Casey Hall, President (Canton), Matthew Dodson, Chaplain (Chambersburg) and Jenna Moser, Reporter (Philadelphia)

Other State Officers in attendance were Sarah Kessler, Treasurer (Ickesburg), Tyler Claypool, Sentinel (New Castle), Tyler Schaeffer, Vice President (Mechanicsburg) and Sarabeth Royer, Secretary (Elizabethtown.)

Pennsylvania State FFA Officers

Presentation Summary
We would like to tell you the story of the national Future Farmers of American (FFA). In 1917 Congress signed the Smith-Hughes Act into law enabling vocational agriculture to be taught in high schools. From that time until 1928, farm boys from around the country gathered together for meetings and competitions to develop their agricultural skills. The birth place of FFA is in Virginia because in 1927 the Future Farmers of Virginia was founded. Subsequently, the Future Farmers of America, whose bylaws closely followed the FFV, was organized by representatives of 13 states. They developed the emblem that appears on the jackets of all members and picked our colors, national blue and corn gold. The first national convention of FFA was held in Kansas City.

To be a member of FFA, students must be enrolled in an agricultural education class. From the 1920s to the 1940s there were 31,000 students enrolled in agricultural education classes. During that period, agricultural prices were low due to overproduction and the Great Depression. At that time farmers made up 27 percent of the workforce. They comprise two percent today. The average size of farms in those years was 140 acres and there were about 6.4 million farms nationwide.

The FFA creed is:
“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.

“I believe that to live and work on a good farm or to be engaged in other agricultural pursuits, is pleasant as well as challenging; for I know the joys and discomforts of agricultural life and hold an inborn fondness for those associations which, even in hours of discouragement I cannot deny.

“I believe in leadership from ourselves and respect from others. I believe in my own ability to work efficiently and think clearly, with such knowledge and skill as I can secure, and in the ability of progressive agriculturalists to serve our own and the public interest in producing and marketing the product of our toil.

“I believe in less dependence on begging and more power in bargaining; in the life abundant and enough honest wealth to help make it so-for others as well as myself; in less need for charity and more of it when needed; in being happy myself and playing square with those whose happiness depends upon me.

“I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”

The FFA has a delegate system ensuring that each state is represented. Each state has state officers. Every in October we have our national convention. Four hundred and seventy-five delegates from all the states, Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands gather in Indianapolis at the national convention, using parliamentary procedure to discuss delegate issues. The FFA is constantly growing. The organization has a positive impact on members, developing their potential for leadership, personal growth and career development through education. As the FFA has evolved it is not just about farming. After 50 years the organization decided it was time for a big change. In 1988, the Future Farmers of America changed their name to The National FFA Organization. The reason they changed the name was to reflect the growing diversity of the agricultural industry. The organization continues to provide agricultural experience as members develop their career paths. FFA has more than 30 different programs that include managing crop land, horses, poultry and dairy judging, how to prepare for a job interview, running a landscape business, raising livestock and public speaking.

The FFA helps students prepare for more than 300 career paths in the agricultural industry. The organization has many partnerships with agricultural businesses that facilitate this process. Many of these businesses sponsor FFA events. For instance the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association sponsors Pennsylvania FFA’s landscape career development event.

Every year more than 54,000 FFA members congregate at Indianapolis for the national convention, creating a sea of blue jackets throughout the city. They participate in career development and discuss current agricultural bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives and learn about proper etiquette and behavior and the legislative process. There are more than 540,000 members in the FFA and Pennsylvania has 8,000 members. We have members at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels. Another important aspect of FFA is community service.

Our motto is “Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve.” Among the many community-service programs we participate in are Adopt a Highway and food pantries for the needy. In Pennsylvania we have a state FFA conference in Harrisburg where more than 1,000 members attend and where legislators and other leaders meet with the members. Over the years, FFA has evolved from an organization for farm boys to one which has many members of both sexes and a number of chapters in large cities like Chicago and Philadelphia. Other countries have noticed FFA’s success and Japan has created its version of our organization.

Preparing students for agricultural careers is increasingly important. According Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the U.S. will need 100,000 new farmers over the next few years. By 2050 the world population is projected to grow to 9 billion people. That means 2 billion more mouths to feed over the next 40 years. Farmers will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than they have over the last 10,000 years. All this will need to be done with less water, less available land and less energy per acre. FFA is in a good position to facilitate the education needed because we embrace many curriculums of importance to this increasingly diverse industry. We also encourage young people to get involved in agriculture in high school and college. Our supervised agricultural experience programs foster a sense of involvement in agriculture before students enter college. The average age of farmers in the U.S. is 55 so it is important to get today’s youth involved in farming if we are to live in an age of abundance in the future.

In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.