With the average age of a Big Sky Country rancher at 65-years-old, the Montana FFA Foundation knew they needed to be developing the next generation … so they “took the bull by the horns.”
A spin-off from other programs around the state and a similar program in Wyoming that supported non-profit organizations, the Bulls for Blue project seemed like a natural fit for Montana, with agriculture as their No. 1 economic driver. Launched just last year, the Bulls for Blue program raised more than $8,500 to help FFA members get a head-start in beef production.
Where did the money came from? Montana ranchers, of course.
“Montana is one of the largest producers of cattle in the United States, and Montanan’s are proud of our ranching and farming heritage, it only made sense to promote the beef industry and provide opportunities for our next generation of beef producers to keep the industry thriving well into the future,” said Jaime Edmundson, Executive Director, Montana FFA Foundation.
Participating Montana seedstock producers contributed by donating 10 percent of Lot 10 at the annual bull sale to the Montana FFA Foundation. Funds generated provide on-going program support to students, and start-up funds for Supervised Agriculture Experience Projects related to the beef industry. Students interested in the beef industry could then use these funds to purchase cows, secure leased ground for grazing, and other costs associated with their project. While the FFA chapters are involved in supporting the project, Bulls for Blue is an individual-based program.
“The money that is raised from the student projects go several different directions — several of the students utilizing the grant used the profits to grow their project buying more cattle, leasing more land, and working to develop their beef related project,” Edmundson said. “We also have students who use their Bulls for Blue project as a way to give back to their communities, using funds or their product to support local food banks, community hunger programs, and much more.”
Edmundson gave the example of a young man in Missoula that was granted a Bull for Blue grant, using the funds to purchase cattle and grow his SAE. After slaughter, he donated the meat to his local community food bank and a church’s meals on wheels program.
“This story is one example of how our FFA members are stepping up as leaders to improve the life of others in their community,” Edmundson said.
Edmundson said the Foundation has also been blown away by the generosity and positive feedback from producers around the state.
“Our producers understand the importance of training and supporting the next generation and not only do they help with their pocketbook, but their time, knowledge, and mentorship for our students to soak up,” Edmundson said.
The Montana FFA Foundation is already full swing into the 2017 Bulls for Blue project.
“The program continues to grow in 2017, and we are looking at ways to expand this program in other ag sectors that impact our state from commodities to ag business ventures,” Edmundson said.
Edmundson encourages other state FFA associations to consider a program such as Bulls for Blue.
“I would encourage all states to look at a program like our Bulls for Blue program, whether it’s cattle, commodities, or other ag related fields, we are only as strong as our partnerships,” Edmundson said. “The more we utilize the community members and stakeholders that make our ag fields successful, the better we serve our members around Montana.”