The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is a service and education organization which is intended to promote agricultural education in the United States. The organization has been more properly known as the National FFA Organization since 1988, when the organization changed its official name to reflect the shifting nature of American agriculture, which includes everything from organic poultry pasturing to biofuels. Although many people in the United States associate the FFA with state fairs and livestock shows, there are many more facets to the organization, and in the early 21st century, the FFA began pushing a more broad image, designed to encompass the many facets of American farming.
The group was founded by students who wanted to provide leadership training for other students who were pursuing vocational agriculture. This mission has been an important part of FFA activities since the inaugural meeting in 1928. From the start, the FFA has offered classroom education about a variety of agricultural topics, along with supervised projects which are intended to provide practical experience.
In addition, the FFA highly values community service, encouraging members to work in and around their communities to improve the general standards of life. FFA members can also compete in a number of disciplines, including livestock management and public speaking. The organization offers scholarships to members who pursue agricultural education, and many FFA chapters also provide placement services.
While FFA members certainly may choose to study livestock management and handling, along with farming, they can also examine a range of other issues related to agriculture. Topics of interest to FFA members include business management, public speaking, landscaping, nursery management, livestock judging, meat evaluation, forestry, dairy, agriculture sales, environmental sustainability, and agricultural equipment. Members certainly may raise cattle for practical projects, but they may also intern with the management of a local farm, study environmental issues which impact agriculture, or participate in advances in food science.
Across the United States, millions of youth have worn the trademark blue jacket of the FFA at numerous events every year. Members may join as early as middle school, should they so desire, and they can continue being active in the FFA through their college years. Former members may also support the organization as mentors, teachers, local organizers, and board members. Some very well known leaders in American society have participated in the FFA, including former President Jimmy Carter.