How to market your ag program to potential students

Yes, we know that agricultural education and FFA are fun and rewarding and create many friends for a lifetime. Together, they also provide FFA members with the skills needed to become successful leaders and productive citizens. Unfortunately, many students outside of FFA do not know what FFA is or its rewards. It is up to you and your chapter to get the word out. Here are some tips on how to market your ag program to potential students.

When it’s time to recruit, go beyond the people who are already familiar with ag and FFA. Those are the easy targets. Reach out to those students who’ve never heard of FFA or those who think you have to be involved in production agriculture. Go back to those you recruited last year but who opted not to join. Don’t overlook any group of students—all can benefit from agricultural education and FFA. Recruiting new FFA members does not “just happen.” You have to work hard at defining your student audience and developing messages that speak directly to them. To be successful in meeting your recruitment goals, you will need to identify a broader group of students than the actual goal you have set. Agricultural education and FFA have something for everyone.

Defining and understanding students is the first step in recruitment. Remember to consider groups that may not appear to be traditional FFA types. You have nothing to lose, only great new members to gain.

The students in your school become the universe of potential new agricultural education students and FFA members. When you look around your school, do you see students who would fit in well with your program? If your answer is yes, that’s great—but don’t stop there. Chances are you’re overlooking other students for consideration—students who may be shy, from a different cultural background or who seem busy with other activities. Don’t limit your opportunities for recruitment. Broaden your horizons and use your imagination.

Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Agriculture students but not FFA members.
  • Students taking an Introduction to agriculture class.
  • 4-H members.
  • Students working at an agriculture-related job in a non-agricultural business.
  • Math and science students.
  • Students who participate in non-agriculture related competitions at county and state fairs.
  • Outgoing, energetic students involved in other school organizations.
  • Students who are shy or not part of other school organizations.
  • Younger students looking to belong.

It’s never a bad idea to approach younger students who are interested in existing FFA programs like PALS and Feeding the World—Starting at Home. While they can’t officially join your FFA chapter right away, keeping in contact with this group will help your chapter continue a strong vibrant student base for the future.

Remember to showcase the diversity of your chapter. Make sure those you use to spread the message represent a good cross-section of the student body. Make sure to diversify those who promote FFA; this will help all students to identify with someone who is an FFA member. Make sure that all who come are made to feel welcome in your chapter.

Challenge FFA members to talk to their friends and others as a means to reach out to students why believe would enjoy and benefit from agricultural education and FFA. Plan activities and programs that offer variety to generate interest among a diverse group of people. Remember, it’s not about you; it is about serving the interests of others to generate new students for agricultural education and member for FFA.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Host unusual events to promote the career opportunities within agricultural education and the benefits of FFA.
  • Organize “social” events that appeal to different groups like roller skating, golfing, bowling or a baseball tournament.
  • Get the word out about the outside activities and travel opportunities in FFA.
  • Earn-while-you-learn opportunities through supervised agricultural experience.
  • Have a presence at school activities like career fairs and sporting events.
  • Communicate with parents.
  • Make sure your school’s guidance counselor has all the latest information on career opportunities through agricultural education and FFA.
  • Let the media know about your chapter’s achievements and successes.

Some students don’t make the connection between their high school years and a future career so you have to do it for them. Many students look at high school as a time to have fun—joining an organization is just another way of having fun and belonging. Messaging that works for students should include phrases like:

  • Agricultural education and FFA prepare you for more than 300 career opportunities in a spirited and upbeat environment that promises fun and excitement while you are learning.
  • Agricultural education and FFA can assist you in finding a career path that is well suited to your talents and interests.
  • With agricultural education and FFA, you will travel and experience learning in a whole new way.