As the importance of agriculture continues to be a focus throughout the nation, students around the country understand the vital role it plays in everyday life, especially here in the Central Valley
And nowhere is this focus more evident than in the growth of membership in the National FFA Organization.
The National FFA Organization, a school-based youth leadership development organization centered around an agriculture curriculum, recently announced a record-high student membership number of 850,823. That’s an increase of 15 percent from last year. In addition, chapter numbers increased by 178, resulting in 8,995 chapters in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the National FFA.
Nearly 16 percent of FFA members — 132,700 — are Latino.
The top five student membership states are Texas, California, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Locally, FFA programs are thriving, according to figures provided by the five schools within the Journal’s coverage area.
Turlock High, for example, has nearly 800 students involved with the program out of a total enrollment around 2,600 students — more than 30 percent of its student population. Pitman High, meanwhile, has almost 600 members within a school community of 2,000 — 30 percent.
Hilmar High, with a school enrollment of 687, has an FFA membership of 370 — a whopping 54 percent. Denair, with a total enrollment of 280 students, has 129 FFA members (46 percent). That’s down from a high of 208 in 2018, though. Turlock Christian, the smallest school in the Journal’s coverage area, has 120 FFA members — more than 60 percent of the school population — and that’s up from 70 members just three years ago.
That’s a total of more than 2,400 FFA students spread over five campuses, demonstrating that the interest in agriculture is massive in Central Valley schools.
“It’s a huge program that we service here,” said Hilmar principal Melissa Brewer. “Half of my freshman science classes are ag science courses.”
In fact, Hilmar FFA will hold its 20th annual Truck and Tractor Pull fundraiser on Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. (gates open at 5:30). Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for kids 12-under.