More than 850 FFA chapters in 12 states competed to win $275k in prizes by expanding agriculture education to local farmers in the FFA Chapter Challenge. 201 FFA chapters, including a Alabama grand prize winner, where announced as winners by the National FFA Organization and Monsanto this week.

Thousands of FFA members from 856 FFA chapters in 12 states have finished a huge effort to connect with local farmers, and many of those members dedicated to agricultural education are celebrating this week. One FFA chapter in Alabama, though, may be smiling wider than the rest. That's because the Lawrence County High School FFA Chapter in Moulton, Ala., will be sending six FFA members and one chapter advisor to Indianapolis for an all-expenses paid trip to October's 85th National FFA Convention & Expo after winning the grand prize of the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge. Combined with an extra $2,500 designated for other FFA uses like registration fees for the Washington Leadership Conference or chapter supplies (official FFA member jackets, banquet supplies, and more) and the north Alabama FFA chapter is looking at estimated $9,000-worth of prizes for bringing their chapter closer to local farmers. The FFA Chapter Challenge, a second year National FFA Organization program sponsored by Monsanto that expanded to 12 states in 2012, challenged FFA members to meet farmers in their local communities. After building relationships and learning about the different career aspects of production agriculture, FFA members encouraged the farmers to vote for their chapter online or over the phone. In total, the Lawrence County High School FFA Chapter connected with 1,110 farmers in their area. "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." Monsanto sponsors the FFA Chapter Challenge as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. "Relationships are central to growing a career in any field, let alone agriculture. We love how this program emphasizes that while also supporting FFA chapters who work the hardest," said Rob Cooper, executive director of the National FFA Foundation. "We're very grateful of Monsanto's support of this program and truly believe it will be a great tool to grow tomorrow's agriculture leaders." 200 other FFA chapters in the 12 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas – were also notified last week that they won chapter proceeds in the two month competition. The top chapter in each state received a $2,500 FFA certificate, while chapters ranked second to tenth in each state received FFA certificates worth between $1,000 and $2,000. 80 chapters who didn't score in their state's top-10 also won $1,000. Complete results, state-by-state, are available on the FFA Chapter Challenge website. Voting for the 2012 FFA Chapter Challenge began Jan. 16 and finished Feb. 29, with over 10,000 votes coming in during the final week of competition. As the grand prize winner, the Lawrence County High School FFA Chapter will join over 50,000 FFA members, advisors and guests at October's 85th National FFA Convention in Indianapolis for concert-like general sessions featuring dynamic keynote speakers and lauded dignitaries, a massive career-focused trade show, hundreds of national competitions and award presentations, career success tours and more. 3.21.2012