RIPLEY — West Virginia FFA leaders announced that for the second consecutive year, FFA membership has broken a state record. During the 2018-19 school year FFA membership grew to 6,469 members and 83 local chapters, exceeding last year’s record by 1,100 students. The announcement was made during the 91st West Virginia FFA Convention held last week at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley.
FFA is the premier youth organization preparing students for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. Dating back to the 1920s in West Virginia, the program witnessed historic growth last year with 5,360 members and 77 local chapters, numbers that had not been seen since the early 1960s. Agricultural education is the fastest-growing career technical education (CTE) program and is introducing more students to the agriculture industry and the numerous career opportunities available.
“Agricultural Education and FFA provides our students with the type of rich learning experiences that have a profound effect on the paths they take from high school,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine. “The leadership and analytical skills they develop in FFA will be a great asset to them regardless of what they end up doing in life.”
According to the United Nations, the world’s population growth is putting a strain on the global food supply. By 2050 the world’s population is projected to jump 30 percent to 9.8 billion, and experts are looking for ways to provide sustainable food sources to meet this growth. Today’s FFA students will be an important part of the solution, officials say.
Much of the popularity of agricultural education reflects the FFA’s response to industry demands. There are more than 235 unique careers that range from agrimarketing, communications and education to science, horticulture and natural resources among many others. While the organization is rooted in the tradition of rural farming, students from all parts of the country and the state are learning about the importance and impact of agricultural science and getting involved in local programs.
In West Virginia, student agricultural enterprises contribute approximately $5.5 million to the state’s economy. Students learn in active, hands-on environments called supervised agricultural experiences. These provide the foundation for growth in this and other fields. According to CTE data, 54 percent of these experiences evolve into student entrepreneurial endeavors.
“The continued growth of our FFA chapters should make every West Virginian extremely proud,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt. “In addition to molding the next generation of farmers, FFA programs teach valuable life skills beneficial to the student no matter the career path. It is clear our children prosper from being a member of a West Virginia FFA chapter.”
Luke O’Leary, national president of FFA, attended the conference.
For more information, contact Kristin Anderson at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or Kristin.Anderson@k12.wv.us.