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Future Farmers of America (FFA) Secretary Nick Baker and FFA National President Taylor McNeel visit the Fresno State campus Sunday, April 24, 2016. The members give a speech presentation in the North Gym and answers questions from students during the California FFA State conference. (Khone Saysamongdy/The Collegian)

Thousands compete in annual FFA conference

High school agriculture students from California flocked to Fresno for the four daylong 88th annual Future Farmers of America Leadership Conference.  

“All the agricultural colleges up and down the state Fresno State, Cal Poly, Chico, Davis they put on workshops about the agriculture field, leadership and anything to inspire, motivate and make kids aware of what’s out there for their high school career and also for what lies ahead of them in college,” said Marc DeBernardi, a teacher from Santa Maria high school.

The Fresno State campus was a sea of blue jackets Saturday as FFA high school students represented their chapters and supported their fellow members throughout the day’s competitions.

“Registration for the event is around 6,300, which is the largest one ever held,” said Rosco Vaughn, an agriculture professor at Fresno State. “Usually it’s between 5 – 6,000.”

The event kicked off Saturday morning with students competing in 24 contests. Categories included dairy, fruit trees, grape vines, farm power, agronomy, machinery, marketing, small engine, poultry and more.

“It’s about getting new leadership abilities, public speaking abilities and mingling with the members from all over the state of California,” said Julianna Dailey, a student from Atwater High School.

After the FFA events ended at 3 p.m., there was an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. downtown at the Fresno Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall.

“It’s a state leadership conference for the development of FFA members to promote their personal growth,” said Kellen Habib, president of the State Conference Committee and pre-veterinarian major at Fresno State.

Saturday’s events were followed by guest speakers Nick Baker, National Secretary from Tennessee and Taylor McNeel, National President from Arkansas on Sunday in North Gym.

“The Sunday talks were motivational talks to encourages high school kids to achieve to maximum of their ability,” said Rosco Vaughn, an agriculture professor at Fresno State.  

FFA was formed in 1928 because boys were losing interest and leaving the farm, states the official FFA website. Today, it has grown to include 320 high schools and 85,000 members.

“I am interested in ag because my family revolves around it and I plan to go into ag business  after high school. I want to attend UC Davis or Chico State,” said Justin Croman, a student at Red Bluff High School.

Monday there will be a career show where Jordan College of Agricultral Science and Technology students will host three booths downtown at the Exposition Center from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“Ag opens up so many opportunities you learn so much, you meet great people and I plan on doing agriculture at a community college then transferring to Fresno State for ag education,” said Jacob Haze from El Diamante High School in Visalia California.

On Tuesday six newly-elected state student officers will be honored at a luncheon by FFA officials and Jordan College Dean Sandra Witte.