It is National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Week and state leaders are highlighting the importance of the FFA, especially in a state like North Carolina, where agriculture is the No. 1 industry. 

“North Carolina is an agricultural powerhouse, and our next generation of farmers deserve the tools they need to be successful,” Rep. Richard Hudson, NC-9, told the Carolina Journal. “The FFA is doing important work by providing students across our state with top-notch agricultural education and leadership skills so they can thrive. With FFA’s help, our future agriculture leaders are building a strong foundation that will keep North Carolina’s agriculture industry growing for years to come.”

“FFA is a dynamic youth organization that changes lives and prepares members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education,” according to the website. “FFA develops members’ potential and helps them discover their talent through hands-on experiences, which give members the tools to achieve real-world success. Members are future farmers, chemists, veterinarians, government officials, entrepreneurs, bankers, international business leaders, teachers and premier professionals in many career fields.”

In 2023, the North Carolina FFA had 364 chapters and over 36,624 members statewide. The North Carolina FFA has grown significantly since 2021, when it had just over 24,000 members. According to 2023 data, the North Carolina FFA is 56% male and 44% female. High school student members make up 66% of the total, with 34% in middle school. Geographically, it is 66% rural, 18% urban, and 16% suburban. Over 750,00 student hours were invested in projects, leadership, and community service activities during 2023.

“NC FFA is committed to excellence in leadership, personal growth and career success – all qualities I value and that we will need in our future Ag leaders,” Commissioner Troxler told the Carolina Journal in an email. “FFA is an enduring organization that can count many of today’s North Carolina ag leaders as alumni. As we continue to grow North Carolina’s No. 1 industry we are going to need our young people to choose to go into agriculture and FFA puts them on the right path and gives them the skills they need.”

“I joined FFA as a sophomore in high school during 2020, a time when everyone had a lot of uncertainty in the world and when I had a lot of uncertainty in myself,” Madeline Chandler, NC FFA State President told the Carolina Journal in an email. “As my advisor challenged me to see more of my potential than what lay on the surface, I slowly began to believe in my potential as well. Belief turned into action as I learned to take chances and reap the rewards. Those leaps of faith have taken me on a remarkable journey of personal and professional growth as I’ve learned how to advocate for NC’s #1 industry, lead with compassion and confidence, and value the lives and stories of those around me.”

The history of the FFA in North Carolina dates to 1927, when the Young Tar Heel Farmers were incorporated under state law. In June of 1928, the first state office team was elected. Wade Turner of Lillington High School in Harnett County was elected the first president. On October 4, 1928, the Young Tar Heel Farmers Association was chartered “[f]ollowing the formation of the National Organization of Future Farmers of America in 1928, The North Carolina Association of Future Farmers of America was chartered on September 1, 1929, and the transition from YTHF to FFA was implemented,” according to North Carolina FFA history.

The second national convention was held in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1929, where Wade Turner was elected as the second national president of the organization and the first national office from North Carolina.

Due to segregation in schools, Future North State Farmers was organized in North Carolina in 1928 for African American students enrolled in agriculture classes. “In 1964, Congress passed legislation which prohibited segregation in public schools. This led to the merger of the NFA and FFA both nationally and in North Carolina in 1965. Since then, the FFA has attempted to meet the needs of all students in agriculture courses,” according to North Carolina FFA history.

“Being involved in the National FFA Organization has opened doors for me that I previously never knew existed,” Hailey Eason, State FFA VP, told the Carolina Journal. “Because of the opportunities and experiences I’ve been exposed to, I have built durable skills, learned about career opportunities within agriculture, and networked with hundreds of outstanding individuals who have helped make me a stronger leader. FFA has pushed me to be the best version of myself that I can be, and I am incredibly thankful for the influence it has had on me.”

Agriculture is North Carolina’s No. 1 industry and state leaders are focused on sowing synergy between a heritage of feeding people and cultivating innovation in correlated sectors like biotech. Young leadership from FFA members will be critical to maximizing the economic impact this important industry has in North Carolina and the region.