Being a Future Farmer of America back in 1928 when FFA was founded meant at least four things for sure. It meant that everyone in the chapter was male, there were no African Americans, everyone lived on a farm, and the classes being taught consisted of Ag 1, 2, 3, and 4. In fact, it was this way for many years. As these 86 years have progressed, things have changed, but one of the biggest changes only took place within the past 26 years.

In 1965, 37 years into the organizations history, the New Farmers of America, an African American organization, merged with FFA. When this happened, any man regardless of race, religion, or ethnic origin was allowed to be a member. Four years later in 1969, women were finally allowed to join FFA as well (National FFA Organization).

At this point in time, there was still the fact that every member came from a farm, was most likely going to be a “future farmer”, and that the classes being taught were primarily plain Agriculture (Fleming). Not that plain Ag was a bad thing. However, it was a subject that had many subjects within it. Ag 1, 2, 3, and 4 taught about anything from crop production, soil conservation, and farm business management, to animal science, livestock judging, and horticulture. It combined aspects of FFA into classroom learning as well, and was a combination of many areas of agriculture (Fisher).

In 1988, FFA changed its name from standing for “Future Farmers of America”, to being “The National FFA Organization”. They did this to show the growing diversity in agriculture as well as the different career opportunities available (National FFA Organization). Still, the final “switch” had yet to happen. Many people don’t realize what the switch even is. It is the switch from every member coming from a farm, to today when anyone, no matter where they live, can be an FFA member. Back in the day, if someone came up and said that they were in FFA, people knew that they lived on a farm (Melsha). Today, if someone came up and said they were a member, many people still make that assumption, but it is no longer true all of the time.

According to Mrs. Fleming, Ag teacher at Vinton-Shellsburg High School, a big part of the switch was due to the numbers in membership decreasing and High School Ag programs were getting cut. When this started happening, the programs started to put emphasis on the other subjects and areas of agriculture. The VSHS Ag department did this a few years ago. They switched from teaching Ag 1, 2, 3, 4, and horticulture, to offering five new and diverse Ag classes and two Kirkwood Community College Classes, in addition to Ag 1, Horticulture, and Ag Business. When this started happening in High School’s around the country, more students started getting interested in Ag and FFA, and more that just the farm kids became members (Fleming).

Mrs. Fleming and Todd Wiley, former FFA member at VSHS, both agree that membership numbers and diversity in students depend a lot on the Ag teacher. If the teacher doesn’t choose to offer classes of different areas of agriculture, then the

chapter may in fact remain mainly farm kids (Fleming). When Todd was in High School in the 80’s, he said that the FFA members were still all coming from farming families, and there were few females in the chapter (Wiley). Even in the 90’s when Mrs. Fleming was in High School, she said that every member, if not born and raised on a farm, had a direct link to a farm like herself (Fleming). Both of them agree though, that the membership numbers were still low back then (Fleming) (Wiley).

When did this switch actually happen then? And has people’s concept or perceptions of FFA members changed over time? Sometime between 1988 and today is the only answer that can be given (Fleming). Walking down a school hallway, one can no longer tell who the FFA members are, or know if they come from a farm or not. Making this change has opened up a world of opportunities for many students to experience. There is still a large amount of people who believe that FFA stands for “Future Farmers of America”, and that Ag isn’t for them. Well, Ag may not be for everyone, but at least they welcome everyone now. No longer are members just future farmers. They are also future vets, chemists, florists, teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs, and most importantly, leaders. Today 44% of members are females, and they hold 50% of the leadership positions available. Today over 11,000 advisors across the America are teaching agriscience, biotechnology, natural resources, Ag mechanics, horticulture, and many other classes. Today 33% of members are a race other than Caucasian. Today there are 579,678 FFA members in 7,570 chapters across the country (National FFA Organization). Today is a day of change and acceptance, and it will only get better from here.


Fisher, Duane M. Ag Ed Department Vertical Curriculum 8th Grade-12th Grade.

Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District, 2000. Print.

Fisher, Duane. Personal Interview. 3 Feb 2014.

Fleming, Louise. Personal Interview. 22 Jan 2014.

National FFA Organization, . "FFA History." National FFA Organization: Agriculture

Education. National FFA Organization, n.d. Web. 22 Jan 2014.

National FFA Organization, . "FFA Statistics." National FFA Organization: Agriculture

Education. National FFA Organization, n.d. Web. 22 Jan 2014.

Melsha, Rochelle. Personal Interview. 23 Jan 2014.

Wiley, Todd. Personal Interview. 22 Jan 2014

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