1. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION – “Be part of the industry that sustains mankind,” says David Byrd, an Agricultural Resource Specialist for Polk County Schools and Future Farmers of America’s District Advisor, citing the need to provide food for the Earth’s growing population.
2. LEARN NEW SKILLS – “We get to learn really fun skills,” says District President Shelby Oesterreicher. Welding, tractor driving, and how to take care of many different types of plants are just a few examples. Through Supervised Agricultural Experience Programs (SAEs), students can learn more about an agriculture area of their choosing outside of school, as well as learn responsibility, she summarizes. Working with animals is a big plus. “We learn responsibility and have a sense of accomplishment when the animals go to market at the end of our projects,” she adds. Shelby Freeman, Polk County’s incoming FFA president, says she feels privileged to be able to work with animals. “A bunch of kids never had the opportunity to touch animals,” she explains.
3. SERVE OTHERS – Community service projects let the students learn while helping those around them, Byrd points out.
4. DEVELOP LEADERSHIP SKILLS – “FFA teaches leadership skills to our youth and creates the leaders of tomorrow,” Oesterreicher testifies.
5. TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES – FFA holds lots of conferences, which are a “big hit” with youth, Oesterreicher says. “These conferences were created to build student leaders and the students who attend gain confidence in themselves,” she explains, adding the conferences help students develop and grow as people. Among the conferences are Florida Outdoor Adventures, Florida Leadership Adventures, and the Washington Leadership Conference.
6. MEET NEW PEOPLE AND MAKE NEW FRIENDS – “I have friends all over the nation,” says Freeman, who has met senators, congressman, and county commissioners. “As an FFA member you make so many new friends everywhere you go. We all share most of the same ideals and values,” Oesterreicher adds. Byrd stresses the importance of the networking opportunities. “Much of the success that anyone experiences in life is due to the network of friends that we meet along our way,” he elaborates. “The most influential people in the world are Ag Teachers,” Byrd continues, “who become mentors to students and keep in contact with their students in school and throughout.”
7. PERSONAL GROWTH – Personal growth is one of the main components of FFA, Oesterreicher says. Students demonstrate their knowledge and skills at FFA career development events. “These competitive events challenge students to highly develop their knowledge and skills in order to have a competitive edge,” Byrd notes.
8. CAREER SUCCESS – FFA classes and programs open up new opportunities and help students fine-tune their career ambitions through direct practical experience in the agriculture field, according to Freeman, who has raised steer since the fourth grade. “I’m always doing ag stuff.”
9. SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES – “Local FFA Chapters, Alumni groups, and Booster clubs provide scholarships to FFA members,” Byrd says. “In addition, the National FFA Foundation awards over $1.5 Million each year in scholarships to FFA members.”
10. IT’S FUN – Ag class is a whole lot more hands-on than other courses, Byrd says. “Life is too short to waste – enjoy it as you grow, mature, learn, and give back to society.” To learn more about how you or your youth can join FFA, speak with your Agricultural education instructor at your local school, or visit http://www2.polk-fl.net/polkffa/advisors.asp to get your FFA Chapter Advisor’s contact information.