The popular saying “everything’s bigger in Texas” certainly rang true again this year for the Texas FFA Association.
The Texas FFA Association increased membership more than any other state — adding 8,364 members. The state also has the largest membership at 103,379 students and 1,021 chapters. The Lone Star State has held the title of largest FFA membership since 2009-10; before that year California trumped Texas with more students.
“It is something Texas FFA members are extremely proud of and continue to thrive on not just quantity but quality as well,” said Jake Traylor, Texas FFA State President.
What’s the state’s secret to gaining so many new members each year?
Traylor said it’s quite simple and can be found in the FFA motto: “Living to Serve.”
“From alumni to first time member, there is an attitude of ‘what can I give so others can have more.’ For the same reason that I felt accepted in this organization, so do thousands across the state,” Traylor said. “Regardless of your skill set, background, demographic, or ambitions, the FFA has something that will contribute to your success. Texas FFA and its partners do an exceptional job of communicating that message across the state.”
Traylor didn’t grow up as a typical ag kid. His family doesn’t own a farm and he is a first generation FFA member. He said he was drawn to the organization because of the investment others chose to make in his life.
“My advisors Sue Witt, Russel Thomas, and Paulette Aguilar saw something in me, before I saw it in myself. They created an environment where everyone was welcome. Each person had something to bring to the table and had an opportunity to find success in the FFA,” Traylor said. “My passion for agriculture grew as I furthered in the organization. What started as a simple speaking contest flourished into a passion for servant leadership, agricultural education, and making a genuine difference in the world around me.”
Texas FFA prides itself as an organization that evolved from focusing primarily on production agriculture, to a broader-based organization that addresses the needs and interests of students in urban and suburban schools. Despite increasing urbanization, Texas continues to attract students. The Texas FFA Association has expanded by more than 47,000 members in the past 10 years.
“Although proud of our membership, we constantly seek to improve and imagine better ways to reach students. As officers, we are encouraged to think differently and seek improvement in all of our programs, conferences, etc. The status quo is never enough,” Traylor said. “We strive to push the boundaries, test the limits, and be relentless in all of our pursuits. Texas FFA is not just the voice of agriculture for today, but tomorrow as well. Innovation is key.”
Traylor hopes during his time as State President, he can give back to the organization and serve others.
“There is not a better opportunity for me to serve other people in such a large capacity than by serving the Texas FFA Association. My state officer team will empower members by creating a first-class experience for them,” Traylor said. “At the end of the day, I hope that students will be given the same chance that I was given. Every person deserves to feel important, valued, and relevant in the world. The FFA does that for students, and that’s what I hope to achieve this year.”
For other states looking to increase membership, Traylor has one word of advice … invest.
“Invest in students, invest in the curriculum, invest in programs/contests, invest in the future. Our focus is not to be as large as possible,” Traylor said. “Our focus is to make a significant impact in a student’s life. When that is complete, they have a burning passion to share the joy FFA brought them, and thus, a ripple effect begins.”