While young people sporting the National FFA Organization’s trademark blue corduroy jackets are a familiar sight across Arkansas, they are not typically seen on Capitol Hill. Recently, they were spotted in the halls of Congress as FFA’s national officers visited lawmakers.
I had an opportunity to spend some time with these impressive young people. They hail from different parts of the country and come from unique backgrounds, but all possess the same passion for agriculture and service. As the officers shared their stories and goals for the future, each one highlighted the importance of ag education and service to others as cornerstones of what they hope to accomplish in life.
Previously known as the Future Farmers of America, the National FFA Organization is a program for students aged 12 to 21 who are interested in agriculture and leadership. The name change reflects the organization’s goal to represent the entirety of agriculture, not just farming, and the organization also welcomes students wanting to pursue careers in STEM or business.
In Arkansas, FFA has 229 chapters with close to 16,000 members and over 300 ag science teachers. It boasts 15 past national officers, including Anna Mathis from Harrison, who was among the group that visited Capitol Hill last year while she was serving as national secretary.
Like FFA, 4-H is a premiere youth development organization that gives young people a chance to learn about agriculture. It aims to prepare students for the future by emphasizing “head, heart, hands and health”—the 4 Hs. 4‑H programs are grounded in the belief that youth learn best by doing, so it focuses on hands-on projects in subjects like agriculture, science and health to promote youth leadership, youth-adult partnerships, life skills learning and community service.
There are more than 133,000 young Arkansans involved in the Natural State’s 4-H program. I can attest to the fact they are learning skills to help meet the challenges in their communities and give them direction for the future. My three daughters were active 4-H members and state record book winners. The organization had a tremendously positive impact on their lives. 4-H is second only to church in terms of influence on my family.
These groups are about so much more than preparing young Arkansans for agriculture careers. They teach leadership skills, instill a sense of service and put young Arkansans on the right path for a successful future. I am proud of the difference FFA and 4-H make in Arkansas and across the country.
I often come away from the many daily meetings I have inspired to act. In many cases, the discussion inspires me to introduce legislation, help a constituent resolve an issue or aid a community in need with federal resources. My meeting with the National FFA officers was inspirational on a different level. It served as a reminder that our future is bright.
That is the type of influence these groups have on our children. National FFA Organization and 4-H are actively fostering the next generation of leaders. If you are a parent looking for beneficial activities that will help your children grow, I encourage you to look at Arkansas FFA and Arkansas 4-H. They are excellent options, and offer opportunities for any youth to learn, grow and help build a better future.