As youngsters, many of us where lucky enough to be involved in some type of developmental program that piqued our interest at a young age. For young people interested in the agriculture industry, two organizations emphasize the importance of allowing a child to follow their passion in ag -- FFA and 4-H.
When we hear about these two organizations, we normally put them in the same category because of the good they do for the future of agriculture. However, there are major differences between the two. While the good they do is endless, it is important to know the uniqueness of each organization.
1. A major difference between the two organizations is their structures. 4‑H is delivered by Cooperative Extension, which is a community of more than 100 public universities that provides experiences where young people learn by doing. 4-H at its core is a club for young people. Starting at the age of 8, kids can expand their interests and hobbies through projects put on by 4-H. For example, a student can learn more about sewing, gardening, STEM, livestock, and woodworking. The students can also compete with their project at county and state fairs.
The National FFA Organization was primarily set up as a high school program, which now has extended to some middle schools offering FFA programs. To be in an FFA chapter, students must follow the agriculture curriculum set up by the school. The students elect to take ag classes to pursue their interest.
2. Another difference is the competition and leadership development skills FFA teaches. Through the Career and Leadership Development Events, participating FFA members are challenged to develop critical thinking skills and effective decision-making skills and promote communication while recognizing the value of ethical competition and individual achievement. In addition, the Supervised Agricultural Experience program involves practical agricultural activities performed by students outside of scheduled classroom time.
3. At such an important time in the developing stage of a young person, 4-H’s pledge sets the stage for a sense of belonging. Head, Heart, Hands, and Health are the four Hs in 4‑H, and they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs.
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”
In addition, 4-H differs on the leadership within the organization. 4-H utilizes the skills of community members, university extension professionals, and volunteers to serve their members. Whereas, FFA has at least one advisor to lead each chapter.
No matter what their differences, they both have a common goal: nurture the future generations of agriculture. Both organizations help young people realize their potential and show them the best way to put their talents to good use. They both teach kids that hard work and dedication goes a long way while working toward a goal. Both organizations work toward developing the next generation of leaders that will change the face of agriculture.
This was just a few examples of the differences between the two great organizations that make them so unique. No matter how you decide to follow your passion in agriculture, getting started is the first step. If you want an early start, sign up for 4-H as soon as possible. With opportunities to stay active until 18, there is something for everyone. FFA is a great continuation of building the leadership and communication skills needed for the rest of your life.
It doesn’t matter if you decide to do either 4-H, FFA, or both -- if you put the time and effort into these organizations, the rewards can be endless. The future of agriculture is bright when organizations like these help mold the next generation.