It’s no surprise Wyoming FFA has one of the smallest memberships as the Cowboy State is the least populated state in the nation. However, this 2,864-member, 53-chapter organization packs a punch.
In 2016, the state FFA association boasted three national championship CDE teams, one reserve champion CDE team, and a gold level proficiency.
“Wyoming has one of the smaller state memberships in the National FFA Organizations, but the success our members achieve on the national level is outstanding,” said Wyoming FFA State Advisor Stacy Broda.
But what sets Wyoming FFA apart from other state FFA associations is the fact this small group is a loud voice for agriculture.
In 2015, the Wyoming FFA state officer team started Wyoming Agriculture Advocacy Week, a statewide, concerted effort to promote the impacts agriculture has on the state’s communities, economies, and way of life. This past January, the FFA members continued the AGvocacy week with a social media campaign based around the hashtag and concept #AgImpacts. From county commissioners to feed stores and farmers, several agvocates joined the cause.
The state’s FFA Officers met with Wyoming Governor Matt Mead as part of the Advocacy Week where the officers had the opportunity to discuss the role agriculture plays in Wyoming’s economy, landscape, and heritage.
“Outside of Wyoming Agriculture Advocacy Week, we encourage members to be constant advocates for their industry,” Broda said. “We host educational workshops on advocacy, discuss advocacy during our fall leadership conference, promote local producers acting as advocates on social media, and provide educational resources to chapters to help with local efforts. We encourage members to speak up in a positive, factual manner to build not only their industry, but their character and skill set as well.”
In addition to encouraging their members to speak up, Wyoming FFA also promotes lending a hand.
Each September, the state association hosts the Wyoming FFA Weekend of Service. Chapters are encouraged to select a service project in their local community and work together to fulfill a need. The state officers collaborate with chapters that weekend to pitch in and help as well.
During the 2016 Wyoming FFA Weekend of Service, more than 200 members donated 758 hours to local service projects. Members helped clean up a range fire, repaired a local community center, collected and donated clothes and food for veterans, painted a house, fixed fence, reroofed a building, and chopped firewood for the elderly.
“Service isn’t limited to the month of September, however. We also saw chapters raise money for local families affected by a fire, organize canned food drives, go caroling at a nursing home, and raise money for medical treatments for community members,” Broda said. “Our members embody the idea of ‘living to serve’ each day.”
That motto extends beyond the Wyoming FFA members to the Wyoming FFA Foundation. As Broda points out, it takes a small army of volunteers to run the Wyoming FFA each year, and the association is grateful for the support and contributions from all of their partners and friends. One standout contributor for the Wyoming FFA has been outgoing Wyoming FFA Foundation Executive Director, Jennifer Womack.
“The Foundation is the fundraising arm of the Wyoming FFA. We cannot say enough good things about Jen and the work she has done on behalf of our members. Jen and the Wyoming FFA Foundation board members took a struggling organization and built it into a thriving, well-run component of the Wyoming FFA experience,” Borda said.
With Wyoming potentially facing a $700 million education funding shortfall in the next two-year budget cycle, the extra push from the FFA Foundation is vital.
“She created new events to generate funding, secured additional scholarship dollars, developed new business partnerships, and encouraged open and honest communication between all of the Wyoming FFA partner organizations,” Borda said. “If there was a Wyoming FFA event going on, Jen was there, helping in whatever way was necessary. She promoted an atmosphere of professionalism, friendship, and authenticity that will carry through with the new administration.”
Under the new administration, Wyoming FFA plans to continue to look for ways to connect with, inform, and empower members.
That empowerment has already shown through in some of their members. Just this past Fall, Lusk FFA chapter reinstated itself and held a dinner/auction fundraiser, bringing in $12,000 for the Niobrara County School District Number 1. The funding will go towards materials for competition and fair equipment such as a scale to use to regulate feed throughout the summer.
“Wyoming is a big state, but we like to refer to it as one small town with really long streets. Our members compete fiercely at the state level, but when it comes time to represent our state as a whole, they pull together and cheer each other on,” Broda said. “We call it our Wyoming FFAmily and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”