National FFA elects new president from California

Issue Date: November 1, 2017
By Christine Souza
Breanna Holbert

A college sophomore from San Joaquin County has been elected National FFA Organization president for 2017-18.

Twenty-year-old Breanna Holbert of Lodi, who is majoring in agricultural education at California State University, Chico, was named national FFA president at the organization's 90th national convention, held last week in Indianapolis, Ind.

Holbert is the first female African American elected national FFA president.

She participated in the Tokay FFA Chapter at Tokay High School in Lodi. Holbert said she does not have an agricultural background, and said she hopes to teach urban students about sustainable agriculture.

"This program isn't just growing the leaders of tomorrow, it is growing the leaders of now," Holbert said. "The FFA program is helping students, whether they want to be in agriculture or whether they want to be a consumer. (FFA programs) are allowing students to become comfortable with who they are, regardless of background. They are enabling students to be able to understand how significant and incredible they are—that's what the National FFA program provides."

At Tokay High School, FFA advisor and agricultural instructor Becky Freeman celebrated Holbert's election.

"It is gratifying when you know that a student that works as hard as Breanna gets recognized and rewarded for that hard work," Freeman said. "We are absolutely honored to be a part of her journey."

"The California FFA Association is extremely proud of Breanna Holbert for being elected as the 2017-18 National FFA Association president," state FFA Advisor Josiah Mayfield said. "Breanna is a testimony to the integral nature of agriculture education. Students from all backgrounds can find a home in this organization and succeed."

Holbert becomes the seventh national FFA president from California since the organization's inception in 1928; the most recent was Levy Randolph of Hemet, who served as national president in 2009-10.

Holbert served as California FFA state secretary during 2015-16.

The national FFA officer selection process is intense and represents an assessment of years of academic and extracurricular accomplishments made by each student running for office.

Nominees must first qualify at the state level to represent their particular state FFA association.

As part of the process to become a national FFA officer, Holbert submitted an application that detailed her accomplishments and contributions to the community, along with an essay explaining her desire to be elected to national office.

Once at the convention, candidates participated in several rounds of interviews, took an in-depth written test on the organization and agricultural education topics, and completed two writing exercises.

Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, six students are elected by delegates to represent the organization as national officers.

As president, Holbert joins a 2017-18 national FFA officer team that includes:

  • Erica Baier, an agricultural education major at Iowa State University, who was elected national secretary;
  • Piper Merritt, an agricultural economics major at Oklahoma State University, Central Region vice president;
  • Bryce Cluff, an agricultural technology/management education major at the University of Arizona, Western Region vice president;
  • Ian Bennett, majoring in agriscience and environmental systems-plant breeding and genetics at the University of Georgia, Southern Region vice president;
  • Gracie Furnish, a career and technical education major at the University of Kentucky, Eastern Region vice president.

National officers commit to a year of service to the National FFA Organization.

Each officer travels more than 100,000 miles, within the U.S. and internationally, to interact with business and industry leaders, thousands of FFA members and teachers, corporate sponsors, government and education officials, state FFA leaders, the general public and others.

The team will lead personal growth and leadership training conferences for FFA members throughout the country and help set policies that will guide the future of FFA and promote agricultural literacy.

In addition to Holbert's election, two Californians were named winners of the 2017 National Agricultural Proficiency Awards:

  • Joel Baltazar Mendoza of the Hamilton City FFA Chapter for "Grain Production—Placement";
  • Katrina Siems of the Morro Bay FFA Chapter for "Veterinary Science—Entrepreneurship/Placement."

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.