History of the FFA

February 9, 2023

FFA members shaking hands

The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is more than just an organization. It is a movement that has been shaping the lives of young people for nearly a century. It has a rich and storied history that has helped shape the agricultural industry as we know it today.

This organization has been a beacon of hope for young people looking to make a difference in the world, and it continues to inspire future generations to do the same. Here, we will take a journey through the FFA history, from its humble beginnings to its current impact and initiatives.

What is the FFA (Future Farmers of America)?

FFA members with bunnies

The FFA is a youth organization that has been dedicated to preparing young people for leadership, operating a project or business, and careers in the field of agriculture for nearly a century. The organization has a long and rich history, dating back to its formation in the 1920s.

The FFA is open to any student interested in furthering their leadership skills or agricultural education. It provides students with various resources, including hands-on learning experiences, leadership training, and opportunities to compete and showcase their skills.

Early Beginnings of the National FFA Organization

The National FFA Organization was officially formed in 1928, although its roots can be traced back to the early 1900s. The organization was created as a way to provide agricultural education and training to students in high school.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Hughes Act into law, one of the first federal efforts to support vocational education. It played a significant role in the formation of the National FFA Organization.

A few years after the Smith-Hughes Act, Virginia Tech agricultural educators organized the Future Farmers of Virginia for boys taking agriculture classes. The organization quickly gained popularity across other states, forming a national organization to provide a unified platform for providing agricultural education and training to students across the country.

The first National FFA Convention was held in Kansas City, MO, in 1928 with 33 delegates from 18 states. By the second year, the convention had 64 delegates from 33 states. The first few conventions established the blue and corn gold official colors and the FFA Creed.

Expansion of the FFA

As the FFA continued to grow and expand, it became clear that the organization was positively impacting young people’s lives. In 1944, the National FFA Foundation was created in Washington, D.C., to raise money for programs and activities.

The FFA was providing students with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed in the agricultural industry, and it was also helping to develop future leaders. The FFA continued to expand its programs and initiatives, and by the 1950s, it had become one of the largest youth organizations in the country.

In 1969, after years of advocacy and lobbying by female agricultural education students and education, the FFA opened the organization to women. The inclusion of women in the organization brought diversity, new perspectives, and skills. This helped to expand the organization’s reach and impact.

In 1988, the National FFA Organization changed its name from the Future Farmers of America to the National FFA Organization. The name change was made to better reflect the organization’s mission and to reflect the growing diversity of its membership.

The name change was driven by the fact that the organization’s membership had grown to include students interested in a wide range of careers in the agricultural industry, not just farming. The “Future Farmers” tie to the name was a much narrower audience than what the FFA had grown to support and serve. With a focus on bringing career and life skills in areas such as Sales, Leadership, Speaking and Presenting, Parliamentary Procedure, Recordkeeping, Welding, Shop Skills, and more, it became evident the benefit of the organization reached far beyond just farming.

Over the years, the FFA’s annual convention has evolved, adding entertainment and an expo. From 1928 to 1998, the national convention and expo were held in Kansas City, MO, and then moved to Louisville, KY, in 1999, moving to Indianapolis, IN, in 2006. Today, it moves between Indianapolis and Louisville every three years.

FFA Forever

FFA Forever is Wilco’s ongoing campaign to raise funding and awareness for FFA in states that Wilco serves.  The program started in 2012 shortly after Oregon FFA lost state funding. Wilco and several other agriculture-focused organizations, like Les Schwab, agreed to help privately fund the Oregon FFA Foundation; and FFA Forever was born.

As Wilco has grown, FFA Forever has also grown to support Washington and California FFA Foundations. FFA Forever is made up of several events and fundraising activities throughout the year where Wilco, its vendor-partners, customers, and employees have combined to help raise over $1.7 million since its inception. These funds help support the state FFA organizations but a significant portion is also earmarked for local chapter grants so a large portion of the dollars directly benefits as many kids and programs as possible.


Modern FFA

FFA member jacket

Today, the FFA is still going strong, with hundreds of thousands of members and tens of thousands of chapters across the country. The organization continues to play a vital role in preparing young people for leadership and careers in the agricultural industry.

After Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, the FFA played a significant role in helping the affected communities recover and rebuild. In 2005, they launched Seeds of Hope, a fundraising effort to rebuild the agricultural education and FFA program in the affected states.

In 2013, the FFA Today Radio Show debuted on SiriusXM’s RURAL RADIO channel, expanding their audience even more. In 2015, the Give the Gift of Blue program was launched, which allows individuals to sponsor a student’s membership in the FFA.

The organization launched AgExplorer in 2016, which is an online platform designed to help students discover and explore the wide range of careers available in the agricultural industry. Students can go on virtual field trips to the top agricultural organizations to learn firsthand the careers that are available.

The platform also includes an interactive career exploration tool, which allows students to explore different agricultural careers based on their interests and skills. The tool provides students with information about the education and skills required for different careers, as well as real-life examples and success stories from professionals working in the industry.

In 2020, the Forever Blue Network was initiated, focused on providing lifelong support and resources to its members. The program is designed to help FFA alumni stay connected with the organization and the agricultural industry and to provide them with networking opportunities, career development courses, and access to exclusive events and programs, such as the National FFA Alumni Leadership Conference.

How to Join the FFA

If you are the parent of a student interested in joining the FFA, you should know a few things.

  • If your child is interested in joining the FFA, they will need to be enrolled in an agricultural education program at their high school. If the school doesn’t have a program, you can help start an FFA chapter or join a chapter at a neighboring school district.
  • National FFA membership dues ($7 per year) support the organization’s programs and initiatives. Your state or local FFA association may charge other dues for membership or some chapters or programs help cover costs.

A Legacy of Empowerment: The Enduring Impact of the FFA

The FFA has come a long way since its formation in the 1920s. Today, it is one of the largest youth organizations in the country, with more than 850,000 members and 8,995 chapters.

The organization has been a transformative force in the lives of young people, providing them with the tools they need to break into the agricultural industry and beyond.

The future of the FFA looks bright, and it will continue to be a beacon of hope for young people looking to make a difference in the world. The organization will continue to inspire future generations, shape the agricultural industry, and be a vital force in the lives of young people.