you can be involved in one of the greatest Ag Youth organizations
Great Falls is hosting the 2023 MT FFA State Convention on March 22nd through the 25th. The main events will be held at the Montana ExpoPark with general sessions in the Pacific Steel & Recycling 4-Seasons arena.
With well over 2000 members and guests expected, it is going to be a great time for the Blue Corduroy jackets and those that support them! I caught up with Morgan Kuntz, Director of Development and she gave me all of the details and she explained what FFA is all about.
Morgan: It's a youth leadership organization that is based around agriculture. You have to be enrolled in an agriculture education class in your school to be a member of FFA. When you hear agriculture organization, you instantly want to think cows and plows, and it's just judging livestock or those things. But it's way bigger than that. It's a leadership organization. So the best way to say what students do is to talk about the mission of FFA, which is to promote premier leadership, personal growth and career success. State FFA convention comes to Great Falls every three years. We rotate between Great Falls Bozeman and Billings.
The student members will be involved in leadership activities as well as contests called CDE’s.
Morgan: There's going to be well over 26 career development events, which are our contests within our organization. So kids are going to be competing in that. Every evening we have a general session where everybody that's in attendance will get to gather in the Pacific Steel & Recycling Arena at the Montana ExpoPark and they'll listen to keynote speakers. Those students that have been competing in the career development events earlier in the week or in the day will get awarded for their efforts. We give out our scholarships and this is our culminating event for our year.
How big is MT FFA?
Morgan: FFA is Montana's largest school based organization. We have over 6200 members statewide and we are expecting over 2000 of those members to be at this event. Montana FFA is growing and it is as strong as ever. Every event we have had so far this year has exceeded even what we predicted for attendance. So we're predicting 2000, but expecting that there's going to probably even be more than that. FFA is a national organization and we actually have chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Nationally there is over 800,000 FFA members. So you do well at the state level in Montana. Your next level is national FFA, which is held in Indianapolis, Indiana every fall.
Do Montana members do well at Nationals?
Morgan: This past fall 2022, Montana had a national team, the food science team out of Missoula. They represented Montana with such pride and such excellence at national besting several other teams to come out on top. Montana is always competitive at the national level and that's something we're really, really proud of. And we did have a proficiency award winner out of Choteau (Carson Crary- Outdoor Recreation Proficiency). Like I said, proficiency awards, SAE projects, scholarship finalists, national officers. Montana, for the past several years, our national officer candidate has made it into the final running. So they've been in the top half of the national officer candidate. Just a few years ago we had a national officer from Moore, Montana (Mamie Hertel). I mean, there was literally more people on her national officer team than was in her graduating class. And that's pretty incredible to think about. So we're the fourth biggest state in the nation, one of the smallest in population, one of the smallest associations, FFA wise on the national level. But yet we are a huge contender. And when Montana and the Big Sky State comes to nationals, we come to play.
Is the MT FFA looking for volunteers?
Morgan: We are looking for all sorts of help. Like you said, Randy, when you've got 2000 kids competing in 26 different career development events, just that number alone. Think about the number of volunteers that needed for that. Let alone there's all the back stage and back end logistics. And more than that, when we think about help and people to support this organization, it's beyond just boots on the ground for a singular event. FFA is an organization that is so much bigger than the students that are just in it right now. It's so much bigger than just our state convention. So anybody who wants to come and remember what it was like to be in FFA, wants to remember what it was like to go to a state convention. If you are a past state officer, a past agriculturalist, anything like that, we welcome you to come to the state convention. It's not a ticketed event. It's nothing like that. It's a wide open door. They're open. So come see this sea of blue and gold jackets. If it's in your heart to want to volunteer, we have links on our website and different people that you can contact to actually volunteer with a specific event. But if you just want to be inspired, and sometimes in today's day and age, it can get really discouraging with things that are going on. Maybe I'm biased because I work for the organization, but you go to an FFA event and all of a sudden you are just enlightened and realize that there is hope for the future. We are cultivating some of the world’s best and brightest and the people that are going to be leading this state, this world, this country. And we have pretty incredible young people.
Not everybody has the time to volunteer, but they may have the financial resources. Are you looking for sponsors or even one time donors?
Morgan: Absolutely. So, like I say, when you are the largest school based organization in the state of Montana, the reality is it takes dollars to fund that. And that is my job as the director of development to go out and connect with those donors, connect with those stories about Montana, FFA, and then find a way to fit that in a financial aspect. We support all of those members individual, the local, the chapter and the state level. So one time donors or sponsors for events, anything like that. The biggest thing about FFA is it's an organization that's bigger than just this year, bigger than just the 6200 members that are in it right now. And that's what I'm about. I'm not selling sponsorship's, I'm selling connections. I'm selling memories. And I am bringing people back to a time in their life changing.
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