Western Farm Show FFA Day united by common goal

High school students from Kansas and Missouri are rolling up their sleeves and getting serious about their futures and their communities. They are preparing for the Western Farm Show’s annual FFA Day, Feb. 21, which coincides with National FFA Week.

Kristie Larson, director of education for the American Royal, says students look forward to the day to develop their leadership and career goals and help the food insecure in their regions with the annual FFA Day food drive.

“Youth leadership and career development is at the forefront of the day. Students tell us they really look forward to the information and education they get,” Larson said. “We want to have a variety of offerings for students, treat them like young adults, and help them manage their own schedule.”

Beginning at 9:30 a.m., students can explore technology and innovation during 30-minute leadership sessions in Wagstaff Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri. Professionals representing various government agencies, private companies and entrepreneurs will lead the sessions.

In addition, students can take part in job skills sessions where small-group job conversations with Kansas City professionals will give students six to eight minutes to practice telling their story and answering questions. Students also will learn how to write a resume. Students also have the opportunity to practice interview skills in the job interview sessions. Everyone who participates will receive both written and verbal feedback.

“Students are always telling us they want extra practice in this as they think about their futures,” Larson said.

Students must pre-register for the interview session by going to www.americanroyal.com/educational-programming/leadership-day or by contacting Larson at [email protected].

As part of FFA Day, Kansas and Missouri students also will come together to donate canned and nonperishable food to the Harvesters food bank. This year’s theme, “Unite Against Hunger” is a departure from past farm show efforts that pitted the two states against each other in the Border Food War.

“No more border war between states,” said Western Farm Show Manager Ken Dean. “This year, each chapter that brings in a minimum of 200 canned and nonperishable food items will qualify for a drawing. We’ll draw one winner from each state and award them with a $1,000 check to be used solely for educational purposes for the good of the chapter.”

Food insecure communities are a concern in both Kansas and Missouri, according to Missouri FFA Chapter Northwest District Supervisor-Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Executive Secretary Keith Dietzschold. As reported in the 2016 “Missouri Hunger Atlas,” Missouri has the largest percentage increase in the nation of households experiencing hunger over the last decade. Even in the nation’s agricultural heartland, food security is a challenge. Hunger is not an urban or rural issue. As many as 1 in 5 people face food insecurity in Missouri overall.

Among children, the numbers are even higher. In parts of Missouri, 1 in 3 children face food insecurity on a regular basis. Children facing food insecurity have the least ability to remedy their situation. Through no fault of their own, Dietzschold said, they are facing tough situations that impact their ability to learn and succeed. Food insecurity is one more impediment that challenges their ability to learn, finish school and rise above the economic challenges that lead to hunger. This event addresses hunger, a fundamental impediment to success for food insecure Kansans and Missourians.

FFA students get it. They are keenly aware of food insecurity in their communities and are driven to help, said Dusty Davidson, agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor at Lone Jack High School in Missouri.

“When I told my students about the Western Farm Show border war food drive in 2012, they jumped on board and came up with a plan to get the entire school involved. That first year we collected over 1,300 items and have won the competition six years in total,” Davidson said. “It was a good fit for the students because a number of them also volunteer in our Mule-pack program where backpacks are filled with food items and sent home with students in the district who are food insecure. We try to get involved with some community service activities through our FFA chapter and participating in a food drive like this to help the surrounding area is a great way to get involved. We look forward to participating in the canned food drive again this year.”

Harvesters provides food to more than 620 not-for-profit agencies, including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes and others. Agencies in Harvesters’ network provide food assistance to as many as 66,000 different people each week.

The Western Farm Show is Feb. 21 to 23 at the American Royal Complex, Kansas City, Missouri. For more information visit www.westernfarmshow.com.

Susan Fotovich McCabe can be reached at [email protected].