Farm Bureau Acquaintance Day draws hundreds of FFA members

Speakers, activities and participants reinforce 'Believe' theme.

Four hundred FFA members from 30 counties listen to Meera Komarraju, Southern Illinois University provost at Carbondale.

By Jessica Grammar

Roughly 400 high school FFA members representing 30 FFA chapters learned about Farm Bureau, leadership and opportunities during the annual Farm Bureau Acquaintance Day recently at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIU-C).

More than 20 years ago, the Farm Bureaus in Jackson and Williamson counties started the event to acquaint FFA members with Farm Bureau and the SIU campus. This year’s theme was “Believe.”

The participating FFA members came from Alexander, Clinton, Franklin, Gallatin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Hardin, Massac, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, Washington, White and Williamson counties.

Karen Midden, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, welcomed the students and gave a brief overview.

Participants were divided into 100-member groups for workshop sessions. The Illinois FFA State Officer team had students excited and laughing with interactive activities during a “Believe in Yourself” session.

IFB staff Jenny Webb and Kaity Spangler provided a glimpse of agriculture’s future and advised students about staying at the technology forefront during a “Believe in Your Future” session. They also learned about Farm Bureau and how to stay involved in agricultural organizations after high school graduation.

A panel of five agricultural professionals offered a “Believe in Change” session. Kendall Browning, IFB Young Leader District 17 representative, moderated the discussion. Panelists included: Marc Kabat, Farm Credit; Andy McNitt, McNitt Growers; Logan Loverkamp, a Massac County farmer; Colton Collier, SIU farms; and Andrew Banks, Union County farmer. Panel members discussed their careers, work ethic, getting started and tasks in their operations. The student audience was very responsive and had more questions than time allowed.

Related: Illinois schools host national FFA officers for ‘rare’ opportunity. Read more here.

A “Believe in Giving” session, led by SIU students Kendra Flood and Sidney Roling, focused on philanthropy. In smaller groups, the students brainstormed on ways to help in their communities and shared those with the group. Students then took action by packing child-friendly meals in weekend packages for a local charity that helps at-risk children throughout southern Illinois.

Meera Komarraju, SIU provost, closed the program with an uplifting speech.

A planning group comprised of county Farm Bureau managers, SIU staff and student organization representatives meet each year to organize the event. The planning committee would like to thank all of the presenters, group leaders and staff who made the event possible. Our goals are to improve the mindset and motivation of these students, and we look forward to planning and hosting Acquaintance Day programs in the future.

Jessica Grammer serves as Jackson County Farm Bureau manager.