National FFA Vice President discovers Maine agriculture

February 22-26 was National FFA Week, which made for an impressive week for a national student leader visiting Maine. Formerly known as “Future Farmers of America,” FFA is the leadership training organization for secondary and middle school students enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources, as well as fostering the networking and community outreach efforts of post-secondary students in these areas.

During National FFA Week, National FFA Western Region Vice President Sarah Draper, one of six student national officers elected from among over 600,000 FFA members, traveled throughout Maine, conducting presentations to six schools’ FFA members as far south as Sanford Regional Technical Center and as far north as Ashland Community Middle/High School.  Draper also met with Bill Beardsley, Acting Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education, as well as with a number of agricultural sector representatives at four post-secondary institutions (Unity College, University of Maine-Orono, Kennebec Valley Community College, and University of Maine at Presque Isle) and in the agricultural industry.

Draper was accompanied in Maine by northeast National FFA specialist Karen Hutchison, National FFA Communications specialist Julie Woodard, Maine FFA State Advisor Doug Robertson of the Maine Department of Education and State FFA President Dayna McCrum.

Draper and the National FFA staff were impressed by the diversity of agriculture and natural resources education in Maine, as well as by the range of agricultural products.  They found Maine student members of FFA to be enrolled in a variety of agricultural education programs, from plant sciences and natural resources management to landscaping and forestry, reflecting the diversity of agriculture in the state.

Schools in Maine with classes related to agriculture and natural resources (ranging from technical school programs to science classes with agricultural connections) may be eligible for membership in FFA, with opportunities for students including leadership training, travel, and over $2 million in scholarships.

Those interested in information on starting a Maine FFA chapter should contact Maine FFA State Advisor Doug Robertson at doug.robertson@maine.gov or call 624-6744.