Organization holds annual convention

The Minnesota FFA Association teachs high schoolers more about agriculture.

Allison Wickler

While it’s not unusual to see thousands of students on campus, in the next couple of days some of them might seem a bit younger than most college students.

That’s because nearly 3,000 of them will be.

The 78th annual Minnesota FFA Association state convention began Sunday at the University, and the high school-aged participants will be on campus through Tuesday.

Regional FFA competition winners from around the state convene each year to compete in leadership and technical knowledge activities for a berth to the national convention in Indianapolis, said work and human resource education Professor Brad Greiman, who helped coordinate the convention.

They also hear speeches from prominent figures in FFA and agriculture, he said.

Leadership events include public speaking, sales competitions and running meetings with parliamentary procedure, he said, while the technical activities range from small animal care to landscaping.

Though FFA is primarily for high schoolers, University students play a large role in organizing the convention.

Of the six Minnesota FFA state officers, five are University students, including agricultural education sophomore and FFA President Kayla Pearson.

As a state officer, Pearson talks with FFA chapters to promote interest in agriculture and emphasize the many different areas of involvement.

“Agriculture is so much more than just a man standing out in a field with his cows,” she said.

The officers have been planning the state convention since last summer, she said.

Pearson said holding the convention at the University shows participants, many from small towns or rural areas, that a big-city school can provide a solid agriculture program.

“Sometimes it’s intimidating for a kid from Podunk, Minn., to come to the Cities,” she said.

In the 1990s, FFA began broadening its scope to include agriscience, research and biotechnology, said Minnesota FFA adviser Joel Larsen.

For this reason, Larsen said he estimates as many as 500 business and industry professionals helped with the convention.

Greiman said it’s good that agriculture is evolving.

“Looking back, it was maybe really a blessing,” he said, “even though it was rough on farm families.”

Greiman, who taught high school agricultural education in Iowa for 21 years, said student interest in the agriculture industry has increased in the last 15 years as they’ve discovered agricultural options beyond farming.

He also said the number of men and women in FFA has reached equilibrium recently, whereas men used to dominate the organization.

Greiman said the leadership skills FFA teaches are perhaps the most important skills for agriculture-bound students, because technical skills can be strengthened during work.

“It develops the people skills that are hard to teach once you’re out on the job,” he said.