Rerouting 4,000 FFA members and guests planning to attend the Minnesota FFA Convention is no small task, but the organization’s leadership is making their best effort to still hold the 2020 event.
State officers and leadership postponed the Minnesota FFA Convention, scheduled for April 19-21, 2020.
Tentative new dates for the convention were set for early-June, but leadership wasn’t announcing the dates officially as the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders rapidly unfolded.
Via Facebook and Instagram, the FFA leadership team announced on March 10 they would postpone their April event. A general announcement wasn’t made.
“While we have tentative dates in early-June, we are not at a place where we are ready to confirm those dates will be the dates of the convention. That’s partly why we don’t have a news release,” said Juleah Tolosky, Minnesota FFA executive secretary, in a March 30 phone call.
When Gov. Tim Walz ordered a school shutdown for March 18, Minnesota’s agriculture teachers got to work setting up at-home learning opportunities for their students. Through the Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators, teachers set up a “giant” shared file of worksheets, lessons, PowerPoint presentations, videos and interactive activities. When school reopened on March 30 via distance learning, the teachers had plenty of materials ready for the youth.
Tolosky said the teachers are expected to have a certain amount of high quality interaction with their students.
“They’re trying to figure it out. They are making worksheets that are getting delivered out to students and homes,” she said.
The convention is a big part of the high school agricultural learning experience, too. Not knowing what will happen with the convention has state leadership scrambling to complete those activities while social distancing.
“We have a lot of great opportunities because of the way our event is traditionally run,” she said. “The first is that our evaluation of Supervised Ag Experience awards, the State degrees that students are earning, proficiency award evaluation and ranking and even our State Star process have always happened before the convention itself.”
Ag students have already filled out their applications and had them submitted and initially reviewed at the regional level. Teachers from across Minnesota have evaluated these applications and selected state winners.
The top winners for the Supervised Ag Experience events will be decided the first week of April. Students who planned to compete in Career Development Events are waiting to see if the state level competitions will still be held at a convention this year, or not.
National FFA has also pushed back a lot of their deadlines for materials and competitions as they know the COVID-19 shelter in place order is beyond anyone’s control.
“They want to make sure there is as much opportunity as possible for students to get these experiences,” Tolosky said.
On March 30, Minnesota FFA rolled out a new social media program called “Socially Distant Career Development Events.” Students will receive a prompt each Monday to use items and resources in their homes to accomplish specific tasks.
They submit their projects and papers via e-mail or social media for judging.
The top three students receive prizes and recognition online.