These days everybody wants to move to the big city, right? New York, L.A., here we come! The bucolic life is passe; these days, the kids want bright lights and the big city.
Apparently not. This year the agriculturally oriented National FFA Organization, which used to be known as the Future Farmers of America, has shown an increase in membership, gaining more than 17,000 new student members. Closer to home, Missouri's membership increased 1.1 percent in the 2010-2011 cycle, with three new chapters coming on board.
That makes us a powerhouse within the national organization. Missouri now ranks fourth in FFA membership, with 25,096 members -- the only states with more members are giants Texas and California, along with agricultural powerhouse Georgia.
The FFA has strong local roots: The organization actually began across the state in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1928, with just 33 students.
In 1988, the organization changed its name from the Future Farmers of America to the "National FFA Organization" to reflect what was happening in the world of agriculture. Aside from the major role that production farming still plays in agriculture, other facets were being introduced such as food science, wildlife management and aquaculture.
The National FFA Organization's mission is to have a positive impact on the lives of students by providing an outlet where they can develop the necessary leadership skills, whether personal, educational, or career-oriented.
Kristy Meyer, team leader in marking and communications for the National FFA Organization, says she can't speak directly to the membership increase in Missouri. However, she says, "Agriculture touches all of our lives every day in some way -- from the food that we eat, to the clothes that we wear, somehow agriculture is a part. I think students are becoming aware of this, and embracing a chance to study an industry that plays such as important part in today's world."
Membership is open to high school students enrolled in agricultural education courses at their schools. The organization has even gone as far as extending membership to certain middle school students.
"In order to take part in the FFA activities, you also have to take part in the classroom experience, which is the agricultural education classes. While in FFA, students also work on a project, which is known as a supervised agricultural experience," Meyer says. "It's through these hands-on experiences that our students learn leadership skills, communication skills and other skills, such as record-keeping, that they will use in many facets of life."
Out of high school, an individual has the option to join FFA collegiate or FFA Alumni. With more than 53,000 members, FFA Alumni advocate agricultural education, help other FFA chapters, and lend a helping hand throughout their communities.
Yep, they're taking over the world.