Montana FFA, which is a branch of the National FFA Organization, will be holding its 86th State Convention March 30-April 2 on MSU’s campus. FFA, which is most commonly known as Future Farmers of America, is a youth leadership organization based around agriculture. Members compete in 23 different career development events (CDEs) which range from livestock evaluation, to job interviews, to prepared public speaking, to ag mechanics and forestry. According to Jim Rose, Montana state FFA advisor, FFA members learn life skilsl and gain valuable leadership experience along the way. The organization is open to students from grades 7-12, and students can even continue their involvement in the organization by joining collegiate FFA. MSU has a collegiate FFA chapter and their Facebook page states: “ Collegiate FFA empowers values-driven pre-professionals to lead and serve in schools, businesses and communities.”
Members of Montana FFA can be recognized on campus by their unique organization uniform which consists of black pants or skirt, white shirt and a blue corduroy jacket. On the back of the jacket, Montana is embroidered at the top of the FFA emblem and at the bottom of the jacket the name of the chapter where the student is from is printed. The front of the jacket holds the name of the individual making each member easy to identify.
FFA members will be coming from all corners of the state to participate in this convention. Rose predicts there will be somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400 FFA members present for the event. That is not including the parents, alumni members and teachers that will also be attending. It is estimated that between 1,600 and 1,800 people will attend in total. Nearly all of Montana’s 90 chartered chapters will be represented at the event.
At the convention students will participate in a wide array of contests and leadership workshops. Each evening of the convention, a general session will be held where members will listen to motivational speeches, hear award winners from different contests and learn more about agriculture and the advances of the industry. During the day members will attend leadership workshops in addition to competing in contests. Of the 23 CDEs FFA offers, 11 of them will be held at the actual convention. The other state contests will be held at different FFA events outside of the convention. In order to compete in an event at the state level, members must first qualify at the district level. Montana currently has eight FFA districts.
Hosting this event at MSU has been a long standing tradition. In fact, for several years after FFA was established in Montana in 1928, the convention was held annually at MSU. Now however, the convention rotates between Billings, Great Falls and Bozeman to be closer for different chapters around the state. “Having the convention on the campus of MSU is great because this is a land grant university founded on agriculture,” Rose stated.
Having the convention at MSU also serves as an opportunity for potential students to come and see all that MSU has to offer. “FFA is really the whole reason I came to MSU,” State President Lauren Melhoff said. “I was going to go to Powell [Northwest College in Powell, WY] until I came to my first FFA convention here at MSU. I fell in love with the campus and decided this was where I was going to go to school.”
At the conclusion of the convention the membership will elect eight members who are currently seniors in high school to become the state officers for the organization. These officers will spend their year traveling around the state, interacting with members and promoting agriculture all the while wearing a jacket that sports colors dear to MSU’s heart: blue and gold.