The roots of FFA originate from a time when boys were losing interest and leaving the farm. Walter S. Newman, who in September 1925 became the Virginia State Supervisor of Agricultural Education, sought a solution to the problem with Edmund C. Magill, Harry W. Sanders and Henry C. Groseclose, staff members of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Agricultural Education Department.
Newman proposed forming an organization that offered farm boys "a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way they will develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys."
The idea was presented during an annual vocational rally in the state in April 1926, where it was met positively. The Future Farmers of Virginia was born.
Two years later, the idea reached the national stage during the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City, Mo. That's when 33 young students from 18 states gathered at the Hotel Baltimore to establish the Future Farmers of America. The group elected Leslie Applegate of Freehold, N.J., as its first president and adopted the national emblem – a mark similar to that of the original Virginia emblem – during the new organization's first convention.
In 1929, national blue and corn gold became the official colors of FFA. A year later, delegates adopted the official FFA Creed and by 1933 the familiar Official Dress of blue corduroy jackets was adopted after convention delegates were enthralled by the jackets worn to Kansas City by members of the Fredericktown, Ohio, FFA chapter.
Less than a decade after the formation of the Future Farmers of America in 1928, a national organization for African-American boys interested in agriculture formed in Tuskegee, Ala. The New Farmers of America was modeled after another Virginia organization – the New Farmers of Virginia – and began in 1935. The New Farmers of Virginia was instrumentally started by G.W. Owens and J.R. Thomas, teacher-educators in agricultural education at Virginia State College, and Dr. H.O. Sargent, a federal agricultural education official who later proposed NFA.
In 1973, Texas' Fred McClure became the first African-American national FFA officer, and in 1994 Chicago's Corey Flournoy became the first African-American national FFA president.
It wasn't until 1969 that females gained full FFA membership privileges by vote of the national convention delegates, despite many state associations permitting female members long before. New York's Anita Decker and New Jersey's Patricia Krowicki became the first two female delegates to the national convention in 1970.
Today, females represent more than 45 percent of FFA members and roughly half of all state leadership positions. In 1976, Washington's Julie Smiley became the first female national FFA officer. California's Jan Eberly became the first female National FFA President in 1982. In 2002, Wisconsin's Karlene Lindow became the first female FFA member to earn the prestigious American Star Farmer Award.
Since 1928, millions of agriculture students have donned the official FFA jacket and championed the FFA Creed. All 50 states and two U.S. territories are currently chartered members of the national organization, representing 653,359 student members who belong to one of 8,568 local FFA chapters. It's a testament to the power of common goals and the strong ideals of the FFA founders.
Their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They taught us that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it's a science, it's a business and it's an art.
Today, the National FFA Organization remains committed to the individual student, providing a path to achievement in premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
FFA continues to help the next generation rise up to meet those challenges by helping its members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways. So today, we are still the Future Farmers of America. But, we are the Future Biologists, Future Chemists, Future Veterinarians, Future Engineers and Future Entrepreneurs of America, too.
Want to find more about the history of FFA? The National FFA Organization's historical records are housed in the Philanthropy Archives of the Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) library.
The Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act (both Smith and Hughes were Georgia Congressmen) established vocational agriculture courses.
Virginia Tech agricultural education teacher educators Henry Groseclose, Harry Sanders, Walter S. Newman and Edmund C. Magill organized the Future Farmers of Virginia for boys in agriculture classes. The FFV served as the model for the Future Farmers of America.
The American Royal Livestock Show invited vocational agriculture students to participate in national livestock judging contests in Kansas City, Mo.
G.W. Owens, teacher-trainer at Virginia State College, and Dr. H.O. Sargent, federal agent for agricultural education for African-Americans, U.S. Office of Education, wrote the first constitution and bylaws of the New Farmers of Virginia, an organization for African-American agriculture students.
Future Farmers of America established in Kansas City, Mo.
First National FFA Convention held in Kansas City: 33 delegates from 18 states in attendance.
Leslie Applegate of New Jersey selected as the first national FFA president.
First sectional gathering of New Farmers of America members held.
National blue and corn gold adopted as official colors.
Carlton Patton of Arkansas named first Star Farmer of America, one of the first awards created by FFA.
At the Second National FFA Convention in November 1929, 33 states represented by 64 delegates.
