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National FFA Week Engages Students Virtually

National FFA Week is a 73-year-old tradition celebrating agricultural leadership.

National FFA Week is ,February 20-27 and local chapters around the country are gearing up for a variety of activities to mark the occasion. As a student organization focused on agriculture and leadership, FFA stands for “Future Farmers of America,” but it’s not just for aspiring food producers. FFA welcomes anyone interested in the diverse and growing field of agriculture, including those who want to be teachers, scientists, engineers, business leaders, and more. 

FFA supports students’ personal growth as they explore their interests and talents across a range of potential agricultural career paths. Through career and leadership development events, students gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make a difference in the industry. 

The history of FFA dates all the way back to the early 20th century. In 1925, agricultural educators at Virginia Tech started a club for interested students called FFV (Future Farmers of Virginia), which served as a model for the national organization. According to the FFA website:

Future Farmers of America was founded by a group of young farmers in 1928. Their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They taught us that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.”

The first National FFA Convention was held in 1928 in Kansas City. In 1948, FFA leaders established National FFA Week, a week-long celebration of all things agriculture and a chance for community outreach at the national, state, and local level. National FFA week takes place every February over George Washington’s birthday (February 22) to acknowledge his legacy and leadership as a farmer. 

“National FFA Week is a significant event that really showcases the heart of our organization,” says Christine White, chief program officer for the National FFA Organization. “Local chapters use this as an opportunity to highlight program success, recognize community supporters and amplify the mission of the organization.”

Eastern region student vice president Miriam Hoffman is particularly enthusiastic about this year’s events, even with the new, virtual format. “We’re excited for a full week of virtual engagement…as well as an entire week of engaging with federal legislators through virtual meetings,” Hoffman says. “Regardless of what state the world continues to be in, we are actively planning for a year of meaningful connections with students. Virtual interactions allow for us to meet with even more students and reach a broader set of individuals than in a normal year. We are all excited and grateful for the opportunity to step up and fill the needs of our organization, no matter what platform or method of engagement we may be using.”

This year’s virtual schedule allows a broader audience to attend since traveling is no longer a barrier, but also means local leaders have had to get creative with their programming ideas.

In Wisconsin, organizers have created a T-shirt design contest where individual members or chapter organizations can submit their design entries online. The winning design will be announced during FFA Week with the winner’s shirts available for purchase. Wisconsin state officers are also holding a day-long “FFA Leadership Live” event where participants can join virtual workshops on Motivation and Burnout, Leadership and Commitment, Building Connections, and Agricultural Education. 

In Iowa, FFA leaders have sponsored a week-long social media challenge for students with prompts such as “Sidekick Sunday” (post pics with their fellow FFA members), “Workshop Wednesday” (share your favorite workshop from FFA Week), and “Service Saturday” (talk about the community service projects of your local chapter). 

Many school districts throughout the country are also hosting dress-up days such as pajama day and blue-and-gold day (the official colors of FFA). Students can participate in dress-up days whether they’re taking class virtually or in-person. In years past, decorating the lockers of FFA students has been a tradition in some school districts. For many schools, this is no longer an option, so national FFA leaders suggest decorating members’ yards with handmade signs instead. It can be a fun way to acknowledge the hard work and participation of FFA students. 

During FFA Week and beyond, service projects are a big part of the organization. To that end, FFA has some recommendations for serving others while keeping the health and safety of community members in mind. Many elderly and immunocompromised people are particularly confined right now, so delivering meals, medicines, or other essentials to those in need is a good way to give back. Outdoor activities like picking up trash along roadways, planting a community garden, or doing yard work are other great ways to serve. Lastly, service projects that can be done from home are particularly useful right now. This includes writing thank-you notes to first responders, sewing masks for elderly neighbors or service staff, and providing virtual tutoring to younger students. 

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