AOn April 2, large crowds are expected at the Omni Mount Washington Resort for the 90th annual convention of the Granite State Association of FFA, an event that serves multiple purposes.
“It is the culmination of the FFA year for our students, a chance for them to come together and test their skills against others with similar interests and abilities,” said Executive Director Maria VanderWoude.
At the convention, students will also be recognized for their work throughout the year in both agriculture and FFA. Prior to the convention, applications are submitted for judging in more than 40 skill areas, including everything from various leadership areas to veterinary science, specialty animal production, wildlife management, agricultural mechanics, vegetable production, floriculture and others
“We also award scholarships and recognize students for things like community service, personal growth and outstanding leadership,” said VanderWoude.
Five general sessions are held at the convention, which are run by student state officers.
“Awards are given, guests speak and the energy is high,” she said.
In addition to competitions and awards, the convention features leadership development workshops and a careers symposium in which folks from industry come in to talk with students.
“Last year, both Commissioner Jasper and Commissioner Edelblut were in attendance, so hopefully they’ll both be back this year,” VanderWoude said.
The convention also features a chance for students to unwind.
“Social activities in the evenings give teens a chance to put away their phones and interact with their peers,” she said.
According toVanderWoude, one of the things she likes best about the FFA convention is that it is run by students.
“No adult is on stage unless invited there by the FFA members,” she said.
As for FFA itself, it officially morphed in 1988 from “The Future Farmers of America” to “The National FFA Organization” to reflect the science, technology and business of agriculture. Today, FFA currently serves about 500 students in 12 schools across NH.
“I want folks to understand that FFA is primarily a leadership development organization,” said VanderWoude. “Students must be enrolled in agricultural education classes in order to join FFA, but agriculture is a very wide field with over 300 careers.”
Most schools in NH, she noted, focus on small animal science, horticulture and natural resources along with a variety of other topics.
“FFA is a fantastic vehicle for developing leaders,” she said.
For VanderWoude, the convention best captures the essence of FFA.
“There is so much positive energy and excitement at the convention,” she said. “Each session opens with the state officers running on stage, usually through a human tunnel made by their peers in the audience. The energy is high and the atmosphere is wholesome and accepting. It restores one’s faith in youth.”
To learn more about the convention or Granite State Association of FFA, visit https://www.nhffa.org.