By Michele F. Mihaljevich
INDIANAPOLIS – National FFA Week gives members a chance to celebrate FFA and bring awareness to the organization and to the importance and diversity of agriculture, according to Kristy Meyer, communications manager for the National FFA Organization.
Those opportunities are key to the week, she said. National FFA Week is Feb. 19-26.
“Through FFA Week, each chapter becomes involved in the community to really share out that message of FFA,” Meyer explained. The goal is to “celebrate with those who know what it is and also advocate for those who don’t know what it is and encourage them to become more involved, so not just about FFA but agriculture as well.”
National FFA Week began in 1948. The week always encompasses George Washington’s birthday, Meyer said, to recognize his legacy as an agriculturalist and farmer. The week was designated by the National FFA board of directors.
Each day of the week has a theme. On the first Saturday (19th), members are encouraged to share on social media how they plan to celebrate during the week. On Sunday, they’ve been asked to talk about their supervised agriculture experiences (SAEs) to show how diverse the program can be, Meyer said.
Members are encouraged to do service projects on Monday (Presidents Day). Tuesday is Alumni Day. Wednesday, members are asked to share about how an advisor or agriculture teacher may have impacted them “to show that appreciation for the advisors because they’re such a key piece of our chapters,” she noted.
Thursday is Give FFA Day, when people are encouraged to give to the organization at the local, state or national level to allow its programming to continue. Friday is Wear Blue Day, when members can wear their jackets or FFA gear, and post photos on social media. On the last Saturday, some chapters may have banquets, Meyer said.
During the week, members will be using #FFAWeek on social media platforms.
One possible service day activity could be the continuation of a project that began during the National FFA convention last October, she stated. At the convention, members built and decorated more than 100 free little pantries. The idea behind them is to help communities where people may need food or items such as hygiene products, Meyer said. The wood boxes were offered to community groups, who would then put them where they’re needed and be responsible for filling them.
Some members will use the week to go out into the community to promote the organization and agriculture, she said.
“Sometimes our chapters will go to elementary schools to talk about agriculture and talk about FFA and really use it as a recruiting tool to become FFA members. Often they’ll go to community groups, Rotary or Kiwanis, and do presentations. It’s also an opportunity for them to have pancake breakfasts where the community can come out and they can just kind of do that advocacy like that one on one talking to one another. It’s also a perfect opportunity for us to thank our sponsors.”
National FFA has seen a steady increase in membership over the last 10-15 years, Meyer pointed out. There are currently more than 735,000 members in more than 8,000 chapters. Membership has gone up in rural and urban areas.
“We don’t really know why (membership has risen steadily), but anecdotally, there’s a concern now of knowing where you food comes from and also realizing that FFA helps prepare you for careers within agriculture. It’s the attraction of an organization that not only helps you for careers but also helps you with leadership.
“There’s a real longing for knowing where your food comes from and I think there’s also a love for the environment and sustainability. I think they see that also through FFA.”
People can support FFA financially on Give FFA Day or they can reach out to local chapters to see how they can volunteer and be mentors to FFA members, she said. The organization is always looking for sponsors and for those businesses and organizations willing to participate in SAEs. In the past, members have worked in such areas as pet stores, zoos and food science.
For the last two years, national officers haven’t been able to travel during the week due to COVID-19. This year, they can. Each national officer will visit two states, for a total of 12. The officers will be available to do keynote addresses and be accessible to members, she said.
Part of the message, Meyer explained, is “just helping people understand what agriculture really is. So many times they just assume it’s when you’re driving down the highway and you see the field and the farmer in the field, which is very much celebrated and still very much needed, but I don’t think people understand it’s so much broader than that.”
Celebrating all that is agriculture is an important part of the week, she added.
“I think the most important thing, and what we really strive to educate people on, is that agriculture isn’t just your typical production agriculture, it’s the food we eat, it’s the clothes we wear, it’s the gas we put in our car. The importance of FFA is to educate this generation, who’s going to be our next generation of leaders, of how important it is to have agriculture and agriculture that is sustainable so we can continue to feed and clothe the world, and really just celebrate the diversity of agriculture.”
For more information, visit https://www.ffa.org/national-ffa-week/.