By Troy Talford, Agriculture & Natural Resources Instructor and FFA Advisor, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac, Wis.
As agriculture instructors, we can find some relief knowing that the holidays are behind us and we have made it to the halfway point in our school year. Each year our state association holds a leadership conference focused around gearing up our FFA chapters for the second half of the school year. This conference is also a great opportunity for the FFA advisors to get together to share ideas in areas of their interest. At this year’s conference, the word advocacy was everywhere. When thinking about promoting FFA and agricultural education to the masses, remember that advocacy can sometimes be the best policy. Here are a few tools that I have found to be helpful:
- School Board Presentations: Take time out of your FFA schedule at least once a year to visit with your local school board to share what is happening with your agricultural education program. I have found it helpful to discuss agriculture facilities, courses offered, and summer contract activities. The FFA members focus their presentation of our activities as they fit into the National Chapter Program. We must always remember that not all school board members understand all components of agricultural education, so sharing the message is up to us.
- Legislative Advocacy: If you chapter participates in the National Chapter Program, send a copy of the photo pages from your application along with a descriptive letter about agricultural education and FFA to the legislators in your areas. This can help show our legislators how FFA members are making an impact in their communities on a daily basis.
- Advocacy Statements: Work with your FFA members in creating an advocacy document that can be sent out with any press release your chapter may send out. These documents can include the following information: background/history of your chapter, significant initiatives, courses offered, upcoming events, and contact information for further information.
- Alumni Connections: Surround yourself with advocates for agricultural education and FFA. If you do not currently have an FFA Alumni affiliate, you should contact the National FFA Alumni Association to help get one started. These individuals are your grassroots advocates for spreading your message throughout the community. These individuals can also help make community connections for you. You can also call on the former students of your program to ask them to share their stories as to how FFA has helped them get to where they are today. Use this information in your advocacy efforts.
Together, these tools can help us as agriculture educators build our advocacy toolbox. We must remember that even though we live in a world where agriculture and FFA are a part of our daily lives, not everyone in our community sees that connection. It is up to us to step up the efforts of spreading the story of agricultural education and FFA to ensure that future generations are providing leaders for our growing industry.