Washington FFA honors past, looks to future

Matthew Weaver/Capital Press Washington FFA President Apolinar Blanco greets members Feb. 5 during the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum in Spokane. Blanco said his top priorities for the Washington FFA annual convention May 14-16 in Pullman, Wash., are to have fun and make an impact for future FFA and future agriculture industry members.

Washington FFA’s president says he and his fellow officers will honor the past as they work to plant seeds for the future at the 85th annual state convention May 14-16 in Pullman.

Apolinar Blanco, president of the Washington FFA, from Chelan, Wash., said his primary goals for the convention are to have fun and make an impact.

“I want to ensure we leave a legacy for FFA members to go above and beyond what we have already done,” he said.

Abbie DeMeerleer, executive director of Washington FFA, expects roughly 3,000 attendees at the convention.

Membership is at a high, with more than 8,000 members and several new chapters in urban settings on the western side of the state, DeMeerleer said.

She believes students see opportunities in FFA to develop leadership and communication skills and industry support.

DeMeerleer credited the state officer team with recognizing the past as they look ahead. The officers invited past state officers and advisors to attend and be recognized at the convention.

The officers are conducting a hygiene-item drive May 13, collecting toothbrushes, toothpaste and toilet paper from chapters, after asking three area community action centers about their needs during the summer.

FFA members will work with first-graders from Pullman and Colton, Wash., school districts for a “Little Farmers’ Ag Classroom.” The students will go to nine stations representing different Washington commodities with hands-on activities.

“The officer team really wanted to have some unique new opportunities, and that’s something that’s never been done,” DeMeerleer said. “They really wanted to allow a younger audience to start to see what FFA is, what it can be and be thinking about it in their future.”

It’s important to reach the youth before they reach high school or middle school, Blanco said.

Blanco said the past year has been “humbling,” as he and his fellow officers have grown as individuals, teammates and agriculture’s future. He estimates he’s driven more than 25,000 miles traveling around the state.

“We are the next generation of agriculturalists — we all have different skills that we could bring to the agriculture industry to ensure that it remains relevant for many generations to come,” he said.

The convention includes an education expo May 14, allowing FFA members to meet with representatives of agriculture and education about what kind of education and skills would best position them for a desired career.

“Washington FFA is really excited about another 85 years,” DeMeerleer said.

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