FFA Members Competing With the Best

The end of October brings more than just costume parties and chilly nights. For one city, it brings a wave of blue– National Blue, that is.

The National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky. is being held October 29 through November 1. Thousands of members, advisors, and alumni from all over America are boarding buses, planes, and even trains to make their annual pilgrimage to the mecca of all things FFA.

“I’m excited. There’s gonna be about 60,000 people walking around in blue corduroy jackets… it’s great to see so many people across the country coming together for one shared passion,” said Chapter President Hannah Sermersheim.

FFA is a national organization with its roots in agricultural education, but today the club has branched into much more. According to www.ffa.org, there are 610, 240 members, aged 12-21, in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“I love FFA because you get to meet a lot of new people from different places, and since we’re going to national convention there will be different people from all over the nation You also get to compete in competitions which will help you not only in FFA but also in life,” member Caroline Towles said.

While serving as a celebration of the organization and a way for members to interact, National Convention also hosts the highest level of FFA competitions– known as Career Development Events, or CDEs. CDEs tie in agricultural education components with business skills through events like Parliamentary Procedure, Agricultural Sales, and Public Speaking.

“The West Johnston FFA Chapter is very involved within the state of NC; we compete in almost every competition and take home some sort of award each time,” Sermersheim said.

CDEs are intended to allow for students to apply agricultural knowledge, hone their skills, and discover their interests, while possibly creating valuable contacts in a career fields.

“FFA gave me a new view on how I should handle extracurricular activities and how I can do more with my spare time,” member Jacob Hill said.

Separate from CDEs, the Agriscience Fair Competition sees students create, display and present agricultural-related projects in front of a panel of judges. Sophomores Alyssa Barbour and Caroline Towles and their project “How Organic Are You?” are competing at National Convention this year.

Photo by Alyssa Barbour

Photo by Alyssa Barbour

“Our project is seeing if people around our community and within our school prefer to have organic vegetables or non organic vegetables. To start off our project, we started growing lettuce organic and regular (using chemicals) and then we conducted a survey asking general questions about organic foods,” Barbour said, “We also, after our lettuce was fully grown, we conducted a taste test to students in our school seeing what they preferred.”

The hands-on lab practical section of the project is not the only thing that will be judged.

“We have a big poster and a notebook that has our report and a time log in it, and since we did social systems we have a survey in there. We’ll be standing by our poster and judges will come around and ask us questions,” Towles said.

With 15 delegates from each of the 6 categories– Animal Systems, Environmental Services/Natural Resource Systems, Food Products and Processing Systems, Plant Systems, Power, Structural and Technical Systems and Social Systems– and 4 divisions, the National Convention Agriscience Fair is a prodigal tournament.

“I’m nervous, because it’s [partly] a speaking competition and I just got sick this weekend, so I sound weird,” Towles said.

FFA emphasizes the importance of personal growth and the development of leadership skills while preparing for career success not only through its CDEs and Agriscience Fairs, but also through the motivational speakers, breakout sessions, and role-model officers that will be present at the Convention.

FFA welcomes all new members, even those who may not think they have absolutely no interest in agriculture.

“There’s a CDE for every skill, even those that have nothing to do with farming. I do prepared public speaking, for instance,” Sermersheim said.

Past and current members attribute their time management, communication and critical thinking skills to their experiences within the club.

“I learned the value of trying new things and just enjoying spending time with your peers,” Hill said.