Fueling the Appetite To Feed the World

In Nebraska and elsewhere, FFA cultivates career-ready students for the agricultural sector
May 16, 2024 1:30 PM ET
Kids posed in a group selfie on a pier over a small body of water.

In Nebraska, one out of every three jobs is agriculture-based.

Focused on developing leaders and innovators for the future, the state association of the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) promotes agricultural education by offering skills training and education in local FFA chapters across Nebraska. Currently, more than 12,000 high school students are members of the FFA in Nebraska.

“It’s important that young people continue to seek agricultural jobs in both rural and urban Nebraska,” says Stacey Agnew, executive director of Nebraska FFA Foundation. “There is a high demand for students to work in the industry, whether they have a high school or post-secondary education.”

The Nebraska FFA Foundation is the fundraising arm for Nebraska FFA, helping to support programs throughout the state that offer educational programming. To be a member, students must be enrolled in an agricultural course at their school. Interest is evident, as the Nebraska FFA has grown from about 150 chapters in the early 2010s to 214 today.

From animal systems to crop production to harvesting and merchandising, many career paths exist in agricultural careers. Students are exposed to such roles through a model of classroom and laboratory instruction, leadership training and experiential learning-based opportunities.

“Over 300,000 jobs exist within agriculture in Nebraska—it’s more than just your ranchers and farmers.”

Contrary to popular belief, Agnew clarifies that students living on a ranch or farm comprise “a very small percentage” of Nebraska FFA membership. In fact, most students in agricultural education in Nebraska are part of the food and natural resource system.

For the past three years, Enbridge has awarded Fueling Futures grants to the Nebraska FFA Foundation as part of our commitment to building vibrant communities near our operations. The funding has supported the annual statewide convention held every April, and helped to put on workshops for members at either a free or reduced cost.

In 2023, Enbridge’s own Michael Howe, a stakeholder engagement specialist based in neighboring Wyoming, participated in the state convention as a judge for a speaking competition.

“It’s incredibly important for us to get industry volunteers every year,” says Agnew.

Enbridge is an enthusiastic supporter of the FFA across the Great Plains and the Midwest, with Fueling Futures grants targeted for the following activities by respective state chapters in 2023:

  • Safety, diversity and inclusion training and conference support in North Dakota and Iowa.
  • Diversity and inclusion capacity building in Minnesota.
  • Leadership training in Wyoming and Missouri.
  • Environmental education in Montana.

At the heart of it all, the main goal for the Nebraska FFA Foundation is to drive awareness among teachers and students about the career paths available and companies to work for within the agricultural sector.

And the earlier the exposure to the industry, the better. Students who are enrolled in agricultural courses develop greater curiosity around innovation and new technologies relevant to the industry.

“These are the eventual leaders who will be responsible for ensuring a safe and stable food and fiber supply, so it’s extremely important we start them early. High school students often don’t have a point of reference about what sort of jobs are out there until you introduce it to them,” says Agnew.

“It would be quite devastating to our economy and communities if people were not prepared to raise the food to feed the world.”