Not everyone who joins FFA is going to end up in a career in agriculture, but they will be the next generation of consumers. That’s the mission behind the Florida FFA Association and the reason their chapters have been so successful in getting students to enroll from small towns to cities throughout the state.
“Agriculture is an industry that affects everyone, urban or rural, and because of this, there’s a place for everyone in FFA,” said Kevin Kent, Assistant Director, Florida FFA Association. “The organization helps students prepare for careers in business, marketing, science, communications, education, horticulture, production, natural resources, forestry, and many other diverse fields. Showcasing this diversity and highlighting opportunities is a key strategy when encouraging urban students to join FFA.”
The Florida FFA program is home to more than 18,000 members and 4,260 alumni from 340 chapters around the state. The state has been recognized at the national level in recent years for highest membership as well as significant growth in enrollment.
“Some of Florida’s largest FFA chapters are located in urban areas of the state,” Kent said. “Because FFA and agricultural education are beyond production agriculture and farming, we strive to deliver programs and provide resources that serve as a model in removing barriers and creating opportunities for success for every student, every day, in every classroom.
As Kent points out, the letters FFA stand for Future Farmers of America, but FFA is not just for students who want to be production farmers; FFA also welcomes members who aspire to be teachers, doctors, scientists, business owners, and more.
“FFA continues to help the next generation rise up to meet those challenges by helping its members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways,” Kent said. “So today, we are still the Future Farmers of America, but we are the Future Biologists, Future Chemists, Future Veterinarians, Future Engineers, and Future Entrepreneurs of America, too.”
Kent credits a network of supporters, teachers, and staff for Florida’s success. A pioneer in middle school membership and industry certifications, Florida is recognized as one of the most innovative and diverse states.
“I think people may not realize that Florida is incredibly robust agriculturally and has a wide diversity of different types of production. While many people associate Florida with beaches and tourism, it is loaded with all types of agriculture,” said Victoria Harris, 2016-17 National FFA Secretary and former Florida State FFA Secretary. “I have friends in FFA who are involved with strawberry production, beef cattle, ornamental horticulture, bee-keeping, wildlife management, peanut farming, dairy cattle, and even alligator production! Florida agriculture is as strong as ever.”
Kent said this year’s theme #RiseAbove, is a good reminder for all Florida FFA members that they can rise above through the promise of “better days through better ways.”
“The FFA experience is valuable to all students, regardless if they do or do not ultimately pursue agricultural careers,” Kent said. “FFA members are both prepared to embark on a career in agriculture through opportunities available in eight different career pathways, and they are prepared for career success in another chosen field because the components of the mission become differentiating power skills. FFA members, regardless of future occupation, become informed and supportive consumers, leaders in building their communities and helping to strengthen agriculture.”