National FFA Week will begin this Saturday, February 18 through Saturday, February 25. This year marks the 70th year since FFA week was established in 1947 and 69 years since the very first National FFA Week was held in 1948. Annually, the week long tradition encompasses George Washington’s birthday recognizing his legacy as an agriculturalist and a farmer. The FFA emblem displays the broad scope of FFA and agriculture as it consists of five symbols that represent the history, goals, and future of the organization. The five symbols which are the ear of corn, rising sun, plow, eagle, and owl, have their own specific meaning illustrating their importance.
The foundation of the emblem is shown as the cross section of the ear of corn, the foundation crop of American agriculture from a historic viewpoint. Corn also signifies unity since it is grown in every state of the nation. The rising sun symbol signifies progress exemplified by new technology in agriculture and its development to continue meeting consumer demands. This symbol of progress holds the promise that tomorrow will bring a new day, shining with opportunity. The historic foundation of our country’s strength is portrayed by the symbol of the plow, which signifies the labor and tillage of the soil. The FFA organization recognizes agriculture as the backbone of our country similar to the significance of the plow. The fourth symbol is the eagle, a national symbol of our freedom and ability to explore new horizons for the future of agriculture. The owl is the final symbol of the FFA emblem. Recognized for its wisdom, the owl symbolizes the knowledge that is required to be successful in agriculture. The combination of these five symbols together with the words “agricultural education” and “FFA” tell the story of the organization’s history, mission, and vision.
During this week, more than half a million FFA members will celebrate the role that agriculture plays in their lives. The purpose of National FFA Week is to raise awareness about the capacity of the FFA Organization in the development of agriculture’s future leaders and the importance of an agricultural education. An agricultural education is one that involves more than planting and harvesting due to the incorporation of science, business, and more.
The Future Farmers of America was established in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1927. The first National FFA Convention was held the following year, 1928, in Kansas City with 33 delegates from 18 states. As a result, the FFA mission of preparing future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population emerged. The organization’s structure consists of three levels: local, state, and national. Students begin their FFA experiences by joining local chapters at their schools.
Today, FFA membership totals 649,355 students in grades 7-12. There are 7,859 local FFA chapters in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. The 2015 National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky had more than 65,000 members in attendance. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through their agricultural educations.
FFA Chapters use this week to help share the message of agriculture with their fellow students and their community. FFA week provides an opportunity for FFA members to give back to their community through service projects. This concept is reiterated in the 12 powerful words that are the FFA Motto. “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.” Over the years, FFA has shown the importance of service to community and country. In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, the National FFA Organization raised $835,000 through the Seeds of Hope campaign. These contributions helped FFA members, chapters and ag facilities that were affected by the hurricane.
As FFA is promoted this week for everything that it does and what it stands for, I encourage you to recognize the contributions of agriculture in your community. This is not just limited to livestock or farming. Agriculture offers a broad range of career paths such as biologists, chemists, veterinarians, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Local chapters offer opportunities for their members to show their support through participation in the week long event. The leadership teams in the local chapters organize activities that stimulate member involvement and community interaction. The annual Truck/Tractor Drive in the South O’Brien FFA chapter focuses on the tradition of agriculture in my local community. My chapter, South O’Brien, recognizes the teachers with a Teacher’s Breakfast, while observing the last three words of the FFA Motto; “Living to Serve.” FFA apparel can be seen throughout the school as FFA members proudly wear the national blue and corn gold. National FFA week, February 18-25, honors the strong tradition of FFA along with it’s rich background and history.
For more information regarding FFA, please visit the National FFA Organization, or reach out to a local chapter.