FFA challenged to find new members these days

>In the midst of his 14th year at Marion High School, Mark Myer, Future Farmers of America sponsor and agriculture teacher, has been witnessing the benefits of Marion’s FFA chapter since his first day on the job.

Myer said the Marion chapter concentrates on the abilities of its youth in ag-related fields.

“FFA has typically been known as an organization that emphasizes leadership opportunities for students involved in agricultural education,” Myer said.

Myer said he believes that one of the greatest benefits he can give to his students and members is “hands-on” experience.

“I can talk to a kid all day about how to weld, but if they can’t go out there and actually practice it, it’s not going to do any good,” Myer said.

According to Myer, FFA membership has been slipping the past couple of years, a decline that Myer said reflects the ag economy.

“It’s a tough sell, even for kids from a farm background,” Myer said. “Most of them are probably going to end up in something ag-related because that’s their background.

“I think a lot of them are being told there’s not a lot of future in farming and agriculture-do something that’s going to get you more of a steady, reliable future.”

Increasing membership and excitement about the FFA chapter at Marion is a concern for Myer, who admitted that recruiting students into the FFA chapter can be difficult.

“It’s tough to reach a lot of kids,” Myer said. “You try and recruit as best you can.

“We’re stuck in the stereotype of ‘cows and plows,’ and that’s all that we do,” Myer said. “The hicks take the ag classes and the other kids are going to take other classes, and they don’t realize the opportunities that are there, which is really frustrating.”

Marion senior Steph Jensen is a four-year member of the Marion FFA chapter, and is involved in a work-study program at the local veterinary clinic.

Jensen, who plans on going to veterinary school in the future, is thankful for the opportunity that FFA has offered her while at MHS.

“It’s a chance for me to get some work experience in something I want to do in the future,” Jensen said. “Since I wanted to be a vet, FFA has helped me get some good experience at the vet clinic here in Marion.”

Myer said students like Jensen are invaluable to the FFA program.

“If you want to be competitive, you really have to work at it,” he said. “Steph is really having to work hard.

“A lot of the students that I get are highly involved in FFA in high school,” Myer said. “They go on and use what they’ve learned in other areas of their life later on after they’ve been involved with FFA.”

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