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TRANSFORM: Purpose into action — National FFA week

Across the country this week, FFA (Future Farmers of America) members will be celebrating Agriculture Education and FFA during National FFA Week (FFA Week.)

FFA Week is celebrated every February during the week of President’s Day. This year’s celebration is February 18-25, and the theme is TRANSFORM: Purpose into Action.

This theme reflects the constantly changing landscape of agriculture and agriculture education as we transform to grow more food, on less land, for a growing population.

When FFA was founded in 1928, 27 percent of the population farmed approximately 148 acres each and we were in the middle of an agricultural depression. The landscape had transformed from previous years and there was a need for a leadership organization for young men in high school agriculture classes. They had a purpose they were putting into action, to become leaders that would influence the agricultural landscape.

Not a stagnant organization, FFA has transformed and become more diverse, merging with New Farmers of America in 1965 and admitting women into the organization in 1969. Now FFA members represent the beautiful diversity that is the United States of America from the biggest city to the rural country and “from sea to shining sea.”

FFA is growing leaders that are putting their purpose into action to transform the world around them.

Will every FFA member return to the farm as was usual with our forefathers? No, but the leadership, teamwork and citizenship skills that members learn will serve them regardless of how they change the world. FFA members do change the world — we have many prominent alumni we can call fellow members, including President Jimmy Carter, former N.C. Governor James B. Hunt, Taylor Swift, Jim Davis, Bo Jackson, Jim Moseley, Trace Adkins, Jordan Gross, Easton Corbin, and Matthew Fox. This is just a handful of prominent FFA alumni and it doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of FFA alumni transforming their communities without coming to the attention of the media.

Former FFA member and Congressman Wes Watkins from Oklahoma is quoted saying, “There are two things that make goose bumps go up and down my back: one is Old Glory flying over the nation’s capital when I walk by it at night, and the other is when I see FFA members in their blue jackets. I get an emotional feeling because FFA lifted me out of the depths of poverty and personal problems to the halls of Congress.” There are many former FFA members that can understand his sentiment and pride in the blue corduroy jacket.

A significant effort during FFA Week is the sale of paper FFA emblems sold at all Tractor Supply Company stores, including stores in North Carolina. The money raised serves two purposes, the first — it funds the Grants for Growing program that awards competitive grants to FFA chapters that submit applications to fund new, or existing, agriculture projects. The second aspect of the paper FFA emblem program is to support State FFA Associations by donating 10 percent back from what is raised in the state. Grants range from $500 to $10,000, and last year six FFA chapters in North Carolina had projects funded. These projects were student-driven and ranged from establishing community gardens to storage facilities and improvement of livestock facilities.

As we celebrate FFA this week, I encourage those not familiar with the organization to look at their local high schools to see where FFA chapters are. Through out the year, FFA members are active in their community in a variety of ways. One event many FFA chapters hold is a Spring Plant Sale. This is a great opportunity to support student agriculture leaders that are living the FFA Week theme of Transform: Purpose into Action.

Shelley Armour

Shelley M. Armour is currently a 12th year agriculture education teacher at SouthWest Edgecombe High School in Pinetops, NC. She currently is the Edgecombe County Public Schools Teacher of the Year and a 2016 Global Educator of the Year through VIF International.

Originally from Maryland, she taught for 3 years in Baltimore County before being recruited to teach in North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in General Agriculture from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Master’s in Education from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. She is a lateral entry teacher and earned her teaching certification while in the classroom. Before teaching she was a zookeeper at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. The mantra for teaching is “put the student’s first and do what is best for them.” She firmly believes that if that is done, everything else will fall into place.