Barbara Jenkins is the vice president of education and student programs for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and executive director of the US Poultry Foundation discusses her work to connect students to the food industry and her Honorary American FFA Degree.
Q: Were you involved in FFA growing up?
A: No. In North Little Rock, Ark., I was involved in FBLA – Future Business Leaders of America. While that organization was not ag-related, it did guide us in public speaking and leadership development, so it had some commonality with FFA.
Q: How did you come to work for USPOULTRY?
A: With a business administration degree, when I heard about the job at USPOULTRY, my first thought was that it wasn’t a good fit for me, having no agricultural background. Then I said, “Wait a minute, why not give it a try?” And here it is more than 18 years later. So it was obviously a great decision for me. It’s a great industry to serve and a great organization to be part of.
Q: What does your job entail?
A: I engage with students at every level to show them the career opportunities within the poultry and egg industry. We take great pride in sponsoring youth outreach efforts such as the National FFA Convention & Expo, the poultry evaluation and food science and technology CDEs, and the poultry production proficiency event. Part of that sponsorship includes inviting the top 10 teams to the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, which gives them good exposure to our industry and industry leaders. I try to show youngsters that if they are interested in business, communications, information technology, engineering or other non-ag-related fields, there’s a job for them in the poultry industry.
Q: After working with FFA for a number of years, what do you admire most about it?
A: I like the way it fosters leadership skills in students. I get to see it at the National FFA Convention & Expo every year. I also see it on a local level. The Arabia Mountain High School FFA in Lithonia, Ga., is near our offices, and we’ve helped in their field days and have provided speakers to their events. I get to see leadership development there, as well.
Q: What’s your highlight of FFA involvement?
A: Two years ago, FFA gave me an Honorary American FFA Degree during national convention. Again, I don’t have an FFA background, so for the organization to recognize the leadership that I bring to the table was a tremendous honor.
Q: What’s your best advice to FFA members?
A: Always network. Learn while leading; lead while learning. And never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Good things can happen. That’s how I got to where I am