Across the Editor’s Desk: FFA stays on the grow
Desiree Fuhrmann-Lavallee loved cheerleading and running as a freshman at Caribou High School in Maine. A self-described “city girl,” Desiree became curious about agriculture when one of her cheerleader friends talked often and enthusiastically about the exciting and fun things going on in the school's FFA chapter. This prompted a visit with the FFA adviser, and she decided to join FFA.
Now three years later, Desiree not only is accomplished in her FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience programs, but also is the Maine FFA state president! I got to meet Desiree and her FFA adviser, Tom Hale, at National FFA Convention in Indianapolis in October. They had a short time to visit before Desiree and her Caribou teammates represented Maine in the National FFA Agricultural Mechanics Career Development Event. Winners earn scholarships sponsored by Firestone Farm Tires.
“FFA is one of my top priorities,” says Desiree, who hopes to run for national FFA office before her career concludes. “I have learned many new things, and FFA has made such a positive difference in my life.”
Desire is part of a national trend of nonfarm youths joining FFA. Chapters are now in 18 of America's 20 largest cities. National FFA membership grew by 17,000 this past year to a record 540,379 students. Convention attendance was 55,000.
Youths postpone college for $60,000 jobs!
Another of my visits in Indianapolis was with Rick Vannett, an FFA adviser at Rugby, North Dakota, where chapter members are consistently high achievers in FFA awards. He reports that FFA membership has held steady over his 14 years at Rugby, although total high school numbers have fallen. About a third of his graduates over the past several years are either now working in agriculture or studying ag in college.
Vannett adds, however, that some FFA members are joining many other new high school graduates in the area and are postponing college to take jobs in the booming western North Dakota oil industry. “When these young people can start out at $60,000 to $100,000 a year right now, it's easy to understand why they are making this decision,” he says.
“It seems strange when you watch the national news and hear about all the unemployment, and then you look at what's happening in North Dakota,” he adds.