It is finally here!! The 93rd National FFA Convention & Expo kicked off this morning at 11:30 a.m. ET. After the Welcome Session, students got to explore and enjoy the FFA Blue Room. First appearing at the National FFA Convention & Expo in 2018, the Blue Room has been a student favorite.
Last year over 5,000 students waited in line for the FFA Blue Room. After waiting outside a room, the students transition into the lobby of the Blue Room. After learning more about the agriculture industry with fun games and activities, the FFA members make their way into a separate room with industry professionals and a keynote speaker. The Blue Room experience is meant to be very hands on and interactive. This year FFA staff and professionals had to overcome the challenge of creating a virtual hands on experience — and boy did they!
This year’s Blue Room is exploring the theme of “sustainability across the AFNR value chain.” Students are able to explore the FFA Blue Room in two ways:
- Students can explore at any time during convention.
- Students can choose to join us for one of 12 live sessions, which have extra features!
Students can also create their own adventure by exploring virtual booths. They can choose booths based on a topic they want to learn more about or a stage of the value chain that interests them.
- Some of the topics students can explore include regenerative agriculture, soil health, reducing food waste, machine learning, traceable production, and precision agriculture.
- Virtual booths contain interactive and engaging activities like Minecraft, puzzle games, matching activities, trivia, interactive data, text/video chats, and videos.
Students can also see the Innovation Station, where there are nine ag-tech startups and up-and-coming companies ready to talk about how they’re solving for some of agriculture’s biggest issues. Students can win one of 12 Xboxes and other prizes, courtesy of presenting sponsors.
During every live session there is still an industry expert for students to learn from. For example, the first speaker was Trey Hill, owner and manager at Harborview Farms.
Harborview Farms is pioneering new techniques to influence the ag industry as a whole, instilling a mix of traditional practice with innovation and creativity to uncover novel solutions that move the industry forward.
Hill shared his perspective of “Climate Smart Farming” with FFA members. To Hill, Climate Smart Farming means “no-till, living roots all year, and never turning the ground over.”
Hill recognizes that every farmer has their own decisions to make for their farming operation. “Regardless of scale, regardless of GMOs, chemicals — be proud of what you do, but be able to tell the story to folks so they can understand it,” Hill said.
Hill and his father started implementing no-till and conventional tillage 30 years ago. However, the farm didn’t see the benefits they were wanting until they added cover crops. One year they had to plant green because they couldn’t get the cover crops killed off in time. Through that experience, Hill learned that his cash crop was able to grow more consistently versus when he had to burn off the cover crops.
Looking to continue the farm-forward mentality, Hill is also selling carbon credits on his farm. Companies that want to offset their carbon footprint can purchase carbon credits from farmers.
Hill believes farmers can be a part of the climate change solution and the future of ag is carbon footprinting. Hill said, “Carbon sequestration is adding value back to the farmer. I want to make more money based on what I am doing. And I think society — as long as we have a great story to tell — society will want to embrace that and support us.”
The FFA Blue room is presented by AgriNovus Indiana and Microsoft. Live sessions will continue throughout the rest of the convention. Check out the schedule here.