History & Character
The FFA Organization is part of the vocational agriculture/agribusiness instruction program preparing students for careers in the industry of agriculture and agribusiness. Soon after vocational agriculture became a subject in the nation's high schools (Smith-Hughes Act, 1917), instructors became aware of the need to provide practical training beyond the traditional classroom approach. Their idea was to make instruction more interesting and more practical by combining work experience, competitive agricultural judging events, and agricultural leadership development activities with the usual classroom instruction. Vocational agriculture instructors and students eagerly accepted the "learn-by-doing" principle and the FFA became the vehicle for providing leadership training and occupational incentive.
The FFA program serves a great variety of youth in today's society, especially with the new and emerging occupational careers that are now available. Careers in agribusiness and related fields are growing very rapidly since there has been a great transition from early agriculture to modern agriculture. Today's agriculture and agribusiness sector reflect some of the most modern technological changes that have taken place in the past decade. In fact, America's amazingly sophisticated and efficient agricultural sector is one of the few areas of our economy with overwhelming superiority in world markets. The FFA takes pride in helping meet the growing demand for capable, competent agricultural leaders that will be helping solve our world food problems.
As the FFA Program has progressed through its eighty year history to its present maturity in the State of Florida, we have been adding numerous CDE and incentive award programs. These programs constantly challenge Florida's 15,000 FFA Members to achieve excellence in their chosen careers. The Florida FFA Association presently coordinates over 100 different events and award programs available to its membership, far more than any other state in the nation. Agriculturally speaking, Florida is a very diversified state and this necessitates that a diverse curriculum be taught in our public high school agriculture departments and a diverse FFA program to complement the instruction.
FLORIDA FFA FOUNDATION ORGANIZED
Because of the growth and complexity of the events and awards programs needed to complement the instructional program, new strategy was developed to provide additional manpower and services. As a result, the Florida Future Farmers of America Foundation was organized. The Foundation is operated for the sole purpose of supporting FFA Association sanctioned activities. While the Florida FFA Association is sanctioned by the State Department of Education, the Florida FFA Foundation has its own Board of Directors and financially supported with contributions from the private sector.
The Florida FFA Foundation was chartered with the Secretary of State on July 7, 1976. The Foundation operated in name only for three years. On August 19, 1979, the Foundation officially set up office with a full time Executive Director and Secretary. The Florida Rural Electric Cooperatives Association provided free office space from October 1979 to July, 1989.
The specific purposes of the Florida FFA Foundation are as follows: 1) To promote and stimulate interest in agricultural leadership and careers for youth in agriculture; 2) to communicate with industry and business in promoting the importance of agriculture; 3) to provide funds for incentive awards and scholarships for outstanding FFA Members; 4) to broaden the scope of FFA in the free enterprise system; 5) to provide a vehicle for FFA to respond to social/societal changes; 6) to provide or support conference and other educational facilities for use to FFA members, teachers, and others interested in promoting agriculture and agricultural related services.
Since the beginning, funding of the Foundation office, related expenditures and all special projects have been accomplished through contributions from the agricultural community and other interested groups and individuals. Since our existence, however, we did secure two federal grants through the Farmers Home Administration to develop curriculum materials on Rural Farm Credit and Energy Conservation on the Farm. A state grant was secured from the University of Florida to develop the Leadership Planning Guide. The Foundation also received a grant from the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed FFA Leadership Training Center to be built in Florida. In 1990, the Florida Legislature appropriated a $1m grant towards the reconstruction of the FFA Lodge that burned on January 4, 1990. With the exception of the two federal and two state grants mentioned above, the Florida FFA Foundation receives no state or federal allocations for our existence.
LEADERSHIP TRAINING CENTER
In 1986, the Florida FFA Foundation acquired 126 acres of land on Lake Pierce (Polk County) which was donated by the International Minerals & Chemical Corporation (IMC) as the site for the Leadership Training Center.
The primary purpose of the Leadership Training Center is to provide a learning environment where leadership, communication and employability skills can be taught to members of Florida's FFA chapters. Here, these young men and women can gather to share common concerns, participate in group discussions, prepare speeches, chair meetings, debate with one another and participate in special seminars and events.
The Center is the focal point of many Florida FFA activities while providing an educational and recreational environment for FFA members and teachers of agricultural education. In addition, the Center is a place for participation in special events such as: local, area and state FFA events; Leadership Schools; Education Workshops for Teachers; Curriculum Revision Workshops; Professional and Industry Board Meetings; Alumni and various other agriculture/agribusiness related groups.
Upon completion, the FFA Leadership Training Center will accommodate up to 350 FFA members at a time. When not being used by an FFA group, the Center is available to other youth organizations and to responsible individuals, business and civic groups.
THE NATURE OF OUR WORK
The Florida FFA Foundation is classified with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization. Our Foundation solicits contributions and/or dues from the private sector to fund operational costs, special projects, scholarships, capital projects and services for FFA members and chapters. The Foundation is also involved with other revenue generating sources to fund certain programs and services.
The Florida FFA Foundation also owns and operates the Florida FFA Leadership Training Center located on Lake Pierce, near Haines City, Florida.