Cullman County farmer Kyle Morris was a member of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) as a student and knows the value the program brings to students.
“I developed a love of the FFA from a young age,” he said. “I grew up on a farm, I understood it. But the FFA lets kids who haven’t had that experience learn about farming.”
National FFA Week is Feb. 20-27, when the organization celebrates its tradition of preparing young people for a variety of careers in agriculture.
“National FFA Week is a significant event that really showcases the heart of our organization,” says Christine White, chief program officer for the National FFA Organization. “Local chapters use this as an opportunity to highlight program success, recognize community supporters and amplify the mission of the organization.”
Cullman County is a big hitter in Alabama’s agricultural industry, but there are students, here and across the state, who don’t have that farming background. Being a member of FFA, said Morris, “gives them a chance to be involved in ag.”
Morris, who is also a teacher and football coach at Cullman High School where he works with his former FFA teacher David Benefield, is organizing a get-together with all the FFA clubs this May. In addition to providing an opportunity for all the kids to get to know each other, Morris wants the event to be an opportunity for area farmers to meet kids who may be looking for summer work.
“That way, they can go learn hands on,” he said. “And it’s all through the FFA. The FFA has been as stalwart as the North Star.”
While Morris says the “farmer’s best friend is the dirt,” agricultural careers can also include the person who tests the dirt, or creates robotics and technology to help the farmer or the person who helps the farmer get their product to market.
According to the National FFA Organization, “Members are future chemists, veterinarians, government officials, entrepreneurs, bankers, international business leaders, teachers and premier professionals in many career fields.”
“Exposure to those careers begins in FFA,” said Morris.
Students learn skills such as cattle judging, showing livestock, leadership and oratory. Understanding the issues farmers face is a necessary skill, said Morris, particularly when it comes to legislative policy and advocating on behalf of farmers.
“FFA helps kids learn that farming is a business,” said Morris. “You’ve got to love it. If you don’t love it you’re not going to do it.”