High school students pave the way for FFA

The annual Future Farmers of America field day brings high school students from across California to the Fresno State campus for one Saturday evening


Matt Weir/The Collegian

High school students crowded Fresno State’s campus to compete in the April 16 Future Farmers of America field day hosted by the Agriculture Education and Animal Science department.

FFA is a national organization that has been around since 1928. Students came from across California to compete in the various contests from light horse judging, livestock judging, floriculture, and farm business management to small engine judging.

There are half a million students involved with FFA across the nation. There are a total of 34 events that compose FFA, but only 25 of the events were held at Fresno State.

Those who join FFA learn skills in speaking, management and get to do hands-on projects that can help them in their future careers.

“It gets a lot of good students on campus,” Steve Rocca said, advisor of FFA field day.

People on campus may have seen nearly 2,100 high school students decked out in navy blue corduroy jackets listing where they were from with black pants. This is an official dress code that FFA students have to wear to some events along with ties for males and scarves for females.

Although faculty mainly ran the event, Fresno State student volunteers made up a huge effort to make the events run smoothly. Whether Fresno States students helped out with registration, cleaning up facilities or being group leaders of high school students. Fresno State students also had an opportunity to be a reason taker, someone who has to listen to each student’s reason about how they judged.

FFA field day benefits those who participate in it as well as Fresno State. Many students, who visited for field day, do return for enrollment.

“I have done some research of when students came to campus for field day and found many of those who came, a lot of them ended up coming back here for school,” Rocca said. “I have heard students say, I remember coming here for field day as a kid.”

High school students also get a chance to interact with the faculty and current Fresno State students, as well as seeing the campus and what it has to offer. It isn’t often that students get an opportunity to do this. High school students traveled to Fresno State from as far south as Hemet and as north as Tule Lake.

“It is a great recruiting tool,” Rocca said. “We have a very powerful outreach to students.”

Animal science major Kyle Bower was apart of FFA in high school, and he currently helps with field day at Fresno State. He competed in the livestock evaluation, but now he helps run the beef judging.

“The main thing it taught me was to be financially aware, to make a budget and keep to it,” Bower said.

Bower joined FFA partly because his family was involved with it.

The light horse judging was one of the events that was held at the Quarter Horse unit. High school students had to judge horse conformation, reining and hunter under saddle. More than 100 students came and competed in the horse judging.

Those who participated in the horse judging got a unique chance to see a breed of horse that is rare. Fresno State is one of the only schools to have a Hackney Horse program. Many people have never heard of the Hackney Horse breed.

“It is a good chance for them to see the Hackney Horses,” Dr. Anne Rodiek said, who manages the quarter horse unit. “And it showcases our program as a whole.”

Rodiek agrees that having field day at Fresno State is a great recruiting tool. High school students are more likely to want to come back when they actually get to physically see the campus, meet the people and experience a day on the college campus.

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