Thirty-five state associations with approximately 1,500 chapters and 30,000 members affiliated with the national organization.
Official FFA Creed, written by E.M. Tiffany, adopted.
First National Public Speaking event held. Winner: Edward Drace, Missouri.
First Official Dress uniform adopted: dark blue shirt, blue or white pants, blue cap and yellow tie.
Delegates restricted membership to boys only.
First Official FFA Manual printed.
Blue corduroy jacket adopted as Official Dress.
A group of FFA officers and members made a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., where they were greeted on the White House lawn by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
New Farmers of America founded in Tuskegee, Ala.
Active FFA membership exceeded 100,000 members.
During national convention, action taken to establish a national FFA camp and leadership training school in Washington, D.C.
28.5 acres of land purchased near Alexandria, Va., for the first FFA-owned national headquarters; the land was part of George Washington’s estate.
Identical twins Albert and Arthur Lacy of Hondo, Texas, become the only members ever to share the title of Star Farmer of America.
The “H.O. Sargent Trophy Award” was created to honor H.O. Sargent’s commitment to helping NFA members achieve success and leadership in agriculture.
During World War II, when tens of thousands of FFA members served in the armed services, national FFA conventions were streamlined events where only delegates and award winners attend. In 1942, just 217 people attended the convention.
Future Farmers of America Foundation formed to raise money from business, industry, government, individuals and sponsors for FFA programs and activities.
138,548 FFA members were serving in the Armed Services in World War II.
First National FFA Agriculture Proficiency Award presented for Agricultural Mechanics.
First National FFA Band performed at national FFA convention.
First FFA Chorus and National FFA Talent program held at national FFA convention.
National FFA Supply Service began operation.
Record jump in membership from 238,269 in 1947 to 260,300 in 1948; so many members attended the 20th National FFA Convention that a folding-cot hotel was set up in the basement of the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
First FFA Week celebrated during the week of George Washington’s birthday.
First International Exchange Program for FFA members began with Young Farmers Club of Great Britain.
A bill was passed by the 81st Congress of the United States that granted FFA a federal charter and specified that a U.S. Department of Education staff member be the national FFA advisor. On Aug. 30, President Harry S. Truman signed the bill, and it became Public Law 81-740.
First issue of The National Future Farmer magazine published.
The U.S. Post Office Department issued a special stamp to celebrate the 25th anniversary of FFA.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to speak at a national FFA convention.
Former President Harry S. Truman spoke during the national convention.
The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis presented NFA with a Certificate of Appreciation.
First National FFA Center dedicated in Alexandria, Va., on land that had originally been used as the national FFA camp.
New Farmers of America merged with the Future Farmers of America.
First FFA National Agricultural Career Show held at national FFA convention to highlight educational and career opportunities in agriculture.
President Richard Nixon attended national FFA convention in Kansas City.
FFA opened membership to girls, making it possible for them to hold office and participate in competitive events at regional and national levels.
First National Star in Agribusiness, Ken Dunagan from Arizona, named.
Washington Conference (now called the Washington Leadership Conference) began.
Delegate body of the national FFA convention established alumni class of membership as part of the constitution.
The National FFA Alumni Association chartered as an affiliate of the National FFA Organization.
FFA Official Dress standards created.
Fred McClure from Texas was the first African-American elected to a national FFA office.
President Gerald Ford was the guest speaker at national FFA convention; the speech was carried live on network television.
Food For America program launched.
Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter – a former FFA member – spoke at the national FFA convention.
Julie Smiley of Washington was the first female elected to a national office.
Alaska became the last of the 50 states to obtain a national charter.
President Jimmy Carter addressed the 51st National FFA Convention.
First Extemporaneous Public Speaking Event held and won by Christe Peterson of Wisconsin.
The National FFA Foundation raised $1 million in one year for the first time.
Jan Eberly, from California, became the first female national FFA president.
Vice President George H. W. Bush spoke at national convention; Bush was elected president in 1988.
Future Farmers of America changed its name to the National FFA Organization to reflect the growing diversity in the industry of agriculture.
Seventh and eighth grade students permitted to become FFA members.
Agriscience Student Recognition Program introduced.
The National Future Farmer magazine changed its name to FFA New Horizons.
Partners in Active Learning Support program launched.
