Oct. 23 2012 07:51 AM

National organization hits record-high membership.

FFA logo A sea of blue corduroy will flood Indianapolis, Ind., in the next few days. High school agricultural students will descend on the 85th annual National FFA Convention on October 24 to October 27, 2012.

There is much excitement with the four-day event. The national organization now boasts of 557,318 members from 7,498 chapters from all U.S. states and territories. While some schools, due to budget restrictions, may have reduced class offerings or eliminated the FFA programs from their schools, there are still a growing number of schools adding FFA chapters. Recently, California allowed private schools to have FFA chapters. Turlock Christian School in California's Central Valley became the first private school in the state with an FFA program.

So, while the number of those in animal production declines due to economics or retirement, the number of young people getting an education in agriculture and its ties to biology, agronomy and plant science continue to grow. Not all FFA students have project animals, but they understand the value that animal agriculture brings to the community. FFA members take the skills learned to have careers in the horticulture industry, landscaping and industrial technology, ag sales positions, and many more not immediately thought to relate to agriculture.

Many FFA members would claim that FFA's greatest impact on them was the communication and leadership skills that the organization fostered. The opportunity to hold office, participate in speaking contests and tractor-driving agility tests, name just a few of the dozen of opportunities available at the state and national levels. There is probably a contest that matches well to the talents of every individual. The skill sets learned such as public speaking, sound decision-making and the ability to explain one's reasoning for a decision are lifelong skills that will serve them and their employers well in the future, whether they have an ag job or not.

So, while we might think the number of FFA members would be declining to the changing face of society, the opposite is actually true. More young people are taking advantage of the tremendous learning and leadership opportunities available to students through the FFA program.

Good luck to participants this week as you compete in contests, run for national office, sing in the national FFA band and chorus or serve your state as a delegate. And, to the tens of thousands who attend the convention to hear motivational speakers and interact with some of the most energetic young people around, have a great time.

This year the National FFA convention will be aired live on iHigh and RFD-TV. All general sessions will be broadcast live on RFD-TV. All general sessions as well as several CDE finals will be streamed live online on iHigh.

Our Facebook fan page has a collection of photos from this year's state winning dairy judging teams. If your team is competing at the national FFA Dairy Cattle Judging Contest, feel free to send us photos or post them on our Hoard's Dairyman Facebook page. We'd love to share them.