The FFA is one of the nation's premier youth organizations and agriculture is blessed to have the organization training future leaders in our industry. The Washington Leadership Conference, one of the FFA's cornerstone programs, kicked off its annual series earlier this month.

Based in our nation's capital, more than 2,000 FFA members from across the country will be attending one of seven weeklong sessions that combine leadership and citizenship training. Trips to Arlington National Cemetery; the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt memorials; and other historic sites give students a better appreciation for our country's heritage and set the stage for intensive leadership training. The conference also gives students the opportunity to visit the office of their local U.S. representative or senator which is a valuable experience for every young citizen. Reading the recent press release from the National FFA gave me a moment to reflect on my participation in the Washington Leadership Conference program in 1990.

About two decades ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the Washington Leadership Conference. It was the first trip in which I traveled over one state away from my family's dairy farm. The bus ride from Wisconsin to Washington D.C., was an adventure. For the first time, I got to see the great diversity of our country. Not only was I exposed to other FFA members and their ideas, but also, I was able to experience first-hand the courage that our forefathers took in founding this country by experiencing monuments dedicated to their foresight and courage. Seeing the many Washington-based memorials and going to historic Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington, is something I will never forget. The conference honed my leadership skills for my senior year in high school and beyond. It definitely developed me into a better leader, speaker, and made me want to serve my fellow man by volunteering in other organizations as an adult.

If you are an FFA member, the Washington Leadership Conference should be placed squarely on your must-do list. If you would like to attend the Washington Leadership Conference, talk to your FFA advisor. Many chapters offer scholarships to help defray the costs.

To learn more about the FFA, go to The FFA has 7,487 local chapters throughout the United States and has over 523,000 members in grades seven through twelve.