Supporters of the National FFA Organization gathered at the 90th National FFA Convention & Expo to learn about the future of agriculture at Breakfast 411 Thursday morning. The meal and forum featured several leaders representing the fields of agricultural technology and education.
The discussion was moderated by Mark Poeschl, CEO of the National FFA Organization and Foundation, who opened the event by recognizing the meal providers.
Before the forum was underway, two special guests spoke. The first was Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. He praised FFA and what it stands for, as he said FFA teaches its members “true grit.”
Next came Ray Starling, special assistant to the President of the United States for agriculture, trade and food assistance. As a former national officer, he said it was “great to be around family this morning.” He gave a message to FFA members and supporters: “Bring us your punch list of your needs. …We are ready to support you.”
Poeschl then asked questions to Melissa Harper, vice president of global talent and inclusion and diversity at Monsanto; Kimberlee Kidwell, dean of the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois; Curt Blades, senior vice president of ag services, AEM; and Mitch Frazier, CEO of Reynolds Farm Equipment.
Their discussion centered around the future of agriculture: exposing students to the breadth of the field, the value of manufacturing jobs, the switch to a more digital world and the demand for agriculture educators.
“I don’t know any other tech industry that has more impact on people than agriculture,” Frazier said.
Several current FFA members attended the breakfast, including McKenna Moore, state sentinel of New Jersey FFA.
“I was really inspired to see how many of our sponsors here really care about our well-being as FFA members and are here to see us succeed and want to provide us with as many opportunities as they possibly can,” Moore said. “It was great to hear that they want to infuse technology and innovative learning into their career paths.”
Taylor Enns, the state secretary of Washington FFA, said the forum helped her realize “how many more opportunities there are within agriculture because it is so diverse.”
An estimated 400 people attended Breakfast 411, an event that started at the National FFA Convention in 2009.
Dene Dryden is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying creative writing. An alumna of the Palco FFA Chapter in Kansas, she is serving as a reporter for the 90th National FFA Convention & Expo Newsroom Crew.