FFA chapters, the continued professional development of ag teachers and the growth of FFA students into agricultural advocates. Success is seeing FFA members become leaders, grow their communities and become lifelong advocates for agriculture, Agnew says.
Learn more at neffafoundation.org.