The roots of FFA originate from a time when boys were losing interest and leaving the farm. Walter S. Newman, who in September 1925 became the Virginia State Supervisor of Agricultural Education, sought a solution to the problem with Edmund C. Magill, Harry W. Sanders and Henry C. Groseclose, staff members of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Agricultural Education Department. Newman proposed forming an organization that offered farm boys a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way they will develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys. They grew close immediately began work on a constitution and bylaws for the new organization, and he later suggested a name: Future Farmers of Virginia. The idea was presented during an annual vocational rally in the state in April 1926, where it was met positively. The Future Farmers of Virginia was born. Two years later, the idea reached the national stage during the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City, Mo. That’s when 33 young students from 18 states gathered at the Hotel Baltimore to establish the Future Farmers of America. The group elected Leslie Applegate of Freehold, N.J., as its first president and adopted the national emblem – a mark similar to that of the original Virginia emblem – during the new organization’s first convention.
In 1929, national blue and corn gold became the official colors of FFA. A year later, delegates adopted the official FFA Creed and by 1933 the familiar Official Dress of blue corduroy jackets was adopted after convention delegates were enthralled by the jackets worn to Kansas City by members of the Fredericktown, Ohio, FFA chapter.
The New Farmers of America
Less than a decade after the formation of the Future Farmers of America in 1928, a national organization for African-American boys interested in agriculture formed in Tuskegee, Alabama. The New Farmers of America was modeled after another Virginia organization – the New Farmers of Virginia – and began in 1935. The New Farmers of Virginia was instrumentally started by G.W. Owens and J.R. Thomas, teacher-educators in agricultural education at Virginia State College, and Dr. H.O. Sargent, a federal agricultural education official who later proposed NFA.
The NFA and FFA shared common beliefs. The NFA Creed had six paragraphs, each beginning with & “I believe” and its emblem featured only one stylistic difference: an outline in the shape of a cotton boll instead of an ear of corn. A total of 13 states received NFA charters, and by 1965 the NFA and FFA consolidated in recognition of shared missions for agricultural education. In 1973, Texas’s Fred McClure became the first African-American national FFA officer, and in 1994 Chicago’s Corey Flournoy became the first African-American national FFA president.
Females Gain An Official Standing
Girls were restricted from the earliest forms of FFA membership by delegate vote at the 1930 national convention. The decision to deny female members for many years denied recognition of the key role women have played on farms and in agriculture since the days of the American pioneers. It wasn’t until 1969 that females gained full FFA membership privileges by vote of the national convention delegates, despite many state associations permitting female members long before. New York’s Anita Decker and New Jersey’s Patricia Krowicki became the first two female delegates to the national convention in 1970.
Today, females represent more than 45 percent of FFA members and roughly half of all state leadership positions. In 1976, Washington’s Julie Smiley became the first female national FFA officer. California’s Jan Eberly became the first female National FFA President in 1982. In 2002, Wisconsin’s Karlene Lindow became the first female FFA member to earn the prestigious American Star Farmer Award.
Since 1928, millions of agriculture students have donned the official FFA jacket and championed the FFA Creed. All 50 states and two U.S. territories are currently chartered members of the national organization, representing 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters. It's a testament to the power of common goals and the strong ideals of the FFA founders. Their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They taught us that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it's a science, it's a business and it's an art. Today, the National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. FFA continues to help the next generation rise up to meet those challenges by helping its members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways. So today, we are still the Future Farmers of America. But, we are the Future Biologists, Future Chemists, Future Veterinarians, Future Engineers and Future Entrepreneurs of America, too.