Grant Belden gets excited just talking about all the shared experiences a National FFA Alumni and Supporters chapter can provide. Vice President of North American Shelling at Golden Peanut Company — one of many Archer Daniels Midland Company-owned entities—Belden is president of ADM’s nontraditional alumni and supporters chapter.
Because ADM employs so many past FFA members, the chapter originally was established more than a decade ago so they could serve local FFA chapters. Then it was decided the chapter should include anyone willing to volunteer his or her time and experience — not just former FFA members.
Grateful for his own FFA days and his professional success in agribusiness, Belden views his efforts with ADM’s chapter as a way to reciprocate to an organization that profoundly impacted the course of his life.
From the small town of Moravia, Iowa, he served as a chapter officer in high school and, later, district and state president. After his time in FFA and college, Belden landed a job with ADM.
“I’ve been very fortunate, very blessed, working for a global company that gives me the opportunity to travel extensively and learn all about soybeans and a luxury product like chocolate,” he says. “I’ve lived in Nebraska, Wisconsin, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, and spent time working with colleagues in West Africa. Now I’m back, in the suburbs of Atlanta, Ga. To come full circle and be involved in our alumni chapter, connecting to FFA — the original organization — and to help other young people have these types of opportunities? C’mon, that’s brilliant, right? I think it’s an outstanding opportunity.”
ADM’s chapter serves the local FFA chapter in a number of ways — from assisting with state convention duties to judging events. Belden says the more corporations that have nontraditional alumni and supporter chapters, the more networking opportunities colleagues can enjoy while serving the local chapters.
Culver’s started its nontraditional alumni and supporters chapter last year, and within a short time decided to change its name to “Culver’s FFA Supporters.”
Culver’s marketing specialist, Lora Kippley, says its chapter in Prairie du Sac, Wis., was renamed to avoid any confusion that the membership was exclusively for former FFA members only.
Kippley says the company looks to grow nontraditional alumni and supporters chapters in all 24 states where Culver’s restaurants are located across the country. And with 650 of the locally owned eateries in the chain, that can translate to a vast support system for local-level chapters.
For now, however, the Culver’s Support Center in Prairie Du Sac works closely with several Wisconsin FFA chapters, doing everything from hosting tours and judging events to volunteering for fundraisers. For the past three years, the Support Center team has hosted a fundraiser that has donated more than 150 jackets to the Give the Gift of Blue program. Last September, the alumni and supporters chapter also pitched in for Culver’s largest fundraiser, “Culver’s Share Night Fundraiser” when they collected 10 percent of all sales at Culver’s restaurants from 5 to 8 p.m. one evening.
This story originally appeared in Spring/Summer 2018 Blue Jackets, Bright Futures. Learn more about National FFA Alumni and Supporters and how to start a nontraditional chapter at your company or organization at FFA.org/alumni.