FFA Chapters around the country are celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the National FFA Organization during FFA week Feb. 17-24. The Ellsworth FFA is not only celebrating the national organization's historic anniversary, but also its own special anniversary.
Ellsworth Community School District agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor Katie Christenson said the Ellsworth FFA chapter was chartered on March 29, 1938. During its 80 years of existence, the Ellsworth chapter has had members participate in many events, conferences and contests.
Highlights of the Ellsworth FFA include being home to State FFA Officer Bruce Bang in 1968-69, its parliamentary procedure team taking fourth place at state in 2016, Hannah Nelson winning the state dairy cattle evaluation in 2016 and Alex Brand winning the state extemporaneous speaking contest and placing in the top 16 at nationals in 2015.
Christenson said students have also won a combined total of more than $16,000 in supervised agricultural experience (SAE) grants from local alumni, the Wisconsin FFA and the National FFA in the last five years to improve or grow their SAE programs.
Whether students plan to pursue a future in agriculture or a different field, Christenson said FFA can help all students.
"Members are growing public speaking skills and self-esteem by learning within and outside the agricultural classroom," Christenson said. "FFA members are preparing for careers, whether they enter a career directly related to agriculture or not, with hands-on learning experiences and real-life situations."
As an FFA member, Christenson said there are many events at the local, state and national level in which students can participate. Events range from State FFA band and choir, to various conferences throughout the state and national level, to local events like the Corn Drive and Ag Day Cookout. Christenson said all these events provide fun times for students to gain valuable skills for their future.
The Ellsworth FFA Chapter has 52 members this year, which is about average for the last five years. Nationally, per the National FFA Organization website, the National FFA Organization has more than 653,000 members from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Ellsworth members serve the community in various ways. For the past three years, members have been partners with the Ellsworth Funsters to hold lunch with Santa for the community.
"FFA is a very positive thing for many students," Christenson said. "Students learn real hands-on life experience, serve their communities and grow into outstanding young people. We are a positive group in the community and are always willing to help out in any way that we can."
Christenson said since the National FFA Organization started in 1928, it has seen some changes. In 1965, The New Farmers of America (an African American organization in the South similar to FFA) joined the FFA, which ended segregation between the two groups.
Another change came in 1969 when women were allowed to join FFA. In 1988 the organization's name changed from Future Farmers of America to the National FFA Organization.
"The name of how we refer to FFA was changed to the National FFA Organization," Christenson said. "The letters FFA still stand for Future Farmers of America because we still need that base of farmers and ranchers producing the raw product of our land to be able to have all of the other careers, products and much more that comes from agriculture."
To celebrate their anniversary, Christenson said the Ellsworth FFA is planning to showcase their chapter.
"For our 80th anniversary we are working on highlighting that during FFA week in February, our Ag Day Cookout in March and at our FFA banquet in May," Christenson said.
Christenson said she personally has benefited from FFA as she was a member of her local FFA chapter.
"My two older sisters and I were all involved in FFA and members of the Black Hawk FFA Chapter," Christenson said. "I took every opportunity I could there from speaking contest, leadership workshops, traveling and then serving as a state FFA officer in 2005-2006."
These opportunities are ones Christenson hopes her students will benefit from as well.
"Premier leadership. Personal growth. Career success," Christenson said. "These are not only crucial components to the National FFA Organization's mission statement, they are what over half a million students across the country are working towards as an FFA member. FFA members have the opportunity to develop leadership skills through officer positions, competitions, and conferences."