FFA regional membership booming over last decade

Associate Editor

(Oct. 20, 2015) Regional FFA membership has grown considerably over the last decade, data show, as the organization’s national office announced this year a record number of students joining nationwide.
FFA membership in Maryland clocked in at 2,391 students last school year, a 70-percent jump over the number of members a decade before.
In Delaware, the growth was even stronger.
There were 4,262 members tallied last year, a 107 percent increase over the 2,056 students the state’s FFA counted a decade earlier.
In New Jersey, 2,659 students were registered last year, a 52 percent increase over a decade before, but in Virginia, it’s a different story.
The state boasted 10,106 FFA members in 2004-05. By last year, that number dropped by nearly 13 percent to 8,806.
Total FFA membership across the country rests at 629,367 students in nearly 7,800 chapters, a record, according to a statement from the organization. What’s driving the regional growth?
In Maryland, more school systems are coming to the state department of education and requesting more agricultural education programming, said Terri Shank, executive secretary of the FFA’s Maryland chapter. It’s not a small amount of work to start a chapter at a school.
A growing interest in local food could be one of the big growth drivers, she said.
“I think with the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food movement, people want to know where your food’s coming from, how to produce your own food,” Shank said. “The students like to work with the animals, the animal science part. Those are all reasons or opportunities that I see growth. … People are concerned about their environment, how they are taking care of it, being good stewards.”
The FFA is proactive in reaching out to school administrators and guidance counselors to promote agricultural careers, she said.
The organization resurrected Southern High School’s program in Anne Arundel County recently, and three high schools in Prince George’s County also have new FFA chapters within the last three years.
The same goes for three Baltimore high schools, she said.
“The kids are seeing more of the science-based opportunities in careers,” Shank said.
The top five FFA membership states are Texas, California, Georgia, Oklahoma and Missouri. Interest in the organization and agricultural education continues to grow nationally as membership has increased more than 20 percent since 2009-10.