Illinois Future Farmers of America set a record last year for membership. They also broke their record for enrollment across all agriculture education. This year, they’re set to surpass both again.
Four new FFA chapters sprang up this year. This comes even after a spring of flooding left many farm fields unplanted. Local FFA chapters even chipped in to help fill sandbags and aid flood efforts.
Mindy Bunselmeyer is executive director of the Illinois Association FFA. She says the growth of the organization is due to a multitude of factors. They include consolidation of rural schools and technology.
“The technology that is driving agriculture, and within the ag industry is even beyond what we see on our phones and tablets," she said. "And it is real life information that is pertinent to producers and pertinent to the companies that are reliant on that information.”
Automated tractors are also spreading far and wide. And Bunselmeyer adds that they’re anticipating an interest in hemp production now that it’s been legalized. This is despite the current lack of a curriculum.
“That'll change and I'm very certain that within a short time we will be getting teachers saying, well, ‘My student works for a hemp producer, can that be his FFA project?’ And, you know, that'll be discussions that I know they will have to have," she said.
There are currently over 19,000 FFA members in Illinois across 346 chapters.