Going Strong

2010 was a very good year for the Future Farmers of America.

By Richard Banks

Levi Swenson, Natalie Crum, Audrey Smith, Walla Walla High School FFA Advisor Arch McHie, and Steve Bughi

Levi Swenson, Natalie Crum, Audrey Smith, Walla Walla High School FFA Advisor Arch McHie, and Steve Bughi

Congratulations are in order for The National FFA Organization. In 2010, the youth-focused agricultural education and leadership organization set a record for membership. The new number of 523,309 broke the previous high mark set all the way back in 1977. The organization even set a new record for attendance at its annual conference last October.

Dr. W. Dwight Armstrong, national FFA chief operating officer, attributes the growth, in part, to a new affiliate program that allows high school teachers to extend FFA membership to all students enrolled in an agricultural education class.

“But more important than the numbers,” says Armstrong, “is that more talented students than ever are choosing to study agriculture. This is critical if we are to meet the challenge of providing food and fiber for a world population that will grow from 6.2 billion today to 9 billion by 2050.”

On a related note, we at FarmLife™ would also like to recognize a group of FFA members from Washington state’s Walla Walla High School. The group of three students—Natalie Crum, Audrey Smith and Levi Swenson—won the organization’s state competition and then went on to place fifth at the 2010 national convention. The subject of their award-winning project was a remarkably comprehensive marketing plan for sales of Massey Ferguson equipment by the Walla Walla Farmers CO-OP.

According to Crum, the team based much of its plan on information gleaned from a survey they sent to 1,500 area tractor owners. The results led them to recommend the CO-OP start with smaller tractors, since the majority of those responding are hobby farmers or in the vineyard, hay or orchard businesses.

“With the area’s need for compact tractors,” says Crum, now a freshman at the University of Idaho, “Massey Ferguson was an obvious fit.”

“We learned so much from this project, and the folks at the CO-OP were great to work with,” he adds.

“They thought they learned a lot?” asks Steve Bughi, the sales and service manager for the CO-OP, which has since begun selling a full line of Massey Ferguson tractors. “We were definitely the ones who came out ahead with a solid marketing plan. There’s hope for the future with these youngsters in charge.”

The Next Generation

The record-setting year for FFA is encouraging, especially now. According to U.S. Census figures, the farmer population is aging at an alarming rate. The average age of the American farmer is 55.3, compared with 39 for the U.S. worker. Having so many youngsters learning how to raise, market and improve this country’s food is a welcome development.