April 1, 2014

The Iowa FFA Association set an all-time membership record this week at 14,207 students, surpassing the previous 1977-78 school year record by three members.

This is the highest membership for the Iowa FFA Association since the charter of the organization in 1929. It has chapters in 219 high schools across the state.

The increase is due to the "dedication" of agricultural educators and the "appeal" of leadership programs, Iowa FFA adviser Dale Gruis stated a press release. He also cited the combination of agricultural education classes and agricultural experience projects as key supplements of the FFA program.

The Iowa FFA Association has experienced a recent surge in membership with an increase of nearly 15 percent over the last three years. The new membership record is also 57 percent larger than 25 years ago.

Coon Rapids-Bayard graduate Logan Kelly, current freshman at Iowa State University and vice president of the state organization's Southwest District, credits increased interest in urban regions of the state for the growth. About 67 percent of Iowa agricultural-education students do not grow up on farms, he said - including himself.

He was drawn to the organization for its leadership and service opportunities, Kelly told the Daily Times Herald in a previous interview. The career-development events - leadership-building activities held by each chapter - and the friendships he made through the program have been the most valuable parts of his FFA experience, he added.

Coon Rapids-Bayard FFA adviser Jim Heithoff agreed with Kelly's assessment, adding that the majority of the CRB chapter's members live in town.

According to Heithoff, more than 40 former FFA members have returned to the community recently, having families and filling ag-related jobs.

"Sometimes I feel I work as much in economic development as I do in ag education," he said.

FFA is a national organization of nearly 580,000 members preparing for leadership and careers in science, business and technology of agriculture. The national organization also offers more than $2 million in scholarships each year.

Local, state and national programs provide opportunities for students to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom. For more information, go to www.iowaffa.com.