By Stan Maddux
CORUNNA, Mich. – Amara Jackson showed horses in 4-H but now she’s riding high after being elected the first FFA president at the national level from Michigan since TV screens were black and white.
Jackson, 21, is no stranger to being in the cream rising to the top. She’s a former FFA state president in Michigan from 2021-2022.
Currently, she is pursuing degrees in agricultural communication and ag business at Oklahoma State University.
Jackson said her plans are to go on to law school and focus on farm succession and estate planning to help place agriculture successfully into the hands of the next generation.
“I want to assure our farmers and ranchers are creating plans that are stable for the long-term longevity of their farm,” she said.
The last FFA national president from Michigan was David Boyne, of Marlette, from 1953-54. He went on to become a professor in agricultural economics at Michigan State University and later Ohio State University, where he now holds the title of professor emeritus.
“I feel really blessed to represent Michigan again 70 years later in this capacity. I also just feel really blessed that I can represent our state in a way that makes them proud and in a way that gets them national recognition,” Jackson said.
Ironically, perhaps, Jackson said farming was furthest from her mind while growing up in Corunna, a city of more than 3,000 residents north of Lansing.
Occasionally, Jackson said she helped her uncles and other extended family members on their farms raising things like corn and soybeans, wheat and beef cattle.
She mostly enjoyed things like swimming, trips with her family to the Upper Peninsula of the state and hanging out with her cousins and friends.
She was about 10 years old when her mother, at the request of her older sister, Avianna, placed a few horses along with a couple of donkeys into their pasture.
The sisters began riding, training and showing the horses in 4-H.
Jackson said she still had thoughts of becoming a teacher until after her sister practically “dragged me” into attending an FFA class as a high school freshman in 2017.
Her now 23-year-old sister, a former FFA student, is pursuing a degree in geology at Western Michigan University.
Jackson said she was hesitant to join because of a schedule already packed with activities such as competitive dance, band, color guard and student council.
She was determined to make room for FFA, though, and switched her career path to agriculture after attending her first FFA state convention.
“I realized I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. The industry and organization was that space I wanted to be part of,” she said.
Jackson said not only did she “love” her FFA experience, but she appreciated her mentors in the program for opening her eyes to her potential and guidance provided in her development in areas such as leadership, team work and public speaking.
Now, Jackson said her primary focus during her one-year reign as national FFA president is to return the favor to students coming up the ranks during her FFA related travels to more than 30 states.
“I believe leadership has a ripple effect. So, being able to take what others gave me and pay it forward is something I’m really looking forward to doing this year,” she said.
Her term started Nov. 4 after named president on the final day of the national FFA convention at Lucas Oil stadium in Indianapolis.
Jackson was among 35 nominees from other states. Each of the nominees were interviewed and judged in six rounds on things like public speaking, conversations about farming-related topics and leadership.
There were 72,000 registered guests in attendance when her name was called as the new president.
“I was definitely in shock. That’s for sure. It’s a hope and dream to be elected. There are so many individuals who could do just as good if not better of a job,” she said.
After completing the fall semester, Jackson will take a year off from her studies to fulfill her official FFA itinerary, which includes 300 days of traveling.
Jackson said she hasn’t been informed where she’ll be going yet except for Florida and North Carolina for training before heading to Japan for two weeks in January.
Some of her time will be spent with members of Future Farmers of Japan, a similar organization as the one in the U.S.
Jackson said she’s still trying to process reaching the top of the FFA ladder for her age group and her previous achievements since her somewhat reluctant start in the program she quickly embraced.
“It’s been quite the ride, quite the journey,” she said.