The Idaho FFA Foundation’s 10th annual tractor raffle raised more money for chapter programs and scholarships this year despite COVID-19 challenges that prompted changes to the campaign and drawing.

The program has raised nearly $536,000 to date including this year’s $42,240 in ticket sales, up 15.5% from $36,540 in 2019.

The 2020 raffle also benefited from 22 banner sponsorships at $600 apiece, and a Caldwell equipment dealer’s approximately $5,000 discount from the retail price of the grand-prize tractor.

The 12 promotional banners — one for each of the 10 districts, one that goes with the tractor and one with the raffle chairperson — are used at various events throughout the annual campaign that starts in July. Every year, volunteers including FFA alumni and Farm Bureau county chapter members donate travel and hours.

The tractor raffle brings statewide awareness to the importance of agriculture education, Idaho FFA Foundation Executive Director Marcia Jedry said.

“With the success of the Tractor Raffle program, FFA and ag education as a whole, the future of agriculture is stronger than ever,” she said.

Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman and FFA started the raffle with a 1940 International Farmall H that he restored. Newer tractors with more features followed as community participation increased.

“People know what it means and they are very willing to donate to the program, which is providing our communities with the leaders of the future,” said Freeman, who chairs the tractor raffle.

Jedry said ticket prices were doubled to $20 this year to better support the state’s 95 chapters. For each ticket sold, $10 goes to the chapter that sold it and $10 to the foundation, which directs $6 to scholarships.

The program to date has awarded about $168,000 in scholarships to 154 students. This year’s sale of 2,112 tickets produced nearly $13,000 for scholarships.

Closure of schools and cancellation of events at which tickets are typically sold reduced the number of tickets sold this year, Jedry said.

Students limited the decline by contacting prospective buyers by phone and arranging safe deliveries, she said. Publication advertising generated strong sales, possibly because more people were at home reading.

The drawing was postponed from the canceled state convention April 3 in Twin Falls to a June 3 public event at a Caldwell-area farm in which Gov. Brad Little participated.

Little said FFA continues to adapt its curriculum and prepare its students to lead as agriculture and communities change. “People who survive in agriculture have got to be adaptive.”

This year’s tractor, a Yanmar 221 with blade and bucket, went to Hal Harris, who bought his ticket from the Middleton FFA chapter.

Ben Nelson, president of Farm Equipment USA in Caldwell, donated the tractor. He said the versatile and easy-to-operate tractor is a good fit on the growing number of small-scale farms.

Jedry said next year’s top prize will be a utility vehicle popular for farm and recreational use. Officials hope it draws interest from a wider audience.

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