Blue Jacket Pride

February 19, 2010

Monsanto Senior Scientist Dannette Ward with members of the Clyde C. Miller Academy FFA Chapter.

Who knew the FFA was so cool? I certainly didn’t, growing up in suburban St. Louis where my high school had 1,500 kids but no FFA chapter (or any agricultural education, for that matter). I didn’t even know that farming—or agriculture—was a career option.

But now, agriculture is hot because of a renewed interest in where, how, and by whom food is produced. This week’s USA Today reports on urban FFA chapters. According to the National FFA Organization, 34% of their members live in urban or suburban areas.  The story profiles an urban St. Louis FFA chapter at the Clyde C. Miller Career Academy (CCMA). Monsanto’s own Dannette Ward works with the chapter.

The blue jackets worn by FFA students are familiar at Monsanto since a number of our employees are former FFA members, as well as several members of our leadership teams. But me? Well, I never had a blue jacket, and darn it, I’m a bit jealous.

To learn more about what I missed out on in my own high school experience, I called up Andre Hall, treasurer of the FFA chapter featured in USA Today, as well as the chapter advisor, Stephanie Mohr.

“You look at the name [FFA], and you think ‘oh, they’re going to become farmers,’” says Andre. “But it’s much more than farming. They teach you the skills you need to become successful.”

Andre is enrolled in the agricultural biotechnology “pathway” at his school (every student has a major in one of 12 pathways). He plans on becoming a plant biologist one day. As part of his curriculum, he interns two days a week at Monsanto in our genetic purity lab. The lab tests commercial seed to ensure quality as well as make sure that the right seed and traits are in the right bag.

Stephanie Mohr leads the agricultural biotechnology pathway at CCMA and introduced Andre to FFA. To join FFA you must be enrolled in an agricultural education class. FFA is an intra-curricular program, says Stephanie, meaning there are components of the program conducted in-class.

Stephanie herself is a fourth generation FFA member. “I came from a farming family,” she says. “I joined FFA because it was something I wanted to be a part of. The FFA students were well-respected kids in school. They had great leadership and public speaking skills.”

Chapter Advisor Stephanie Mohr checks in on plants in the school’s greenhouse. The students grow plants for sale in chapter fundraisers.

Joining FFA means you will attend regular meetings—Andre’s chapter meets once a month—attend leadership and career-development events, perform community service,  fund raise, attend state-level and national-level FFA meetings and participate in competitions.

What kind of competitions? There are a variety, according to Stephanie. Some are strictly ag-based, for example, agronomy (seed and plant identification) and poultry (evaluate and handling unhatched eggs, identifying different breeds of chicken) contests. But others involve rituals (parliamentary procedures) or career skills (participating in mock job interviews).

It’s obvious that Andre takes a lot of pride being an FFA representative. He’s even taken the role of chapter treasurer.  An officer role earns you the famous FFA blue jacket. Andre’s chapter is fund-raising so the entire chapter can purchase the jackets and wear them to competitions and state and national meetings.

“Once you see all the jackets together, it really shows what it [FFA] is and why you wear them out,” says Andre. “I love the FFA,” says Andre. “We’ve become like a family. FFA teaches you to take pride in what you do, and that’s important to me.”

Listening to Andre and Stephanie does nothing to assuage my blue jacket envy. I still want one, darn it.

Check out www.monsanto.com next week for more information on FFA as we celebrate National FFA Week.

For more information on Monsanto and our support of agricultural youth initiatives and education, please see http://www.monsanto.com/responsibility/youth_education.asp.

Who knew the FFA was so cool? I certainly didn’t, growing up in suburban St. Louis where my high school had 1,500 kids but no FFA chapter (or any agricultural education, for that matter). I didn’t even know that farming—or agriculture—was a career option.

But now, agriculture is hot because of a renewed interest in where, how, and by whom food is produced. Today’s USA Today reports on urban FFA chapters. According to the National FFA Organization, 34% of their members live in urban or suburban areas.  The story profiles an urban St. Louis FFA chapter at the Clyde C. Miller Career Academy (CCMA). Monsanto’s own Dannette Ward works with the chapter.

The blue jackets worn by FFA students are familiar at Monsanto since a number of our employees are former FFA members, as well as several members of our leadership teams. But me? Well, I never had a blue jacket, and darn it, I’m a bit jealous.

To learn more about what I missed out on in my own high school experience, I called up Andre Hall, treasurer of the FFA chapter featured in USA Today, as well as the chapter advisor, Stephanie Mohr.

“You look at the name [FFA], and you think ‘oh, they’re going to become farmers,’” says Andre. “But it’s much more than farming. They teach you the skills you need to become successful.”

Andre is enrolled in the agricultural biotechnology “pathway” at his school (every student has a major in one of 12 pathways). He plans on becoming a plant biologist one day. As part of his curriculum, he interns two days a week at Monsanto in our genetic purity lab. The lab tests commercial seed to ensure quality as well as make sure that the right seed and traits are in the right bag.

Stephanie Mohr leads the agricultural biotechnology pathway at CCMA and introduced Andre to FFA. To join FFA you must be enrolled in an agricultural education class. FFA is an intra-curricular program, says Stephanie, meaning there are components of the program conducted in-class.

Stephanie herself is a fourth generation FFA member. “I came from a farming family,” she says. “I joined FFA because it was something I wanted to be a part of. The FFA students were well-respected kids in school. They had great leadership and public speaking skills.”

Joining FFA means you will attend regular meetings—Andre’s chapter meets once a month—attend leadership and career-development events, perform community service,  fund raise, attend state-level and national-level FFA meetings and participate in competitions.

What kind of competitions? There are a variety, according to Stephanie. Some are strictly ag-based, for example, agronomy (seed and plant identification) and poultry (evaluate and handling unhatched eggs, identifying different breeds of chicken) contests. But others involve rituals (parliamentary procedures) or career skills (participating in mock job interviews).

It’s obvious that Andre takes a lot of pride being an FFA representative. He’s even taken the role of chapter treasurer.  An officer role earns you the famous FFA blue jacket. Andre’s chapter is fund-raising so the entire chapter can purchase the jackets and wear them to competitions and state and national meetings.

“Once you see all the jackets together, it really shows what it [FFA] is and why you wear them out,” says Andre. “I love the FFA,” says Andre. “We’ve become like a family. FFA teaches you to take pride in what you do, and that’s important to me.”

Listening to Andre and Stephanie does nothing to assuage my blue jacket envy. I still want one, darn it.

Check out www.monsanto.com next week for more information on FFA as we celebrate National FFA Week.

For more information on Monsanto and our support of agricultural youth initiatives and education, please see http://www.monsanto.com/responsibility/youth_education.asp.

One Response to “Blue Jacket Pride”

  1. Bill. Says:

    I am proud to say that I was a four year member of FFA. I still have the blue jacket and all of the awards, etc.

    It was a great leadership building experience. I was an officer not only at the local chapter level, but also was an Area officer. Additionally I competed at the state level on various teams dealing with poultry and seeds.

    I also participated at the national level with various leadership activities and even spent a week in DC at the national FFA center.

    I wouldn’t exchange that experience for anything.

    Bill.
    Salem MO FFA Chapter


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