FFA opens doors for girls, too

A number of changes have occurred in FFA over the years. Not the least of which is the growing participation in an organization that was once the domain of farm boys.

?From a girl?s standpoint, it is kind of interesting,? said Earl Wineinger, FFA instructor.

National FFA Week is being observed Feb. 19 through 26.

FFA was established as ?Future Farmers of America? in 1917 and was set up strictly for high school boys studying agriculture, according to Wineinger. Female students were not allowed to join until 1969.

?It was illegal, according to law for girls to be in the program,? Wineinger said.

Even so, Wineinger said he began seeing some girls in FFA jackets at the national convention in 1967 and 68.

Now, one-third of all FFA paid members in Hillsboro are female, as are one-fourth of the members nationwide. Officers are split almost evenly between girls and boys.

?Girls are almost more involved than guys in being officers,? said Heather Pankratz, who is vice president of the Hillsboro FFA chapter.

Wineinger said it is true in almost any competitive or volunteer activity that girls are more likely to step forward.

?I don?t know why that is,? he said.

Two girls have stepped forward at Hillsboro High School to assume leadership roles. Emily Diener serves as president and Pankratz is vice president.

Diener and Pankratz have been members of FFA for three years.

Pankratz said the influence of other people, including her sister, an FFA alum, got her interested.

?I?m interested in agriculture and it has taught me a lot about agriculture,? she said.

Diener, who lives in town, got involved because her dad and grandfather were involved FFA. Her grandfather, Truman Diener, was the FFA adviser for several decades at HHS.

?(FFA) has exposed me to a lot of stuff that happens outside of town and how agriculture works,? she said. ?I didn?t understand everything about how farms work and how animals work.?

The two girls agree one of the benefits of joining FFA is getting to travel.

?I like the traveling and the people we get to meet from all over the country,? Pankratz said.

Added Diener: ?It is a chance to go to conventions and conferences and see what happens.?

Pankratz wants to have a career in an agricultural possible, possibly in animal nutrition or education.

Diener hopes to do something related to agribusiness. ?I like business and thought I could relate it to agriculture,? she said.

Wineinger said male and female members have many similar interests, but they also have some different ones. For example, boys tend to be involved in mechanics and girls gravitate toward horticulture or agribusiness.

Wineinger has noticed that freshman girls tend to pick up welding skills faster than the boys, but the boys usually pass the girls later in school.

Girls are full participants on FFA judging teams. Pankratz is interested in livestock, while Diener judges poultry and competes in entomology.

Wineinger said all aspects of FFA are open to everyone.

?I hope I look at a student as a student and not their gender,? Wineinger said. ?To me, a girl can come into this program and I don?t want to limit her opportunities because she is a girl.?

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