Back around 1990 or so, I started volunteering for an FFA Career Development Event (CDE), the Marketing Plan Competition. Teams of students develop and present marketing plans for various ag-related businesses in their local communities.

The Marketing Plan CDE helps develop teamwork, highlights the importance of communication and presentations skills, and opens a completely new world of business opportunities that young people might choose from.

Here we are nearly 30 years later, and that CDE competition is still active and growing, with 38 states represented in last year’s National Marketing Plan competition, thanks to our event sponsors, Bunge and The Context Network.

Donations and sponsorships are the backbone for FFA programs, grants and scholarships. For example, the FFA Foundation offers over $740,000 in grants to local FFA chapters and $2.7 million in scholarships each year. Those grants and scholarships are supported, in part, by ag machinery company sponsorships and donations.

John Deere is a major supporter of FFA and the FFA Foundation, one of six Platinum Level sponsors, the highest sponsorship level. There are many other manufacturers sponsoring FFA, as well, including Chevrolet, Ford, Case IH, Caterpillar, Kubota, AGCO, STIHL, Yamaha Motor Corporation, Mahindra, Lindsay Corporation, Briggs & Stratton, Kuhn North America and AGCO.

Clint Erickson is central region sales director with AGCO and serves on the National FFA Sponsor’s Board.

“Each year members from AGCO’s leadership team host members from the National FFA Officers team. It’s a great opportunity to collaborate with future leaders in agriculture,” he says. “What we’re probably proudest of is AGCO’s support of the FFA Scholarship program. Last year AGCO and our dealers contributed more than $100,000 to FFA Scholars.”

Many of these companies also showcase their equipment and career opportunities at the National FFA Convention and Expo.

“AGCO has a booth at the National FFA Convention each year,” notes Erickson. “One popular feature of the booth, outside of our equipment, is the Zombie Cow experience. Attendees go into a ‘barn’ and have to figure out how to get out without getting attacked by a zombie cow. While I don’t want to give away secrets, the zombie cow’s name is Aaron, and he’s pretty harmless. We try to have a good balance of learning and fun for the students.”

While much attention is given to national events, state and local FFA chapters have benefited from ag machinery dealer assistance, as well. From outright monetary donations to providing event door prizes, dealerships have been more than willing to offer up their continued support of the FFA.

One unique effort that helps state and local FFA chapters comes from Titan

International, manufacturer of Titan and Goodyear Farm Tires. In 2018, the company raised $91,481 for several state FFA chapters in Iowa, Nebraska and Georgia from special-event tire auctions. Each year, Titan auctions off thousands of tires, using all proceeds as monetary support for FFA chapters.

“Titan is proud to recognize FFA's commitment to developing future leaders,” says Scott Sloan, agricultural products manager for Titan and Goodyear Farm Tires. “The tire auctions are our way of giving back. We raise money for a commendable organization, plus growers get the chance to bid on a variety of farm tires at highly discounted prices.”

This past year's shows included Farm Progress Show, Husker Harvest Days and Sunbelt Ag Expo.

“Through Titan’s incredible generosity, more than $25,000 was raised to help FFA and agricultural education programs that would not have been funded without this support,” says Josh Remington, executive director of the Iowa FFA Foundation.

“With a record membership of more than 15,000 Iowa FFA members, each dollar is stretched to the fullest to provide maximum support for these students and helps us eliminate all financial barriers.”

That rings true for all companies and individuals supporting the FFA’s mission of “making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.”

From what I’ve seen of FFA and FFA members, they’re making a positive difference in the quality of our ag industry, as well.

Michael Gustafson has written for and about farm equipment companies, their products and dealerships for more than 40 years, including 25 years with John Deere. He lives on a small acreage in Dennison, Ill.

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