The Future is Agriculture; The National FFA Organization’s History and Growth

Agriculture is one of Pennsylvania’s top commodities. Each year the industry continues to grow, and part of that growth is due to the youth involvement. Growing up, I was a local 4-H Club member and eventually became an active member in the National FFA Organization. For the five years that I was apart of this organization, I held two leadership positions being my chapter’s Chaplain and President; I traveled to National Convention in Louisville, KY and Indianapolis, IN; I traveled internationally to Nicaragua; I earned five degrees, multiple awards, and made countless memories. Since my time spent a part of this organization, I have continually strived to share information about the National FFA Organization and the numerous opportunities that it provided for my success academically, professionally and with my personal growth as well. I also like to share the many benefits of being a member of this organization and all the wonderful things members are able to take away from being a part of this national organization. Throughout the rest of this blog post, we will dive into information regarding The National FFA Organization and learn more about the significance of the emblem, numbers of chapters across the nation, and the number of members that are actively involved in the organization nationwide.

To begin, The National FFA Organization was previously known as Future Farmers of America, that is where the FFA part comes from. When the organization rebranded in 1988, they changed the name from Future Farmers of America to The National FFA Organization. This organization has grown tremendously over the years since being founded in 1928 and has made a lasting impact on the agriculture industry throughout the United States. The blue corduroy jacket is nationally recognized as a symbol of the National FFA Organization. FFA members proudly wear these corduroy jackets to represent the organization as a whole, the chapter that the member belongs to, the individual and their many accomplishments within the organization. The FFA emblem in National Blue and Corn Gold coloring is placed in large print in the center of the back of the jacket. As a member of the National FFA Organization you go through a process where you learn the creed, the motto, the meaning of the emblem, the history of the organization, and this information stays with you forever. According to the Official Manual presented on the National FFA Organization website, “The national FFA emblem, consisting of five symbols, is representative of the history, goals, and future of the organization. As a whole, the emblem covers the broad spectrum of FFA and agriculture. Each element within the emblem has unique significance.” The unique significance of each element within the emblem is explained more in detail in the infographic below. The information and images on the infographic are provided from The National FFA Organization website in their online Official Manual for FFA Members.

The FFA Emblem

Over the years, as the organization has grown, it has evolved in many ways. After being established in 1928 in Kansas City, Missouri the organization started out as a man only organization. For 41 years, the organization was men only membership, it was not until 1969 that membership in the FFA was open to women when they were able to participate in competitive events and were able to hold office positions. Since then, membership rates have skyrocketed over the years. Just a year after being established, in 1929, there were 35 state associations with almost 1,500 chapters and approximately 30,000 members affiliated with the organization, according to the National FFA Organization website, History tab. Flash forward to 2019 and those same numbers are now at 8,612 chapters in all 50 states including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and there are approximately 700,170 FFA members, according to the National FFA Organization website, Our Membership tab. WOW!


As a previous member of the organization himself, I decided to interview my father and see what he thought of these numbers. He was surprised was how largely the organization has grown even since he has been apart of it in the early 1980’s. He said, “I knew that the National FFA Organization was a huge nationwide organization, but what I did not know was how large the group of active FFA members today was. For there to be over 700,000 active FFA members today, it shows just how involved America’s youth is getting with the agriculture industry and I am sure the numbers will continue to grow in the years to come.”

If we take an even closer look at Pennsylvania FFA specifically, it has a total of 12,930 active members, according to the PA FFA website! That is approximately 1.8% of the total FFA members nationwide. Pennsylvania’s numbers barely compare to the top 5 states with the most FFA members. The graph below takes a closer look at the numbers of FFA members in the top 5 FFA member populated states, information provided by the National FFA Organization website. Each year during the infamous Pennsylvania Farm Show at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania FFA hosts the Mid-Winter FFA Convention in the New Holland Arena. The Mid-Winter Convention is a time to celebrate Pennsylvania FFA member’s accomplishments and to show appreciation to their families and people who support the organization throughout each year. At the 2020 Mid-Winter Convention this past January, 405 FFA members received their state FFA Keystone Degree and the Pennsylvania Alumni Association granted 420 first-year members their official blue corduroy FFA jackets, these numbers provided by a PA Government Press Release! With a look at those numbers there are more members joining the organization than the number of seniors getting ready to graduate.

The Top 5 States with Most FFA Members

To get a better understanding of the feeling that a first-year member gets when they receive their jacket, I interviewed a family friend named Grace. Grace just received her FFA blue corduroy jacket at this past Mid-Winter Convention in January. I asked Grace what she thought about the numbers of new jacket recipients and Keystone Degree recipients. She expressed, “I think that it is amazing to watch all the fellow first-year recipients put on their jackets at the same time. To stand around the perimeter of the arena all together and celebrate our accomplishment of becoming an FFA member and receiving our jackets together was an unforgettable experience. To also take a look at the 420 first-year members and realize that this is only a fraction of the incoming FFA members in Pennsylvania is eye opening as well.” First-year members must complete a competitive application process to be selected to participate and receive their jacket at Mid-Winter Convention. I then showed Grace the top 5 states with the most FFA members in them and then showed her how Pennsylvania compared to Texas, being the most FFA member populated state and her reaction was, “Wow, I can’t believe how small Pennsylvania is compared to Texas. I thought that nearly 13,000 members in a state was a lot, but that is barely a fraction of the members compared to Texas.”

As we can all see, the National FFA Organization has been around for over a century and I am sure that it will stick around and have a lasting impact for many years. I can only hope that more members will want to join this organization and continue to aid in the growing and success of the agriculture industry. As a little reminder, remember to support FFA students, your local farmers, and the agriculture industry!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s