By John Walker and Warren Krone for the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Foundation
This year alone, a particular group of about 2,800 people added 3.5 million dollars to Montana’s economy alone. This group, ranging from ages 14 to 19 is known as the Montana FFA. If you don’t know FFA is a national organization with an emphasis on leadership with an agricultural background. FFA’s mission statement is “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.”
FFA creates the opportunities for individuals to create premier leadership through its focus on communication, interaction skills, and hands on leadership roles. With FFA, students have the ability to learn what it is to be a leader by serving as chapter officers, liaisons in their schools and also State Officers. But it doesn’t stop at the title, Montana FFA offers conferences and workshops for students to add more skills to their arsenal such as the newly installed G.O.L.D. Conference also known as Growing our Leaders and Development conference where students learn alongside their peers the values of individuality, the value of a team and the importance of professionalism.
Along with leadership, the organization is monumental in developing the social skills of students. In FFA it is a common courtesy to introduce yourself to as many individuals as you can. The social barriers that cage students in high school are broken once you step into an FFA event. The sense of community and unity gives students the ability to step out of their comfort zone. Some competitions promote active listening and interpersonal skills that one needs anywhere in their lives. For example, the Agricultural Sales Career Development Event makes students interact with individuals in a cold call situation. They are thrown into a scenario and have to sell a product using the knowledge gained from hours of studying, not only their own product, but competitor products as well in an attempt to make sales. These skills learned are applicable in both direct and indirect conducts; of course the ability to hold well-informed knowledge over products teamed with the ability to make a sale will give anyone a serious heads up in the marketing world, but it also gives today’s youth interpersonal communication and compatibility skills second to none.
Each year Montana FFA holds an annual state convention, this years’ being March 26-29 in Great Falls, with well over a thousand members in attendance giving boost to the local economy as hotels become sold out and restaurants overflow. Businesses from across the state flock to get the chance to enter a booth into the trade show where hundreds of FFA members, and potential future employees, make their way through. All while Montana’s youth from every corner of the state compete in Career Development Events, showcase their Supervised Agricultural Experiences, and listen to the inspiring words of today’s industry front-runners and tomorrow’s leaders as they share their own triumph stories and success plans.
All in all FFA is a great way to not only learn direct ag industry skills, but to develop their potential as a leader and show the true meaning of having career success as they move into today’s work force.