By the 1950s, the Future farmer of America had expanded beyond its origins in Virginia. Here, the Future farmer of Buffalo valley High college in West Virginia take component in a demonstration. (Image by David Cornwell, flickr)

We recognize the FFA Creed, we identify the blue corduroy, and also we evaluate the fond memory — but do we recognize FFA’s deep all-American roots? The program has become a hallmark of farming ingenuity and leadership, well-known by the agriculture and urban civilizations alike. Just like any cultural mainstay, it’s easy to forget there’s a actual story behind the scenes with flesh and also blood people.

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Born and also nurtured in the heart of Virginia, what started as a basic program for farm boys would end up being a national symbol thanks to 4 men through a fervor for agriculture and education.

Founding fathers

The story starts with a male named Henry Groseclose, a teacher indigenous Buckingham County, Virginia. He is often considered the organizer that the program, says John Hillison, a retired farming education professor in ~ Virginia Tech and also a fount the FFA history.

Together v Edmund Magill, an itinerant teacher trainer who functioned with agricultural education teachers throughout Virginia; harry Sanders, one ag teacher native Manassas High School; and also Walter Newman, who would be named as the head state at sight of farming education for the Virginia department of Education; Groseclose arranged the Future farmers of Virginia (FFV), which would oneday come to be the national FFA Organization.

“Groseclose did numerous important points for the FFV,” Hillison said. “He wrote the FFV Constitution, produced progressive levels of membership, developed opening ceremonies, and also designed that emblem.”

Emblems concerned the background of the national FFA Organization, consisting of the Danish emblem that inspired the early on FFA designs. (Image courtesy of john Hillison)

Groseclose likewise named the organization, which is partly based upon the original meaning of an initial Families that Virginia. These piece would at some point be models because that the nationwide FFA, wherein he likewise served together the very first secretary-treasurer.

In September 1925, the four men gathered in ~ the Virginia Tech agricultural Education department to visit with faculty. In ~ a solid oak table, they disputed their vision of the framework for the FFV. Now that table bears a plaque v their names in commemoration the the event.

Here’s a little-known fun truth — this historic meeting was observed by a young ag teacher native Rural Retreat High School named Jim Hoge.

“During the meeting, Hoge had the ability to witness a monumental event. The heard Walter Newman re-publishing something he had learned while in the Virginia department of Education,” Hillison explained. “Newman had involved realize the farm boys walk not have actually as much confidence in themselves as their city cousins.”

The systems he offered to assist give the farm boys more confidence to be a officially organization. One the he hoped would administer experiences and also leadership opportunities.

A couple of years later on that vision make it come the national level.

In 1928, 33 ag students indigenous 18 states, plenty of of which were members the the newly produced “Future Farmer” groups, gathered in ~ a meeting throughout the American royal Livestock show in Kansas City. At the Baltimore Hotel they formed National FFA — simply one year later at the same location the first national convention to be held.

Rooted in agriculture

The agricultural backgrounds of the founders ranged all over from horticulture to pet science; possibly the typical denominator was their passion for teaching youth. Every one of the FFV founders had actually a enthusiasm to assist youth by coming to be teachers.

Hillison had the privilege of gift a an individual acquaintance of take care of Sanders. That recalls many of the lesser-known ways in i m sorry Sanders continually gave to Virginia technology students and the FFV/FFA programs.

“The school’s room of education’s very first scholarship was named after him. Both Sanders and also his wife helped present the scholarship come recipients at the program’s spring banquets,” that recalled. “Sanders had a basement apartment where students majoring in farming education might live for low rent and wise counsel. He also played a key role in beginning a student loan regime for majors who had actually an emergency need for money.”

FFA today

The idea for FFV and also eventually the nationwide FFA company were definitely unique ones in ~ the time. While there was wealth of “commodity clubs” transparent Virginia that narrowed in on specific ag-related disciplines, the founders took a distinctive risk in producing a more general organization.

“If certain commodity clubs had been retained, it is skeptical that anyone would have come to be national and had the impact or affect that the FFA has had,” Hillison said. “Fortunately, the decision was made at the ideal time as soon as the FFV founders and others were prepared to do a change by taking a risk.”

John Hillison was instrumental in getting a historic marker set up in respect of the Future farmer of Virginia’s founding fathers. (Image courtesy of john Hillison)

Undoubtedly the FFA, together it is today, surpasses what the initial founders might have imagined — we’re talking a national membership of over 760,000 and 65,000 convention attendees. The breath of its background is long, but there are key highlights through those first few decades.

The desegregation of institutions that enabled for the African-American-centric new Farmers the America (NFA) come merge with the national FFA company in 1965, Hillison said, to be a remarkable milestone follow me the trip to a stronger organization.

Just a couple of years later, in 1969, girl were additionally admitted into the program, i beg your pardon further intensified leadership, consisting of officer teams in addition to both career and leadership breakthrough events.

The 1917 Smith-Hughes plot — which considerably influenced the roots of FFV — gave a narrow definition to farming exclusively meaning farming.

“When the term farming was an ext broadly identified by federal regulation in the 1960s,” Hillison said, “the FFA quickly changed with it.”

That’s shown through immensely as the company now incorporates agribusiness business, farming, and the plenty of other allied sectors of which FFA has created leaders for.

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“The original purpose of the FFV was to give its members who were farm children more confidence in themselves,” Hillison reflected. “Today success deserve to be measure up by observing the tasks conducted by individual members, chapter, state and national FFA events. Few of the many impressive meetings ever held have developed at FFA events run by adolescent members with good confidence.”

Jaclyn Krymowski is a graduate that The Ohio State University with a major in pet industries and minor in farming communications. She is an enthusiastic “agvocate,” experienced freelance writer, and blogs at