FFA an integral part of Northwest Ag Show

Mitch Lies/For the Capital Press Current FFA state officers will be at the Northwest Agricultural Show. They are, from left to right, Mitchell Adams, state treasurer; Brecklin Milton, state vice president; Kylee Fisher, state secretary; Collin Matthias, state reporter; Meghan Stadeli, state sentinel; Ian Oppenlander, state president.

Opening day of the 2014 Northwest Agricultural Show features an organization with deep roots in agriculture.

And, despite losing its state funding beginning in 2011, it’s an organization that continues to blossom statewide.

“Obviously we are much smaller than we once were in terms of staff,” Oregon FFA Foundation Executive Director Kevin White said. “But during this transition, we have actually grown.”

At more than 5,500 members, participation now is about what it was when FFA membership peaked in the 1980s, White said, and up nearly 1,000 from just three years ago.

With 100 chapters now in Oregon, that number also continues to grow, White said, particularly as FFA reaches into urban areas. Its chapter in north Clackamas County “services quite a few schools in the Portland area,” White said. And the state’s newest chapter, which started recently at Portland’s Madison High School, serves an almost exclusively urban area.

Also, White said, there could be even more chapters if the state was better equipped to service FFA. There is

more demand for chapters, for example, than the state has agricultural sciences teachers, he said, a fact that slows growth.

Asked what the state is doing to address that issue, White said: “Recruiting out of state to find ag teachers that would like to move to Oregon.”

A school district can only form an FFA Chapter if it has an agricultural sciences teacher, he said. Ag teachers serve as advisors for FFA.

At the Northwest Agricultural Show, FFA Day has been a staple for about a dozen years, said show manager Amy Patrick.

The day will include a question-and-answer treasure hunt, where students receive stamps on their “passports” for asking participating vendors agricultural questions.

It will include an FFA Supporters Reception at the close of show that day in the tasting room area, which features locally produced wine and beer. The reception will include presentations from FFA about its new donation program, called Farm for FFA, and a silent auction.

“It will be a great time for FFA supporters, alumni, show attendees and vendors to come together to support the organization and network in a relaxed setting,” Patrick said.

White said the show also is a great opportunity for the public to meet the state’s FFA officers, who will be on hand all three days at the FFA booth.

And it’s a great chance for the officers to hear from past members. “The officers really enjoy hearing folks reminisce about the days they were in FFA,” White said.

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