FFA teaches skills that more real-world leaders need

FFA member and chapter president Samuel Green shared with Katie Pinke that FFA has taught him skills to be a better leader. Pinke says many of today's leaders lack these skills.

A record high of 850,823 FFA members across 8,995 chapters actively participate across all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. National FFA week runs Feb. 18-25, 2023, highlighting what FFA is and its impact on members. Pictured is North Dakota FFA District 4 Leadership at Larimore High School on Dec. 6, 2022.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

From being an FFA member, are you a better leader? Do you know how to talk in front of others? Can you run a meeting?

These seem like basic skills we all should know. Watch or read daily news to cringe and observe how many local, state and national leaders were not learning these leadership skills in FFA.

All is not lost, because we have future leaders learning leadership skills in our schools.

A boy with a flannel shirt over a white hooded sweatshirt smiles.
Samuel Green is a junior at Grafton High School and the president of Grafton FFA. He intends to take over his family farm someday, and the ag program he takes through North Valley Career and Technology Center is preparing him for it.
Zachary Hoffner / Agweek

Grafton (North Dakota) FFA President Samuel Green shared with me that being an FFA member has developed his leadership skills.

“I learned how to run a meeting, how to talk in front of others, how to just be a better leadership person,” Green said.


Green’s quote stuck with me. Agweek Editor Jenny Schlecht, who wrote this week’s Agweek cover story , included the quote in the story.

National FFA week runs February 18-25, 2023, highlighting what FFA is and its impact on members. FFA is the largest career and technical education student organization in the United States and one of the largest youth development organizations in the world.

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According to the National FFA organization in 2022, membership hit a record student membership high with a 15% increase from the following year, boasting 850,823 FFA members across 8,995 chapters in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In my bubble of agriculturists, we all know FFA and its immense benefits to the future of careers and skills development across a wide breadth of agriculture and leadership development. But outside of ag, there’s a vast majority not connected to or plugged into FFA.

Many of my non-ag friends interchangeably confuse FFA with 4-H or vice versa.

I wasn’t a member of either organization growing up and try my best to explain it this way.

4-H is a youth development organization, outside of schools, for ages 5-19, in clubs and programs run through your local county Extension service.

FFA is a youth organization associated with an agriculture education program within a school. FFA members are in grades 7-12 and into their early college years.


In comparison, 4-H boasts more than 6.5 million members across 90,000 clubs in the United States. As a parent who has had kids in both organizations, I am an ardent advocate of both FFA and 4-H. Both 4-H and FFA complement one another to grow skills and develop our kids and their futures.

This week’s Agweek cover story features an inside look at North Valley Career and Technology Center in Grafton, North Dakota, and specifically at agriculture education and FFA. The CTC offers learners from six school districts in northeastern North Dakota education across agriculture, auto, business, construction, health science, marketing, and welding technologies.

Molly Zahradka is one of four agriculture education teachers through North Valley CTC, based in Grafton, North Dakota, and the Grafton FFA advisor. Pictured she is teaching Introduction to Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources to ninth-grade students on Jan. 31, 2023. Two hundred forty students attend class at North Valley, many of them coming from the adjoining Grafton High School and other districts send their students on buses that arrive twice a day.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

In addition to the deep, long-term benefits of teaching careers and technology in our schools, we’re going to raise a stronger generation of leaders if our kids can run a meeting, talk in front of others and gain better leadership skills as an overall person.

While the accolades of contests and programs at an FFA district, state and national level gain headlines and attention, many FFA members return home without gold ribbons, and instead silver or bronze.

From personal parenting experience, I know the silver and bronze experiences of FFA teach and build up skills just as much or more than the accolades of gold or bigger trophies and recognition.

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The members of Career and Technical Student Organizations will become our future business employees, owners, community leaders and engaged citizens who we can vote for in elections in our lifetime.

Take the opportunity to share about the importance of positive aspects you gained from FFA if you were once a member or are today.

Thank you to every school and community supporting CTE programs, agriculture education alongside local FFA chapters, advisors and members. You’re proudly developing needed skills in our next generation of leaders.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Opinion by Katie Pinke
Katie Pinke serves as Agweek and AgweekTV's publisher and general manager and since 2015 has written a weekly column. Pinke resides in rural North Dakota with her husband and children where she is a 4-H leader, active community volunteer, and a proud fifth-generation farmers' daughter.
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