Today’s farmers have to be skilled in more than just driving a tractor if they’re going to be successful.
“Agriculture is no longer just your family farm,” said Anthony Brooks, 19, president of the Delaware FFA Association. “It’s so much more than that. It’s become much more diverse, much more scientifically oriented.”
Brooks and the other officers of the Delaware FFA were in Dover the afternoon of Feb. 20 to receive a proclamation from Gov. Jack Markell Marking Feb. 15 through Feb. 22 as National Future Farmers of America Week.
The presentation was a very relaxed affair, with the six-member group sitting around a conference table in Markell’s Tatnall Building office. Markell, in a suit jacket but without a tie, asked each about why they’d joined the FFA and what they’d learned as members and officers.
The informal session was interrupted briefly as Markell excused himself to take a call from Vice President Joe Biden, who was traveling aboard Air Force Two.
Markell did not reveal what he and Biden had discussed during the short break.
Brooks, a descendant of four previous generations of farmers, grew up on the J.F. Bennett farm near Milford. He joined the FFA − the group formally changed its name from Future Farmers of America in 1988 − because of those ancestral ties. He is a member of the Sussex Central FFA Chapter.
“My grandfather was in the FFA, and hearing his stories about then he was in high school really got me excited. When I was old enough to join, I did.”
The other members of the leadership group included Vice President Kacy Cassat, 20, of the Indian River Chapter; Secretary Jacki Green, 19, of the Glasgow Chapter; Treasurer A.J. Cannon, 18, of the Seaford Chapter; Reporter Danielle Willis, 20, of the Middletown Chapter; and Sentinel Jovon Townsend, 18, of the Indian River Chapter.
National Future Farmers of America Week is observed annually around the Washington’s Birthday holiday, said Delaware FFA Executive Secretary Stacey Hoffman.
“It’s a celebration of everything FFA,” Hoffman said.
Today’s FFA focuses on leadership, growth and career success in addition to all of the expected aspects of agricultural science, Hoffman said.
The farmer of the 21st century must have a working knowledge of plant and animal biology and physiology, marketing, communications, horticultural science, agricultural mechanics, biotechnology, including biofuels, food science, engineering and even meteorology.
“They have to know within hours if rain is coming to get into the field to see if they need to plant or they need to harvest,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - The six leaders meeting with Markell all attend Delaware colleges, and are majoring in disciplines such as agricultural communications or business, food management and veterinary technology.
There are 10 FFA chapters in Kent County, 17 in New Castle County and 12 in Sussex.
The Delaware FFA Association holds 26 annual career development events ranging from agricultural communications to horse evaluation to tractor driving.
One of the more important is the speaking event, which focuses on job interview skills, being prepared and extemporaneous speaking.
“It’s given me a lot of experience in creating resumes and cover letters and going into interview with more confidence,” Brooks said. “It brings up a lot of skills outside farming.”
FFA Week allows members to work among the 38 statewide chapters and to get out into the community to talk about the FFA, Brooks said.