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FFA of the Future By James Pratt


Paige Crawford with her show pig Si at the Yukon FFA swine facility. Photo by James Pratt


M


ost Oklahoma kids growing up on a farm are familiar with these three letters: F-F-A. Originally called the Future Farmers of America when it was chartered in 1928, the name eventually evolved to the National FFA Organization to better refl ect the changing role of the organization. Today, FFA teaches more than just farming. It encompasses science, technology, public speaking, leadership and a host of other life skills that students learn in order to be productive members of society.


“Not everyone lives on the farm anymore,” Amy Truitt, an FFA teacher in Yukon explains. “Most of our students have an urban upbringing. Our pro- gram gives these students the opportunity to have an agricultural background even if their family has been away from the farm.”


FFA chapters such as the one in Yukon have changed over the years to adapt to Oklahoma’s shifting demographics and advances in technology. “Yukon had been an agricultural community but the sprawl of Oklahoma City has urbanized it,” Truitt says. In fact, fewer than 20 of the 200 students enrolled in agriculture education in Yukon live on a farm.


According to Truitt and her teaching partner Tim Herren, students now learn a wide variety of skills rather than just growing crops and raising live- stock. They also teach public speaking, leadership, record keeping and a host of other “life lessons” in the program.


“Being around your teachers and going on road trips, you learn so much more about life than you would in a classroom. I’ve learned about responsibil- ity, respect, morals and values,” Paige Crawford, Yukon FFA student says. According to state FFA President Brandon Baumgarten of Oilton, Okla., the National FFA Organization is the No. 1 student organization in the United States, with over 500,000 members—nearly 25,000 of whom are mem- bers in Oklahoma.


“Many farms are becoming corporate owned, so farm workers are increas- ingly coming from urban areas. FFA is a way for students from urban areas to learn how agriculture works,” Baumgarten says. “I recently spoke at John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City and they have a very nice horticul- ture program for FFA students.”


14 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


Baumgarten explains that FFA educates students about the coming food crisis and what is required by farmers to feed the world. “As our world population continues to grow, farmers must be more effi - cient. Students learn why farmers use technology such as genetically modifi ed crops to improve yield and increase production. FFA students gain fi rsthand knowledge that helps them debate and discuss these important issues,” Baumgarten says.


Technology plays an increasingly important role in the future of the FFA. “Technology has moved from the offi ce to the tractor,” Yukon FFA teacher Herren explains. “It is not only great for record keeping, but it speeds up ev- erything we do on the farm. Farmers can plant crops in arrow-straight rows using just the right amount of seed and fertilizer for that piece of land.” Technology such as GPS has fundamentally changed farming practices. “Our students learn to use GPS technology for land judging and surveying,” Norman FFA teacher and Oklahoma Electric Cooperative member Melinda Tague says. “They learn to measure slope runoff and how that affects planting, fertilizing and harvesting of crops.” Oklahoma ranchers are beginning to affi x GPS chips in collars and ear tags to track livestock. This allows them to know where their animals are at all times and to locate lost or stolen cattle quickly.


Social media platforms such as Facebook have also revolutionized farming. Farmers are able to track trends, communicate with suppliers and buyers and collaborate on ideas for improved productivity. Most FFA chapters now have a Facebook page that allows them to communicate not only with FFA mem- bers and family, but with other interested parties and fans throughout the community as well. “Kids are so far along with their computer skills; sometimes they even help us out,” Tague says.


As technology weaves its way further into rural lifestyles, it will continue to


have signifi cant effects on families, farms and businesses. Yet organizations like the FFA continue to teach traditional values such as honesty, fair play, hard work, leadership and public speaking to go along with newer skills that involve the ever-changing world of technology.


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