Nebraska FFA is symbol of hope among agricultural woes

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Farm Forum

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Although the agricultural economy is in dire straits, youthful optimism remains among Nebraska’s FFA organization.

The Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1SjkI5F ) reports that organizers of the annual FFA Convention predict a record-breaking attendance of 4,600 students, plus teachers and other guests for a total future farmers crop of more than 6,500 people. The state organization’s total membership has also reached an all-time high of more than 13,000 students.

“It’s no secret that agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Nebraska and that our economy is based on it,” said Matt Kreifels, the FFA’s state director of agricultural education. “People’s perceptions are catching up with reality in Nebraska about what agriculture does for the state.”

This includes the realization that the FFA isn’t just for students who want to farm, but also for young people interested in bio-energy, business management, engineering, science and other disciplines.

“There are more than 300 different career job titles involved in agriculture,” Kreifels said. “Farmer is just one of them. That means there are a lot of other opportunities in agriculture other than farming.”

Kreifels said that Nebraska schools began 13 agricultural education programs this year, bringing the statewide totally to 170. Another six are expected to start next year.

“FFA and agriculture education is a way to give students a passion, show them the way, get them interested in agriculture and connect them with the post-secondary education options and eventually the industry,” Kreifels said.

But not all FFA members plan to pursue agricultural-related careers. Mitchell Krenk, a senior from East Butler High School in Brainard, plans to study at Wayne State College to become a history teacher. Krenk said that if he did want to be a farmer, the tough economy wouldn’t stop him.

“If I wanted to do it, I would do it no matter what the market was or what the future looked like,” he said.