Future Farmers of America Plows Through Career and Leadership Development Competition

The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is an inter-curricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership. It helps students develop leadership skills and explore different agricultural fields. Students can participate in several different activities, the most popular of which is livestock rearing. Students also compete in an array of skills including Career Development Experience (CDE) and Leadership Development Experience (LDE).

There are a number of competitions held during the year in which members compete. In the fall, students compete in LDE’s. These competitions are intended to polish student’s public speaking skills as well as help develop students’ abilities to “think on their feet.” Some of the different LDE’s that students compete in are Agricultural Skill Demonstration, in which students have to present a skill in front of a panel of judges. Plano West FFA members have presented numerous skills such as the proper method for canine venipuncture, the puncture of a vein as part of a medical procedure and the ability to design a floral arrangement. Other LDE’s include Radio Broadcasting, Public Relations Forum, Presenting Current Agricultural Issues, Agriculture Advocacy and Job Interview. This past December, West FFA qualified for the State Competition in Agricultural Advocacy.

Some West FFA members also choose to compete in Livestock Shows. Competitors focus on exhibiting their projects during the winter months. Members from West have raised cattle, lambs, goats, swine and poultry.

“This year, West FFA members have accumulated over $17,000 worth of scholarships and awards from the major livestock shows in Texas,” FFA sponsor John Graf said. “Currently, and most recently, our FFA members are competing in CDE’s.”

These competitions are held each spring and allow students to apply agricultural skills that are taught in the classroom and lab setting in real life. Students have competed this year in Floriculture, Horse Evaluation, Dairy Cattle Evaluation, Entomology, Veterinary Science and Milk Product Quality. On April 7, West FFA qualified for the State Competition in Floriculture, Dairy Cattle Evaluation and Veterinary Science.

“Competing in FFA is a lot of fun,” junior Emily McMillen said. “The different competitions give us the opportunity to experience different agricultural careers.”

CDE competitions focus on career-related opportunities, where students compete in specialized areas of agriculture. They can compete in sectors such as Veterinary Science, Wildlife, Livestock, Agronomy and Entomology.

“We have to study different types of instruments and breeds before taking a written examination,” junior Erica Jensen said. “Everything is very broad; you may have to know about different parasites and organs or different fertilizers and economic strategies.”

Students are also expected to know different skills. For example, students competing in Veterinary Science need to know how to give injections and restrain animals whereas students competing in other areas may have to know how to measure milk quality.

“Area V (North Texas Schools) Competition is very difficult,” Graf said. “We are very pleased to have three teams to qualify for the State CDE competition.”

The State competition took place on the May 2.

“FFA prepares us to be leaders in college and in our jobs,” McMillen said. “It prepares us for different agricultural careers like farming, veterinary sciences, marketing and business and floristry.”

FFA also helps in aiding students to receive different awards and scholarships. FFA provides instruction that engages students in the globalization of agriculture as solutions for environmental demands, food safety, technology, natural resource protection and urbanization increase.

“I hope that all of our students graduate with a greater knowledge and appreciation for agriculture and achievements that they can reflect on later on in life,” Graf said. “ I also hope that we build character in all of our students and that they leave with skills that they can apply no matter what career path they choose to follow. Agriculture may not be what you think it is and is pertinent to us all, now more than ever.”