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Commentary: Blue FFA jackets help equip tomorrow’s ag leaders

Issue Date: November 24, 2021
By Emily Rooney and Mark Jansen
California state officers for the FFA join with other participants outside the recent National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. Donations are being sought to buy jackets for students in need.
Photo/California FFA
Emily Rooney
Mark Jansen

There is no better example of supporting the next generation of California's leaders than the California agricultural industry and, more specifically, our industry's future leaders. Blue Diamond Growers and the California Future Farmers of America's long-term partnership is a perfect example of this commitment to the future of agriculture.

On Nov. 30, we all have an important opportunity to invest in the next generation of leaders who will continue to feed our state and world. Giving Tuesday, a global generosity movement that takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving each year, is the perfect occasion to support California agricultural education.

Since 2017, Blue Diamond Growers has partnered with the California FFA Foundation to raise funds during Giving Tuesday to purchase the iconic blue jackets that FFA members have proudly worn over the last 10 decades.

They were on display most recently, as future farmers from across California donned their FFA jackets in representing their communities at the 94th National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis.

These donations for the jackets are targeted for students in need who would not normally be able to afford one of their own. This furthers our efforts to not only support students in agriculture but also aims to attract additional individuals to consider a future career in agriculture.

Last year alone, the organization raised more than $75,000 through Giving Tuesday, including a $25,000 Blue Diamond match, to purchase almost 950 jackets. Beyond helping purchase jackets for members who might not otherwise be able to obtain them, the financial support promotes FFA's agricultural education, leadership development and career growth efforts.

At Blue Diamond's annual growers meeting, FFA students from local chapters are invited to participate in the event each year, engaging with growers to learn firsthand about the almond industry from multigenerational family farmers, the majority of whom are FFA alumni.

Although the last two annual meetings were held virtually due to COVID safety restrictions, strategic opportunities were created for FFA students to participate. Through engaging, touching video messages to the meeting audiences, students shared stories of what membership in FFA—and their symbolic blue corduroy jacket—means to them.

They talked of personal empowerment, unique community and the leadership skills gained along their FFA journey.

They spoke of the access FFA provided to research and expert opinions on the complex issues facing California's agricultural families. Some shared how FFA membership had helped them overcome low self-confidence and feel a sense of belonging and inclusion that was transformative to their individual growth.

In addition to the leadership development opportunities FFA offers its students, we support FFA's pathways in agriculture, which encourage students to pursue a wide range of activities from agricultural business to plant and soil science.

FFA delivers an array of outcomes for students, including supervised entrepreneurial and workplace learning experiences, professional development and partnership with our community. FFA enhances the traditional high school experience, by developing a skillset not otherwise learned in the classroom.

From the perspective of the FFA Foundation, we are proud to have partners such as Blue Diamond Growers supporting our FFA students. Not only is Blue Diamond filling a gap for students in need, but Blue Diamond is enhancing future support for our industry, which is vital in our highly urbanized state. This partnership is a true win-win.

It's clear to us the meaningful impact the California FFA has made not only in the lives of the young members involved, but in the sustained strength of our industry and the future of responsible agricultural stewardship throughout our state.

We urge you to join us in our shared vision of providing a positive impact on our future consumers and our future generation on Nov. 30 by supporting the California FFA mission through Giving Tuesday.

To donate, visit www.calaged.org/event/giving-Tuesday-2021 or go to California FFA's social media site on Facebook for more information.

(Emily Rooney is president of the Agricultural Council of California and may be contacted at emily@agcouncil.org. Mark Jansen is CEO of Blue Diamond Growers and may be reached at mjansen@bdgrowers.com.)

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




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