Statham, GA -The year was 1928, the National FFA organization was just getting started in the United States and it was about to begin in Georgia. The first to take on that challenge in the state was in Barrow County at Statham Consolidated High School. Here’s a picture of the first chapter’s members. Since then, Barrow County now has three chapters in their county, and hundreds of others have been started across the state.
“Now we have 333 chapters in our state, ninety years later we have nearly 42,000 members. We’re the third largest state FFA association in the nation,” says Ben Lastly, Executive Secretary for the Georgia FFA Organization.
All that’s left of the original FFA chapter is a plaque on the gym of the old school, but their legacy continues to live on. Proof of that was shown at a celebration event held at Statham Elementary, where the old high school used to be. Family members of the first chapter and members of today’s chapters were there, talking about the FFA of the past and present.
“To be on site for something like this and get to witness it personally is really cool for me and it’s great for Georgia FFA to recognize those people who created this program, and to see some of their family members and let them see what’s going on now,” says Lastly.
Delaney Parr, Vice President of the Winder-Barrow FFA says, “I know the kind of impact the FFA has had on my life and just knowing that this where that same impact that its had on my life has begun for so many other people, especially knowing how many FFA members are in Georgia and knowing that this where those people walked and went to school, it’s pretty amazing.”
One by one at the event, former and current FFA members got the chance to share stories of how the FFA has affected and shaped their lives. One of those that shared is the son of one of the founding members. He spoke about how his father loved the FFA and how he passed on that love to him growing up. He ended up joining the FFA in the 8th grade and talked with me about the impact it has had on his life.
“FFA taught me that, it’s like if a piece of land’s not productive, you don’t say, well I’ve got a non-productive piece of land, well you go to work, and you make it productive. I got that value of you take things and you work to make them how they’re supposed to be,” says former Barrow FFA member, Boyd McLoclin.
Looking through the pictures on display, you can tell that in its ninety years, the FFA in Barrow County has changed the lives of hundreds of students and continues to do so today. Changing the way they think about agriculture, and even so much as changing the course of their lives as they choose majors and careers.
“I’m hoping to start off at ABAC and get a two-year associates degree in agriculture education, and then I want to transfer into UGA Tifton, and get my full-on agriculture education degree from there and then I want to continue on and minor in international agriculture,” says Parr.
This celebration is just reassurance of how important the FFA organization is today as it was ninety years ago back in 1928.
“Ag education is still important. These young people are still learning about agriculture. Agriculture has changed, but they’re still learning about agriculture. Just like folks did 90 years ago,” says Lastly.
By: John Holcomb