Competitive events, educational tours, leadership workshops, concert-like general sessions and a massive career and trade show could become a reality for one hard-working FFA chapter when closing for the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge ends Wednesday.
That's because the winning chapter will receive an all-expenses paid trip for six FFA members and an advisor to join more than 54,000 fellow FFA members at October's 2012 National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis.
And even for the 840 chapters who signed up for the FFA Chapter Challenge in 12 states and don't win the grand prize, plenty of great rewards are in sight. Ten FFA chapters in each state will receive $2,500 to use for FFA supplies or costs associated with FFA members attending national leadership conferences.
The premise of the FFA Chapter Challenge is simple: Members from local FFA chapters build relationships with local farmers and, in turn, those farmers visit the Chapter Challenge website and vote for their favorite chapter. The opportunity gives FFA members a chance to learn about different aspects of local agricultural life while building community awareness of their FFA chapter. Voting ends at 6 p.m. EST Wednesday.
Monsanto sponsors the program as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.
"The mission of FFA goes beyond farming but its heart will always be in creating new generations of leaders who understand agriculture and small communities," said Linda Arnold, Monsanto customer outreach lead. "Monsanto is proud to partner with the National FFA Foundation to help local chapters create that bond with the people who grow our food and build our communities."
Voting for the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge began Jan. 16 and recorded an impressive 16,506 votes. The second-year program expanded to 12 states this year, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.
Many of the farmers who have voted for a local chapter have been able to rekindle a passion for both FFA and agricultural education that they had as high school students.
"My sisters and I were able to wear our father's FFA jacket as our own," said Mary Brubach, a voter from Garden Prairie, Ill. "I can even look up awards won by my family members and see our names on those same awards."
Today, Brubach is an ambassador for agriculture at her family farm, where she runs Susie's Garden Patch farm market in addition to helping in the fields and greenhouses.
"I enjoy educating visitors about farming," she said. "I love seeing little children come out of the strawberry patch covered in red juice or watching their reaction when a calf sucks on a bottle. I want others to be able to experience just a little bit of the country life."
More stories about farmers who voted in the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge are available online .
The top 200 FFA chapters that make the most connections and receive the most farmer votes by Wednesday will be awarded between $1,000 and $2,500 in FFA credit to be used for chapter supply purchases or registration fees for national leadership conferences. As a sponsor of the program, Monsanto is providing more than $300,000 in incentives.
The National FFA Foundation is the fundraising arm of the National FFA Organization, which provides agricultural education to 540,379 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,489 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.