By Ashlynn Obannion
It’s not all cows, sows and plows.
Yet, that’s how the Future Farmers of America is often perceived. The National FFA website describes the FFA as a “dynamic youth organization.”
“FFA is for students who want to engage in agriculture,” the site explains, “and aspire to be farmers, teachers, doctors, scientists, business owners and more.”
According to Dave Cleavinger, a professor of agriculture at South Plains College, FFA can
help students in college.
“Responsibility, time management, and many times financial responsibilities are engrained in
each student,” Cleavinger says. “Both organizations teach a very strong work ethic.”
Cleavinger wasn’t just involved in FFA when he was younger. He was also involved in 4-H, which is also a national organization that is offered to home-school and students in school.
It offers many of the same activities such as public speaking and showing. It also offers some contest not offered in FFA.
“I’m not sure if they had an influence on my teaching,” Cleavinger says, “but both organizations definitely had an influence on my teaching style and passion for animal science.”
Cleavinger teaches many classes on the Levelland campus including, livestock evaluation, animal science, food science, and computers in agriculture.
FFA is well known for students who raise and show animals but it has many other benefits.
Brad Swan of Swan Show Cattle in Anton, Texas has been around the world of agriculture his whole life. He raised show cattle and competed on numerous teams throughout high school through the FFA.
He says the time spent in FFA taught him numerous skills that have helped him in his life after high school.
“Communication skills, leadership ability, and social networking just to name a few,” he says.
Swan says he earned a collegiate livestock judging scholarship that paid for most of his college.
“This would not be possible without leadership teams and livestock judging while in high school,” he says.
“If you are a senior FFA member in High School or FFA Alumni in college,” the site explains, “just one application is required for multiple scholarship opportunities totaling nearly $2.5 million.”
Swan is now the father of two children who are also growing up in the world of agriculture.
He says he is certain having his kids involved in these organizations is going to be very beneficial for them after they graduate.
“Participating in livestock showing is a huge passion in my family,” he says. “I honestly don’t know what life is like without cattle. I truly believe that my kids are involved in the greatest industry in the world.”
According to the Texas FFA website, students must be at least eight years old and in the third grade to partake in the junior FFA.
Swan’s daughter, Brynlee, is 13 years old and in the eighth grade at Shallowater Middle School. She joined the FFA in the 3rd grade, and she’s been an active member of Shallowater FFA since then. During this time, she’s won numerous awards for show cattle.
According to 2022 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agriculture and its related industries provide 10.4 percent of U.S. employment. It says more than 22 million people in that year were employed in full or part-time jobs related to agriculture and food sectors.
And the FFA appears to do plenty to help students find jobs. The Texas FFA lists internship opportunities on its website. In a December, 2022 article, the national FFA website
featured a student who describes his success with internships. The article suggests students look at the Forever Blue Network to find out more about FFA internships. That site describes itself as a place to re-connect with old friends made at FFA events as well as expand professional networks.
“FFA is more like a lifestyle for me and my family.” Brynlee Swan says. “I couldn’t imagine
our lives without it. I believe that FFA will and has already taught me so many skills that I won’t ever forget.”