As a former agriculture teacher, FFA and 4-H hold a special place in my heart, so I’m excited to share with you how you can join both of these amazing organizations. FFA and 4-H are agricultural organizations that offer so much more. I heard the saying numerous times that these organizations were just for people who ‘like tractors and cows’ and that couldn’t be farther from the truth! Almost everyone can find something that they enjoy in both of these organizations.
4-H was started over 100 years ago and has since grown to be the largest youth organization in the country. 4-H was started in 1902. In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act was passed and created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA and nationalized 4‑H. 4-H is available to youth from all backgrounds in all states in the U.S. There are more than 3,000 county extension offices that are home to 4-H programs.
Today, 4‑H serves youth in rural, urban, and suburban communities in every state across the nation. 4‑H’ers are tackling the nation’s top issues, from global food security, climate change and sustainable energy to childhood obesity and food safety. 4‑H out-of-school programming, in-school enrichment programs, clubs and camps also offer a wide variety of STEM opportunities – from agricultural and animal sciences to rocketry, robotics, environmental protection and computer science – to improve the nation’s ability to compete in key scientific fields and take on the leading challenges of the 21st century.
The best way to join 4-H is to contact your local county extension office. If you aren’t sure where the closest county extension office is, you can find your local 4-H office here: https://4-h.org/find/. You can narrow your search by entering your state and county. Many 4-H leaders will visit local elementary schools to encourage students to join. If you have homeschooled children, they are still welcome to join 4-H. Many 4-H offices will hold 4-H days specifically for homeschooled children so that they can experience 4-H also. 4-H is available for children between the ages of 5-18.
FFA is an agricultural program that is available to high school students that are currently enrolled in an agricultural program. Unfortunately, students that are not taking agricultural courses are not eligible to participate in FFA. For those that can join FFA, they will find the organization has a rich history that is steeped in tradition dating back to 1917. FFA members can immerse themselves in numerous competitions and contests. There are numerous livestock judging contests, along with other traditional contests such as soil judging, floriculture and agronomy. Agricultural sales, parliamentary procedure, public speaking and employment skills are contests that can benefit all students, no matter what their interests are. FFA also promotes extracurricular work and volunteering. There are numerous awards that are given annually to students that show entrepreneurship skills and hard work.
In order to join FFA, your local high school needs to offer it as an organization. If your school does offer it, you will need to enroll in an agricultural course. Once enrolled in a course, your teacher should be able to give you instructions on how to join. Be prepared to pay for chapter dues and state dues. These costs will cover the costs associated with competitions and events. Many chapters will also include a chapter t-shirt as part of the dues. You’ll also be expected to purchase official dress, which is a requirement to participate in many contests. You can find more information about official dress here: https://www.ffa.org/official-dress/changes-to-official-dress-opening-ceremony-gain-board-approval/.
You can find your local FFA chapter here: https://www.ffa.org/chapter-locator/. If your high school does not offer FFA, speak to a teacher to see if you can get a chapter started at your high school. For more information about starting an FFA chapter, look here: https://www.ffa.org/start-an-ffa-chapter/.