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American agriculture. Those two words convey many images amber waves of grain, people working hard in the field, the joy of partaking of fresh vegetables and fruit in the summer. But agriculture is so much more than these images. It is also technology, math, science and communication, just to name a few. Tens of thousands of youth share this larger vision of agriculture, and that is why they enroll in agricultural education curriculums. The National FFA plays a key role in enhancing these education programs.

It began in 1917, when courses in vocational agriculture were created through the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Act. A few years later, the state of Virginia formed a Future Farmers club for boys in agriculture. The idea soon took root and spread across the nation, and in 1928, the Future Farmers of America was established in Kansas City, Mo. Dues were 10 cents per member. Each year, membership in the organization grew. By 1934, Rhode Island and Alaska were the only states without chapters. The next key growth occurred in 1965, when the New Farmers of America, the organization for African-American agriculture students, joined FFA. Four years later, the organization voted to allow female members. Today, FFA, which officially changed its name from Future Farmers of America to the National FFA Organization, boasts 461,043 members and 7,308 chapters.

FFA is celebrating 75 years of proven student success while it looks forward to a future of great opportunities in agriculture, education and leadership. This fall, the national FFA convention kicked off a yearlong celebration of historical reflection and anticipation of the future.

A sea of blue jackets was visible in Louisville, Ky., as youth from across the country participated in the 75th National FFA Convention. And just as American agriculture is much more than farming, the FFA's best-known symbol is much more than a blue jacket. The fact remains that FFA is about leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. Thousands of students, advisers, parents, alumni and guests celebrated 75 years of student promise, spirit and success. The convention included a variety of activities for attendees, who competed in career development events, discussed changes to the FFA constitution, learned about developments in agriculture and met new friends from all across the country. Students participated in everything from rock climbing to discovering how their current classes apply to their future dreams. More than 40,000 young people were inspired by the dynamic learning environment that was created.

Five speakers took the main stage in Freedom Hall at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. These accomplished individuals shared their unique messages while encouraging members to never stop reaching for their dreams. The speakers were Baxter Black, cowboy poet; Mamie McCullough, motivational speaker; Rulon Gardner, Olympic gold medalist; Rick Rigsby, motivational speaker; and Rick Pitino, head men's basketball coach, University of Louisville.

FFA chapters are changing the lives of students, and collectively, they are building the nation. For 75 years, FFA has been making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The future looks bright as the students in the blue jackets head into tomorrow. AM

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