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FFA adds value through experiences

By Rob Cooper, executive director, FFA Foundation
November, 2016

For many years as a child, Jordan Hanson attended a Midwest horse sale in Waverly, Iowa, each spring and fall. One year, he was given the opportunity to lead a team of his father’s horses through the sale ring at the show and fell in love with the idea of raising and selling horses.

He bought his first pony for $600 and later sold it for $1,100.

He then created his own business – JH Horse Co. – and started trading, raising and selling horses.

Today, Hanson continues to grow his business. He attends several horse sales in various states and buys as many horses as his business can handle, then trains them to make them more valuable.

Hanson learned the vast majority of his agricultural sales and veterinary medicine skills in FFA.

Each of the more than 523,000 FFA members throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands must successfully complete a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) while in high school. An SAE is an integrated component of each FFA member’s overall agricultural education program, which also includes classroom instruction and real-life and leadership development training through FFA.

Students working to successfully complete their SAE learn by doing. With help from their agricultural teachers, students develop an SAE project based on one or more SAE categories.

There are four types of SAE experiences: entrepreneurship, during which students own and operate an agricultural-related business; placement, during which students obtain an industry-related job or internship; research and experimentation, involving students planning and conducting their own scientific experiments and recording and reporting results; and exploratory, with students exploring careers in agriculture by attending an agriculture career fair or creating a report or documentary on the work of a veterinarian.

FFA members can also pursue national awards in 47 areas through the National FFA Organization. These awards honor FFA members who, through their SAEs, have developed specialized skills that they can apply toward their future careers. FFA members can pursue proficiency awards, placement awards – given to FFA members whose SAEs are related to employment, apprenticeships, or internships at an agribusiness or agriculture-related organization – and entrepreneurship proficiency awards – given to FFA members whose SAEs are related to ownership of an agribusiness or agriculture-related organization.

In regard to veterinary science and sales, FFA members can serve an SAE that involves working with veterinarians in clinical practice, research facilities, colleges of veterinary medicine, animal health industry or any other environment in which they assist veterinarians in performing duties related to the health of people and the health and welfare of large and small animals. Based on their experiences and success, FFA members can compete in a national scholarship award involving veterinary medicine.

They can also participate in SAEs that encourage them to start and successfully own and operate their own business or work in sales for an existing agricultural-related business. Students who successfully complete their SAEs in this area may also compete for anational scholarship award through the National FFA Organization.

Past the FFA experience, the National FFA Organization encourages FFA members in veterinary science and sales to network and share their experiences via a new initiative. Connect! is an online portal designed to link past, present and future FFA members, supporters and contributors to share stories about their FFA experiences, what they’re doing now and how FFA impacted their lives. By connecting and sharing this campaign, participants earn the chance to win rewards.

The National FFA Foundation raises funds through corporate and individual contributions to fund programs and initiatives for the National FFA Organization’s membership. 

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