FFA is a dynamic youth organization that changes lives and prepares members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
This year, FFA hosted its first-ever Horizon Conference, a virtual event for high school juniors, seniors and recent graduates nationwide.
A comprehensive learning environment
An intracurricular student organization, FFA is one part of a three-pronged, school-based curriculum for agriculture education.
The other two prongs include classroom/laboratory, in which students receive contextual, inquiry-based instruction through an interactive classroom and laboratory, as well as Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), which is experiential, service and/or work-based learning through the implementation of an SAE project.
A diversifying membership
"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.
Today, the organization is known as “The National FFA Organization,” and with a modern name comes a modern mission. National FFA welcomes students who want to be production farmers, as well as those who aspire to careers as teachers, doctors, scientists, business owners and more.
While FFA will forever be the Future Farmers of America, they are also the Future Biologists, Future Chemists, Future Veterinarians, Future Engineers and Future Entrepreneurs of America, too.
In the midst of a global pandemic, FFA strove to provide FFA members the opportunity to engage in programming that could provide hope and jumpstart their careers; and so was born the Horizon Conference.
The Horizon Conference offered 19 educational sessions, 4 virtual tours and 10 networking sessions to 190 conference participants. Attendees, which were mostly high school juniors and seniors, as well as some recent high school graduates, chose from one of three “tracks,” including “Future of Agriculture,” “Entrepreneurial Skills” and “Connecting to Consumers.”
By the measure of their post-conference survey, the event was a big success.
All respondents in the “Future of Agriculture” track agreed that they are excited about a career in production agriculture; all respondents in the “Entrepreneurial Skills” track agreed that they learned new skills to manage an agricultural operation in the future; and all respondents in the “Connection to Consumers” track agreed they learned new strategies to connect to consumers.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents agreed that they feel more prepared for a career in production agriculture after attending the Horizon Conference and 87 percent said that they would strongly recommend the Horizon Conference to a friend.
“I learned so many things, on how to handle my situation being involved in a family business, and I have already been able to apply the techniques we were given to our family operation,” said Shianne Omlin, Modesto FFA and 2021 Horizon Conference participant.
Business skills are crucial
It’s important to Farm Credit that America’s young people learn business skills to carry on America’s agricultural legacy, taking over family businesses and starting their own operations. Farm Credit’s Gary Matteson presented a session titled, “Using Credit and Earning Profit.”
Gary asked FFA members, “Can you explain how you are going to make money farming?” A straightforward, yet fundamental question for any business owner, including America’s next generation of farmers and ranchers.
The goal of Gary’s session was to help participants understand what it means to be “business minded” as they talk about farming, and how to use that to their advantage in conversations with partners, family members and lenders. They learned how a good business plan describes one’s path to success, so that they may recruit others to help achieve the vision. Students also learned about risk management, budgets and crop insurance.
“Many people, farmers included, think running a successful farm business means walking around and paying attention, that seeing what is going on enables you to be a capable manager of a farm operation,” Gary said. “But real success comes from anticipating the future, planning how to deal with problems ahead of time and measuring whether you have accomplished the things you planned to do.”
“The best way to be a profitable, successful farmer,” Gary said, “is to act like a financial superhero — make the plan, follow the plan, then evaluate the plan.”
Farm Credit is a proud supporter
Farm Credit is dedicated to supporting support rural communities and agriculture and, as part of that mission, we are committed to the next generation of farmers, ranchers and ag industry specialists. That’s why Farm Credit was thrilled to sponsor the 2021 Horizon Conference and one FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) grant per state and Puerto Rico, in addition to our support of FFA’s National Convention.