It’s National FFA Week, and it’s the perfect time to showcase Comal ISD’s FFA chapters and agricultural science courses. With three local FFA chapters, one at each traditional high school in the district, FFA plays an important role in the lives of many Comal ISD students. In fact FFA provides opportunities for scholarships, leadership, and yes, showing animals at stock shows.
With 60 years of history, the oldest chapter in the district at Canyon High School, Canyon-New Braunfels FFA, was founded in 1959 while the Smithson Valley (SV) FFA chapter was chartered in 1976, and the Canyon Lake (CL) FFA chapter was founded in 2007 when the school opened.
Widely known for its blue corduroy jacket with the gold emblem, the National FFA organization is the largest youth organization in the country with 8,630 local FFA chapters operating in 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While the letters of FFA stand for “Future Farmers of America,” today’s members enter a variety of vocations, professions and leadership roles. In fact, FFA members become medical doctors, bankers, business leaders, teachers, scientists and everything in between.
“Agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors for jobs today, and it can involve many different interests with new fields developing every day,” says Julianne Friesenhahn, an agriculture science teacher at CHS. “The world of agriculture is no longer basic production of crops and livestock although this is still a primary area. It encompasses the science behind the production too, like genetics, food science and communication.
“Canyon once was a rural school but now is in the heart of one of the country’s fastest growing counties. It is important now more than ever to expose students to these important careers,” Friesenhahn says.
In fact, today the most popular courses within the agricultural sciences department are welding, floral design, Ag mechanics and food science, leading to a wide-array of job and career opportunities.
“I find that agriculture science programs have changed based on the amount of technology involved in the classroom but the overall goal is the same; to develop a student’s career leadership, personal growth and career success,” says Amanda Custy-Schaas, CLHS agriculture teacher and FFA adviser.
SVHS Agriculture science teacher Canaan Dreibrodt agrees, “Ag and FFA have adapted through the years to become more inclusive of all types of students and provide a more diverse offering.
“Agriculture, however, will always be relevant to our world so it is crucial that students get the chance to be educated on the industry. Just as Ag education has diversified through the years, so too have the careers associated with the industry.”
The agricultural sciences department and FFA continued to be linked with one another. Today, high school students who want to join the FFA must be enrolled in at least one agriculture science class and are considered “senior” members. FFA chapters offer membership to “junior” members as well for students in grades three through eight.
Just a Few FFA Facts
-FFA’s official colors were adopted in 1929. The blue pays tribute to the nation’s flag while the gold gives a respectful nod to agriculture, symbolizing golden fields of ripened corn.
-More than 50,000 FFA jackets are manufactured every year.
-The National FFA emblem consists of five symbols: an ear of corn for unity; red rising sun for progress and opportunity; a blue plow for labor; an eagle for freedom; and an owl for wisdom and knowledge.
-Founded in 1928 by a group of young farmers with a mission to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population, FFA remains true to its roots while adapting to its ever-changing environment.
-Females were not allowed to join FFA until 1969, but today, they make up almost half of all FFA membership with a 46 percent female and 54 percent male gender split.
Photo: Canyon High School FFA and agriculture science students look forward to Ag Awareness Day every year when they get the chance to teach elementary students all about their passions in agriculture.