CALDWELL, Idaho — A simple tractor raffle that set out to raise some scholarship money for Idaho FFA members has turned into something much bigger.
The raffle is a program of the Idaho FFA Foundation and the tractors are hauled around the state each year to generate interest and boost ticket sales.
The tractor is usually accompanied by FFA members who act as real-life advocates for agriculture education and the FFA program.
The tractor raffle has become a visual symbol of Idaho’s FFA program and has raised awareness of the importance of agriculture education across the state, supporters say.
The foundation was able to award $51,000 in college scholarships last year and the tractor raffle was a big reason why, said Idaho FFA Foundation Executive Director Laura Wilder.
“The tractor raffle has had a huge impact on the overall support to FFA and helped raise awareness about the need for scholarships,” she said. “The tractor raffle is really what started our scholarship program.”
The tractor raffle was started in 2011 by Middleton farmer Sid Freeman, past president of the Idaho FFA Alumni Association, and his wife, Pam.
Farmers and agribusinesses have donated the tractors, which are professionally restored by the Freemans with help from people involved with the farming industry.
Fifty percent of the money raised by the raffle tickets goes to fund scholarships, 40 percent goes to the foundation’s general fund and local chapters to help support FFA programs and the rest is used to cover the raffle program’s costs.
Since it began in 2011, the raffle has raised $120,000 through ticket sales, $35,500 in banner sponsorships by dozens of agricultural businesses and $60,000 from in-kind contributions, Freeman said.
The money has been used to award $107,000 in scholarships and another $22,000 will be awarded in April.
Idaho FFA Executive Director Clara-Leigh Evans said the raffle not only raises money for scholarships for FFA members, “but as the tractor travels the state with tractor raffle volunteers, it raises visibility and awareness of the Idaho FFA Foundation and its important work.”
Besides raising general awareness of the importance of agriculture education, the campaign has also resulted in many agricultural businesses partnering more closely with the Idaho FFA program, Freeman said.
“The awareness campaign that the tractor raffle became was unintentional,” he said. “But it was big. It was really big. We were just trying to get rid of a tractor and raise some money for scholarships and this whole awareness thing became way bigger (than imagined).”
While FFA members sell tickets for the annual raffle, they are acting as advocates for agriculture education, said American Falls High School ag teacher Mark Bietia, who has had several students receive scholarships through the raffle program.
“It has increased ag education literacy and awareness throughout the state,” said Bietia, co-chairman of the Idaho FFA board of directors.