National Ag Day: 8 agriculture facts you probably didn’t know

national ag day

Happy National Ag Day!

Today, March 25, we’re celebrating along with the Agriculture Council of America a day geared to recognize the abundance provided by agriculture. National Ag Day is all about celebrating and recognizing the contributions agriculture makes to our everyday lives.

Why celebrate and recognize? Well, the organizers explain that pretty well:

Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis. But too few people truly understand this contribution. This is particularly the case in our schools, where students may only be exposed to agriculture if they enroll in related vocational training.

By building awareness, the Agriculture Council of America is encouraging young people to consider career opportunities in agriculture.

Obviously, these goals fit in perfectly with the mission of FFA to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

In the spirit of National Ag Day, we developed a list of agriculture facts that you may not know. Check them out:

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Looking forward to Summer break? Thank a farmer.

The Beechwood School in Kenton County, Ky. opened in 1858.

The Beechwood School in Kenton County, Ky. opened in 1858.

As we wind down from enjoying spring breaks and time off, we go back to school and work awaiting our next break… SUMMER! But have you ever stopped and wondered why it is that our school year is set up that way?

I sure never did, until now.  In fact, I came to find it wasn’t always this way.

Prior to the Civil War, rural schools were divided into two terms- a winter term that lasted from December to March and a summer term from mid-May to August. This allowed for students to go home in the spring and fall for planting and harvest seasons. And in some cases, schools would allow additional breaks for farm work. Yupp, that’s right- school was planned AROUND AGRICULTURE!

It’s interesting to think that schools not only valued agriculture and understood its importance but even planned their academic calendar around what was best for the farmer.

This was in large part because schools knew that this was in the best interest of those who provided them food and in essence was based upon economic needs opposed to educational needs.

Just some neat food for thought.


Bringing back native pollinators

Traditional honeybee hives are facing threats from a condition called “Colony Collapse Disorder.” While its causes are still unclear, the disorder has killed millions of bees and adversely affected pollination of many fruit and vegetable crops.

Find out what habitat conservationists in Orange County, California are doing to help bring native bees back in this episode of America’s Heartland:


Watch 816 on PBS. See more from America’s Heartland.

hispanic heritage month

Somos FFA

Meet Dr. Dexter Wakefield, the National FFA Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Dexter works to review current trends in agricultural education and seek ways to promote a holistic view of the importance of agricultural education to a broader audience. He has a total of 17 years of experience as an agriculture educator in Georgia, Indiana and Illinois, working for 11 of those years as coordinator of agricultural education and communications at Southern Illinois University. 

In this post, Dexter shares some excellent resources for celebrating
National Hispanic Heritage Month.


In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed National Hispanic Heritage Week to honor the contributions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, the countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean.  In 1974, President Gerald Ford issued a Presidential Proclamation extending Hispanic heritage week into an annual month long event.  In 2002, the Hispanic population became the largest minority group in the United States.  Today there are more than 50.5 million Hispanics/Latinos (64 percent Mexicans, 9 percent Puerto Ricans and 3 percent Cuban) in the country.  The lives of these Americans are worthy of celebration and remind us of the rich contributions Hispanics/Latinos make and have made in the world.

Please join the National FFA Organization in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by paying tribute to the more than 85,000 (16% of the membership) Hispanic/Latino FFA members involved in agriculture.

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New Century Farmer – Day Three

This week, students attending the New Century Farmer conference will be blogging about the lessons they’re learning and the friends they’re making there. The conference is taking place on the Pioneer campus in Des Moines, Iowa.  Topics covered include the global agricultural marketplace, farm financing, demographic trends and risk management. 

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To start off the third day of the New Century Farmer conference, we heard from Matt Erickson who spoke with us about the importance of the Farm Bill, Budgeting, and Risk Management. As the next generation’s producers of the world’s food, fuel, fiber, and natural resources we need to educate ourselves about the policies and financial status of our government and how it directly affects us and our farming operations.  Further, we explored the significance of becoming involved with sharing our story with legislators and taking charge of our own financial decisions.