Chapters in the Virgin Islands and Guam, along with five chapters in Micronesia, chartered.
Corey Flournoy, from Illinois, was the first African-American to be elected national FFA president; he was also the first urban student leader.
H.O. Sargent Award reinstated, promoting diversity among chapters.
FFA announced its decision to move the National FFA Center from Alexandria, Va., to Indianapolis, Ind.
FFA announced its decision to move the national FFA convention from Kansas City, Mo., to Louisville, Ky.
The official website for FFA, www.FFA.org, debuted.
First Agri-Entrepreneurship Awards presented.
National FFA Center in Indianapolis, Ind., dedicated July 20.
Agricultural Education National Headquarters dedicated in Alexandria, Va.
National convention held in Kansas City, Mo., for the last time.
Jose Santiago elected to national office; he was the first member from Puerto Rico to serve as a national officer.
The 105th Congress of the United States reviewed and passed technical amendments to Public Law 81-740 (Aug. 30, 1950). Public Law 105-225 passed on Aug. 12.
72nd National FFA Convention held in Louisville, Ky., for the first time.
First National Creed Speaking event held. Winner: Michael Van Winkle, Arkansas.
Delegates at the national FFA convention approved the Discovery FFA Degree for middle school students.
The National FFA Archives at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis opened.
First National Star in Agriscience named: Steven Offer, Wisconsin.
First National Star in Agricultural Placement named: Nicholas Streff, South Dakota.
First female Star Farmer named: Karlene Lindow, Wisconsin.
Official Dress standards revised.
Javier Moreno, Puerto Rico, elected national president; he became the first person with a native language other than English and the first Puerto Rican elected as national FFA president.
First live webcast of national FFA convention premiered on www.FFA.org.
National FFA launched Seeds of Hope, a fundraising campaign to rebuild Gulf Coast states’ agricultural education and FFA programs following Hurricane Katrina; $835,699 in donations distributed to affected programs.
The National FFA Foundation broke the $10 million mark in raising money for FFA programs and services.
National FFA Foundation receives first $1 million contribution from the Ford Motor Company.
79th National FFA Convention held in Indianapolis, Ind., for the first time, with 54,489 in attendance.
Endorsement of agricultural education’s long-range goal of 10,000 quality agricultural education programs by 2015, where every student is a member of FFA and has a relevant SAE.
The National FFA Merchandise Center opened its doors in Indianapolis, Ind.
Membership broke the half-million mark with 500,823 members in 7,358 chapters.
FFA New Horizons added online feature, www.FFAnewhorizons.org.
FFA member networking site FFA Nation launched.
Board made the decision to rotate the national convention between Louisville and Indianapolis, beginning with Louisville in 2013.
FFA celebrated 40 years of women in the organization.
Dr. Larry Case retired after 26 years as national FFA advisor.
FFA celebrated the 75th anniversary of the founding of New Farmers of America during the 83rd National FFA Convention.
Six college-age FFA members traveled to Zambia for the FFA Global Outreach: Africa program.
FFA members earned a record 3,449 American FFA Degrees.
The National FFA Alumni Association celebrated its 40th anniversary.
FFA celebrated Native Americans in FFA, agriculture and agricultural education during the 84th National FFA Convention.
Steve A. Brown named national advisor.
The Agricultural Career Network launched.
The National FFA Foundation received a record of more than $16.2 million in support of FFA.
FFA members and supporters packed 1,005,048 meals during the convention and expo’s FFA Rally to Fight Hunger.
FFA celebrates Latinos/Hispanics in FFA, agriculture and agricultural education during the convention and expo.
Membership hits all-time high with 579,678 members in 7,570 chapters.
The 86th National FFA Convention & Expo in Louisville has a record attendance of 62,998 members, teachers, supporters and guests.
FFA members earn a record 3,578 American FFA Degrees.
Ram Truck's "So God Made a Farmer" Super Bowl commercial exceeds 18 million views on YouTube; company donates $1 million to FFA
Sherene Donaldson named first female national FFA executive secretary.
A record 65,173 FFA members, advisors and guests attend the 88th National FFA Convention & Expo in Louisville, Kentucky.
Membership hits all-time high with 649,355 members in 7,859 chapters.
National FFA Convention & Expo returns to Indianapolis.