Despite the fact that, as of this year, I have been covering this aspect of the agriculture industry for a healthy two decades, the reality is that I came in as a raw city kid.
This truth comes home to roost at certain times, as it did last month. As I write this I am preparing to attend, for the first time, the National FFA Conference in Indianapolis.
As a kid I would get taken to the county fair by my parents to eat sketchy but delicious food and ride sketchy but fun rides. But I was virtually unconscious of the lives of the young men and women in blue jackets, tending to and tugging on farm animals and engaging in a lot of activities I could not begin to understand.
And in my professional life here, FFA has largely flown under my radar since we don’t have a big media presence in the row crop farm market. But I have always understood and respected its impact on agriculture. So many individuals among the leadership ranks in agriculture worked their way through the organization. And in interviews, they without fail point to their experiences in FFA as a guiding light in their careers.
And it has to be at least a little bit cool … John Mellencamp’s FFA Jacket can be found here in Cleveland at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Anyway, what’s drawing me to the convention this year is its focus on technology in the form of an interactive experience called “The Blue Room.” Eleven organizations, including top sponsors Microsoft and AgriNovus Indiana, along with Corteva, BASF, FMC, John Deere’s Blue River Technology, and others, have taken part in creating a 17,000-square-foot display “centered on evolving sustainability, innovative efficiency, and providing sustainable nutrition to a growing and changing global population,” according to advance press releases from FFA.
I had a chance to catch up with Todd Greenwood, Director, Strategic Partner Development and Industry Relations at the National FFA Foundation, about the initiative, and it looks like it’s going to be terrific.
My main motive in attending is to see what one of the groups I represent, the PrecisionAg Institute and its nine-member partner companies, might be able to contribute to FFA’s efforts to demonstrate the power of ag technology to high school students.
As any retailer who’s involved in precision services can attest, finding qualified help is a constant battle. And starting early with young people to help them visualize the possibilities of a career in ag tech increases the chance we can sustain that interest into college and career.
Greenwood admitted there are likely many things going on at the high school level with ag technology and precision that are not known to FFA, and he hopes this experiment at the convention unearths some of those.
I’d like to call on you, our readers: Let me know if there’s anything interesting going on in the schools in your area that you’re involved in, or aware of, that could be replicated in other places. We can share these ideas and perhaps help others to understand and adopt new programs around engagement with technology and our students.
Just email me, and let’s share some ideas. Thanks in advance, and I wish you a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday!