When Samantha Schumer went out on a farm visiting family members, she was always terrified of cows. So when she knew she had to take science class in her freshman year, she was not thrilled at all. But, now, walking into the agriculture building becomes the best part of her day.
“When I first started my ag class, I had no desire to be in FFA, I thought it was the stupid thing in the world. But my advisor talked me into the FFA Barbeque, and I won. Now FFA is one of the most important thing that I do,” Schumer said.
Schumer was among the more than 8,000 FFA members and guests from across the state that gathered at the Hearnes Center on the University of Missouri campus Thursday night. The 87th Missouri FFA Convention is held from April 16 to 17 to honor fellow members for outstanding achievements, conduct association business, and elect new officers.
This year the Missouri FFA set a new record for membership with 25,829 students in 338 chapters. But FFA advisors says at the same time, the number of people working in production of agriculture is dropping.
Cheryl Ficken, Everton FFA advisor, said one of the things they have to educate people about is to eliminate the general misunderstanding about modern agriculture. She said there is a disconnection in the agriculture education for the public.
“I like to compare it to if Bill Gates try to explain to me how to make a computer, I don’t know if I could follow him. That’s kind of where we are with modern agriculture. If you have no background on it, it’s kind of hard for us to explain the intricacy of how we produce food now,” Ficken said.
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven and Gov. Jay Nixon also stressed the importance of agriculture education during speeches at the convention Thursday night. Nixon says education will determine the future and make rural community thrive.
“We need more than just cows and corn, we need to make substantial investments in our schools and universities, in high speed internet for high-tech farming operation and in the transportation system,” Nixon said.
Students and advisors said many factors are keeping young people from pursuing an agriculture career, including the uncontrollable cost and weather, as well as the unset working hours.
But they also said that they expect new opportunities for future farmers of the younger generation under the current legislative environment.
Last Friday, Nixon signed into law two agriculture bills aimed at making it easier for farmers to do business in Missouri.