When Evansville’s FFA program was scheduling its activities and dress-up day themes for National FFA Week, group members were careful not to overpower their plans with farming.
That’s not what FFA is all about, high school senior and chapter President Emma Jorgensen said.
The Gazette contacted a handful of area FFA programs to highlight Sunday’s kickoff to National FFA Week. Group leaders and advisers emphasized the broad appeal of FFA, which has long outgrown its original Future Farmers of America moniker.
One of Evansville’s dress-up themes is “ag career day.” That means students should break out their best veterinarian or farm loan lender costumes, Jorgensen said.
Evansville’s chapter recognizes that farming is a good base for FFA.
But agriculture is a diverse industry that supports hundreds of different careers, she said.
Some of these careers will be on display next month at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds for a career development event. Many area FFA programs are sending multiple teams to participate in animal judging, veterinary science, wildlife and botany competitions, among others.
Jillian Malkow, a co-adviser at Janesville Craig FFA, said these events can encourage kids without farm backgrounds to join the club. That’s a must because only a tiny slice of participants grew up on farms.
Malkow graduated from Albany High School, where the rural location spurred student interest in the large-animal side of agriculture.
At Craig, more people are interested in small animals or veterinary careers, she said.
“For me as a teacher, it’s more enjoyment because some of these kids have no idea what I’m teaching them,” she said. “I open their eyes to these many careers they never thought were out there, which is rewarding.”
One career option is floral design. Craig FFA on Sunday will host a visit by a certified floral designer, who will teach students how to do floral design from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Craig.
Milton FFA adviser Stacy Skemp said FFA’s mission has largely remained the same since she was in high school. But the organization has begun to move away from its old farm stereotype.
FFA helps expose students to many agricultural careers they otherwise might not know about. Those careers can offer a healthy income, Skemp said.
Jorgensen will attend UW-River Falls in fall and plans to study animal science and biotechnology. She credits FFA with helping her passion for agriculture flourish.
“I’ve seen myself grow. I used to be the quietest kid in the room. Some days, I’m the loudest,” she said. “I used to be afraid to speak what I think. FFA has helped me come out of my shell and be a premier leader.”