Wyoming students celebrate National FFA Week with service, leadership, learning
Wyoming FFA celebrated Feb. 17-24 as Wyoming FFA Week, and Gov. Matt Mead kicked off the event by signing a proclamation recognizing the importance of the youth leadership organization for the future of agriculture and its ability to develop students.
Mead was joined by Wyoming State FFA Officers and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow as he signed the proclamation.
“Ag has been, is and should always be a big part of Wyoming,” Mead said. “We don’t have to be in ag to have an appreciation for the industry.”
Further Mead noted there is no hierarchy of needs that doesn’t recognize the importance of food at the top of the pyramid.
“Ag provides food, shelter and more, and without these things, we don’t exist,” he said. “On top of that, we have to educate people about what ag means.”
Important life lessons can be learned from activities like feeding livestock and taking care of the land, all of which instill work ethic and more.
“We have to make sure people don’t take agriculture for granted,” he continued.
Mead explained he has had the privilege of visiting countries that aren’t as developed as the U.S where food is a big issue.
“When it comes to global policy, it is one thing for a country to not be able to fuel itself, but it’s a bigger deal for countries to not be able to feed themselves,” he said. “Ag isn’t the enemy.”
Organizations like FFA allow young people to understand where food comes from and help youth to learn to advocate for the industry that feeds and fuels the country.
“I thank all FFA members for promoting ag and for thinking about ag,” Mead said. “The way FFA members articulate the importance of ag is impactful for people who want to listen, and I thank you so much for your work.”
For the High Plains FFA Chapter at Cheyenne’s Central High School, National FFA Week is about coming together as a chapter and serving their community.
The chapter was started in 2004, and in its 14th year, Adviser Ty Berry says, “We’ve got a good program and really nice kids. They’ve been able to accomplish a lot.”
Chapter Reporter Taylor Cameron explains High Plains FFA set their schedule for the week with a number of community service projects.
“One of our main goals during National FFA Week is to give back to our community,” she explains. “We also do a bunch of recreation activities with our members.”
Activities like a tailgate party, movie night and basketball game allow members to get together and have fun.
“We do a ton of recreation, but community service is our first priority,” Cameron emphasizes.
This year, the chapter members collected teddy bears for the local police force.
“Our police officers give teddy bears to children who have lived through traumatic experiences,” she explains. “We’re also doing a canned food drive, and we go to Archer, our local fairgrounds, to help work on the grounds. We know future generations will be using the facility, so we want to make sure the grounds are kept up for producers and youth.”
The chapter also hosts a faculty breakfast for all staff members in the school.
“We serve biscuits and gravy and fresh fruit, along with other things, for all the staff members,” Cameron says. “This activity gives us the chance to show our appreciation for the teachers who support us, give us knowledge and prepare us for our future. They’re important, and we want to show them how grateful we are.”
Every year, National FFA Week also coincides with the Wyoming Legislature’s session, and High Plains FFA members took advantage of the opportunity to interface with state government.
“Going to the Legislature was a ton of fun,” Cameron says. “Our members received a ton of knowledge on how our government works and how we can help to influence decisions.”
Members sat in observation rooms in both the House and Senate chambers and listened in on discussions to learn how the process works.
“It was really cool to see behind the scenes,” she comments. “As upcoming producers, growers and leaders, we will have a voice in how our government runs, and it was important for us to observe and learn about that process.”
Berry says, “The students were surprised when both the House and Senate introduced them and then welcomed them with a standing ovation. House Committee Chairman Hans Hunt even brought the students down onto the floor and introduced them by name.”
Berry adds, “We also had the chance to sit down with Gov. Matt Mead, Treasurer Mark Gordon and Cheyenne’s Mayor Marian Orr.”
For Cameron, meeting Mead was life changing.
“We sat down with the Governor and learned about how he got into politics and his life in ag,” she explains. “He gave us an eye-opening experience and talked about taking life changes by the reins and not holding back.”
“As FFA members, we’re determined, but every once in a while, we get discouraged,” Cameron continues. “We live by the motto, ‘Fall down seven times but get back up eight.’ Gov. Matt Mead really encouraged us to follow that motto.”
Further, Berry says, “When we were in the Jonah Building, we ran into lots of great people. Part of what’s cool about Wyoming is people still have time for us and still have time to visit with the students, which was really impressive.”
“Our students got to see people like our Governor and State Treasurer make time to visit with them,” he says. “It was a really great opportunity.”
Importance of FFA week
“FFA week is really important for FFA members across the state,” Cameron says. “It’s a way we can get out and advocate for our industry.”
Cameron cites a statistic, noting only three percent of the population feeds the world, and as world populations grow, more food is going to be necessary.
“We need to advocate for our industry,” she says. “We also like to give back to our community, though.”
“In FFA chapters across the country, our communities have our back. They support us in everything we do, and it’s important to give back to them,” Cameron explains. “We’re so grateful for our communities and service projects allow us to give back.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.