In years past, FFA was a club for farm boys who intended to stay on the farm.
Today, of the nearly 580,000 members nationwide, 44 percent are female, according to the national FFA website. And only about 25 percent live on a farm, said Travis Hughes, president of the Genoa-Kingston FFA chapter.
More than 7,500 chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are celebrating FFA Week. Locally, the Genoa-Kingston, Hiawatha, Sycamore, DeKalb, Indian Creek, Hinckley-Big Rock and Somonauk-Leland-Sandwich chapters are celebrating with fun and educational events all week.
Events include ag in the classroom lessons for grade school and middle school students, meals served to school staff and public supporters, petting zoos, tractors being driven to school, pedal tractor pulls and “Ag Olympics” on Tuesday at Genoa-Kingston and Sycamore high schools and Friday at Indian Creek High School.
During the afternoon assembly, Genoa-Kingston staff members were asked to participate in milk chugging, hay bale tossing, wheelbarrow races and a trivia contest. Several staff members were in the running to kiss a farm animal. Students and staff voted with their spare change.
Principal Brett McPherson won the honor of kissing a kid – a baby goat – with $52.22 in change collected in his name. A total of $175.93 was raised for the DeKalb County Animal Shelter.
Band teacher Tom Rucker was in the running, as well. He ran around the gym, cheering when McPherson was announced as the winner.
Although they have a lot of fun, chapter members said FFA is so much more.
“FFA has made me who I am today,” DeKalb chapter reporter Katie Arndt said. “It has helped me figure out where I belong.”
Although she is one of the few who has an ag background, Arndt plans to be an ag teacher.
“There’s a large disconnect between consumers and their food, and it’s important to tell ag stories,” Arndt said.
Indian Creek chapter President Lauren Frances is planning a similar path.
Frances said she took an intro to ag class as a freshman, igniting her passion for the industry.
“I don’t live on a farm but I plan to attend the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to study ag education,” Frances said.
Bridget Halat, a Genoa-Kingston chapter member, said leadership training is the most important aspect of the organization.
“You take that with you,” Halat said. “Life skills, career development skills – you don’t get those things in other high school organizations.”
Hughes echoed Halat’s sentiments.
“FFA promotes leadership and career growth success,” he said. “Since joining, I have a better grasp on my life goals and I’ve become a more effective leader.”
Hughes said he wants to get a degree in ag economics and become an “agvocate” of safety as a benefit to farmers.
“I’m proud to be involved with such a great organization,” Hughes said.