Some Iowa high school students are driving tractors to school this week to draw attention to their proud farming heritage. This is FFA Week as members of the group formerly known as Future Farmers of America make themselves more visibile.
Kurt Veldhuizen, an FFA advisor at Webster City High School, says agriculture is our country’s largest employer with more than 22-million people involved from the field to the grocery store.
Veldhuizen says he doesn’t try to teach students about farming because it’s so specialized, as farmers now only comprise only two-percent of our population. The ag industry is changing, he says, and there are plenty of jobs in marketing and in research and development for ag commodities.
The economic recession has hurt prices of many agricultural commodities but he notes there’s plenty about which future farmers can be reassured. Veldhuizen says: "Agriculture will always be there. We’re always going to have to eat in some form or another and we’ll need individuals in the industry in order to provide us safe food on our tables." He calls it a "nice security blanket." Despite some recent setbacks, biodiesel is a growing industry and Veldhuizen says many students are interested in the ag-related field.
While biodiesel has taken a hit, he says students are also aware of the growing need for decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and they’re interested in alternative energies, including wind power. Iowa has 12,000 FFA members. Nationwide the membership is just over a half-million.