The 92nd National FFA Convention & Expo marks 50 years since convention delegates voted to strike the word “male” from the National FFA Constitution. Today, female members play a significant role in the organization’s success.
“It’s such an incredible thing to be a part of. It’s an amazing thing to see all of the incredible woman who have been a part of this organization come back and see all of their contributions,” says former Florida FFA State President Artha Jonassaint. “It’s a reminder of why this organization is the biggest and the best student-led organization in the world.”
Jonassaint currently studies government and educational studies at Harvard University. She was one of four panelists invited to the convention to discuss women’s involvement in FFA. Other panelists included Sabrina Davis, Georgia agriscience teacher and FFA advisor; Ruth Kimmelshue, senior vice president of business operations and supply chain, and chief sustainability officer for Cargill; and Michele Payn, author and certified speaking professional for Cause Matters Corp. The forum was moderated by Krysta Harden, executive vice president of global environmental strategy of Dairy Management Inc.
“I’m glad I don’t remember when there were not girls in FFA,” Harden says. “The girls have really broadened and enriched the program, and that’s why it lasts. Because it is diverse and it has diverse voices, and it’s a place for everyone — for every young person who wants to learn about where the food comes from, or agriculture, or just wants to be involved in a leadership program. There’s a place for you. I think that’s what makes it great, and I just can’t imagine it without young women.”
Successful industry professionals across the nation want to help build these young women and be sources of empowerment for their personal growth and career success, Harden adds. Jonassaint attributes her success to surrounding herself with these types of people.
Each panelist also encouraged men to embrace gender diversity and empower women to reach for success.
“I think the sky’s the limit and women should just believe in themselves,” Kimmelshue says. “Work hard to build skills and capabilities and experiences, have great self-awareness and don’t hold yourselves back.”
Would you like to help support women in FFA? Text “FFA” to 20222 to make a $50 donation.