The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and several other U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies had staff at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis last week to share agricultural information with 50,000 enthusiastic FFA members, aged 12-21, and their families.
The energy and excitement generated by members of the nation’s largest youth organization were especially palpable at the convention’s Agricultural Career Show, where FFA members were barraged with agriculturally themed games, information and giveaways from companies and government agencies alike. (“Alpaca nation” t-shirts and free Wisconsin cheese were among my personal favorites).
FFA members made time to stop by the USDA booths to learn about issues affecting their home states. Maryland FFA members asked about the brown marmorated stink bug, while Iowa members gathered information about USDA renewable energy initiatives. Information about invasive species went quickly and APHIS distributed more than 500 teacher information packets.
APHIS’ FFA participation helps us to reach key stakeholders and to inspire young people to careers in public service and agriculture. As a former FFA member and USDA intern, I can testify that the FFA instilled in me the intellectual curiosity, ambition and drive required for a successful career. One of my favorite conversations at the APHIS booth was with Katie Eldred, former FFA member and first-year FFA advisor:
“FFA membership exposed me to the people and organizations that affect the future of our nation’s food and agricultural resources,” Katie said, “including USDA. To me, the career show represents the future, both for my students and for agriculture.”