The only way to ensure the future of agriculture is not found in the latest technology, but rather by sparking an interest in agriculture in the minds of upcoming generations. The National FFA Organization is one of the many organizations that is dedicated to doing just that.
With more than 760,000 FFA members in over 8,700 chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the National FFA Organization is the largest student-led organization in the nation. However, in order for the agriculture industry to continue to grow, the next generation with a passion for agriculture also needs to grow.
A great way to ensure that growth is to spark an interest in our industry at a young age. Who better to do that than FFA members who have found their passion for agriculture?
Many FFA chapters and members see the importance of spreading the word and educating their peers and younger classmates about the ag industry. However, at times that task can seem overwhelming. But there are some tried-and-true experiences for bringing agriculture and FFA to the next generation.
Our top 10 favorite ways to bring agriculture and FFA to the next generation:
1. Petting zoo
A petting zoo is a great way to learn about agriculture and the different type of animals that can be found on a farm. Everything from dairy cows to goats, chickens, peacocks, pigs, and so much more! Each animal can have their own station for kids to learn how to properly take care of them and how FFA members get to show their animal in competitions. For many kids, this could be the first time they touch or even see a cow!
2. Read a book
Although cool, we understand that a petting zoo isn’t always possible to put together. However, reading to younger students is a great way to spark their interest. Find out what class you are reading to find an appropriate book for that level. Our favorites include: Tales of the Dairy Godmother, My Family’s Soybean Farm, and The Confused Cow.
3. Day on the Farm
There are many opportunities in FFA and the agriculture industry. A great way to highlight the different avenues is to bring them all together. In one building or area have different stations, each representing an area of agriculture — soybeans, beef, corn, dairy, conservation, FFA, STEM, etc. Divide the students into groups and have them rotate to each station every 20 minutes. This allows for students to expand their knowledge in a short amount of time.
4. After-school tutoring
Although this one might not initially bring interest in FFA to students, it will help them in life tremendously. This serves as a great way to make a connection with students while also providing them a role model. To start, consult with the elementary counselor. They will be able to point you in the right direction or set up a special program just for FFA members and younger students.
5. Advocate for a middle-school program
If your school has the support for it, a middle school program can put students on the fast track in FFA since they can join as early as the seventh grade! The younger they get invested, the stronger the chapter can become.
6. Ag in the classroom
National Agriculture in the Classroom has great resources for FFA members to showcase agriculture to younger students. Everything from virtual tours, to ag games, and so much more! Check out your state’s website as well for more regional information. The National FFA Organization has also put together resources here for members to use in the classroom.
7. Farm safety days
Is there anything better than driving your tractor to school? How about when it is to provide safety information to young students. A farm safety day is great way to highlight FFA and show students how important it is to keep safety in the forefront of their minds around heavy machinery.
8. Make a meal
Everyone needs a farmer three times a day when they eat. Help students realize the connection to agriculture and FFA by simply making a pizza. For example, you need wheat to make the dough, tomatoes to make the sauce, beef for the hamburger meat, and dairy cows for the cheese. Not only will the students love the tasty result, they will think of farmers and FFA every time they have a slice of pizza in the future.
9. Visit a local farm
Young minds develop best when they can see, touch and hear the things around them. The best place to teach them about agriculture and what FFA members do is to bring them to an actual farm. Ask an FFA member to bring the students to their farm to show them what they do on a daily basis. Another option would be to bring them to the FFA barn if you have one on campus.
10. Be involved in career day
Lastly, be involved in career day! Many elementary schools host a career day for their students. FFA would be a great representation of the agriculture industry, the education department, communication careers, and much more!
No matter what you do to spark an interest, have fun with it and keep the presentations as hands-on as you can. If you wouldn’t want to do it, they probably don’t either. Ask yourself what you would have wanted to know, see, or touch when you were their age. Just know that whatever you end up doing, you could end up finding the next chapter presidents, state officer, or national officer in that classroom.
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