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What you should know about the proposed Fair Labor Standards Act

UPDATE (April 27, 2012) : The U.S. Department of Labor has withdrawn the proposed regulations that would have affected our educational programs. Thanks to everyone who took the time to contact their legislators and share this information with friends. You truly made a difference!

The DOL’ s statement:

The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.

As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

The decision to withdraw this rule – including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ – was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.

Instead, the Departments of Labor and Agriculture will work with rural stakeholders – such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H – to develop an educational program to reduce accidents to young workers and promote safer agricultural working practices.

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Alltech’s Farming Film Festival

Our friends at Alltech are hosting their 2nd annual Alltech Farming Film  Festival.  Grab a camera, and help tell a farmer’s story! You could win $2,000!

Here’s what they’re looking for, according to the contest website:

As we look to the future, we must revolutionize how we think about the business of food production.  What will the world look like for our children? How will we feed 9 billion people… and while we’re at it, how will we safeguard animal health, the environment and food safety?

We want to hear farmers’ ideas on how to be prepared for the future. If you are a farmer, tell us your ideas. If you’re not a farmer, find one and tell their story.

We hope to see an FFA member grab one of the top prizes! Good luck!

Greetings to our friends in the Granite State!

The New Hampshire FFA Convention starts today! Best wishes to all members, advisors, parents and supporters who are attending!

Here are some cool facts about agriculture in New Hampshire:

  • The chief commercial crops raised in New Hampshire are greenhouse and nursery products, Christmas trees, sweet corn, chicken eggs, and apples.
  • Various vegetables and forest products are also sold.
  • Hay is the chief field crop grown to feed livestock.
  • Many farmers tap the maple trees on their land to produce maple syrup and sugar.
  • Forest products are also produced in New Hampshire.
  • Dairy products account for nearly 1/3 of the state’s total farm income.
  • Other livestock raised includes beef cattle and hogs.
  • Chicken, cattle and calves and turkeys are also sold.

For more information about the New Hampshire FFA Association visit their website and Facebook page.

Let’s go, Idaho!

Idaho State Seal

Idaho State Seal

Today is the start of the Idaho FFA Conference. We hope it’s a fun and rewarding experience for everyone!

Here are some things we bet you didn’t know about agriculture in Idaho:

  • Idaho is known for its seed industry producing 80-85% of the sweet corn seed produced in the world; also a leading supplier for alfalfa, field and garden beans; Kentucky Bluegrass seed; and carrot, onion, turnip, lettuce seeds.
  • First grapes grown in Idaho date back to 1864 and Idaho now has over 1000 acres with 38 wineries.
  • Idaho ranks third nationally for vegetable (mainly potato) production in the United States.
  • The top agricultural commodities in Idaho in 2008 were: dairy products, cattle and calves, potatoes, hay, wheat, sugarbeets and barley.
  • There are more than 24, 500 farms in Idaho, with over 160 different commodities produced.
  • Idaho has a very extensive system of dams, reservoirs, canals and drainage ditches allowing water to be used many times in many different ways. There are 3.2 million acres of irrigated land within the state.
  • The McDonald’sFrench Fry was developed by Idaho Agriculture Leader J. R. Simplot who developed the dehydrated shoestring potato that could be quickly frozen.
  • Idaho ranks 21st nationally for agricultural production within the United States.

For more information about the Idaho FFA Association visit their website and Facebook page.

ryan testifying

Ryan Best’s Testimony from the Senate Ag Committee Hearing

Did you miss our national FFA president’s testimony before the Senate Ag Committee today? Here’s a transcript:

Written Statement for the Record

Ryan W. Best
2011-12 National FFA President
National FFA Organization
Portales, New Mexico

Leveraging Agricultural Education and FFA To Strengthen American Agriculture Through the 2012 Farm Bill

Before the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman

March 14, 2012

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