December 30, 2022
With National FFA Week just around the corner, South Dakota FFA has a plan for 2023 and beyond. “A big focus for FFA has been our growth,” says Gerri Eide, executive director for the South Dakota FFA Foundation. “We’ve added several new chapters again this year.”
A new chapter opened in Sioux Falls for the first time. “We added a total of five chapters this year, and over the past six years, this makes 21 new ag education programs in South Dakota,” Eide says.
These new chapters have also helped push South Dakota FFA to record membership — with 5,500 members at the end of 2022.
With new chapters in schools both big and small, Eide says every new chapter helps grow memberships. “Across the board, administrators and schools and communities are seeing the value in agriculture education, and saying, ‘We need to be a part of that,’” she says.
Teachers for these new programs find a supportive system in place to help them succeed. “These teachers are the backbone of the whole thing,” Eide says. “Without these teachers, it just doesn’t work.”
Supporting the growing number of ag educators and chapters is no easy task, and the South Dakota FFA Association added a new staff member to help.
“Our program and leadership manager position started in August of last year, so we have staff members to support students and teachers,” Eide says.
“Our biggest goal here at the foundation, in addition to funding our ongoing events, programs and scholarships for members, is to fully endow the funding for that second staff position,” Eide says. “We have it partially endowed right now, but we want to raise funds to fully sustain that position long term.”
Events and competitions happen year-round for FFA members in South Dakota — legislative breakfasts in Pierre, FFA Day at Rodeo Rapid City, leadership development and more. “Career development events kick off in March, following National FFA Week,” Eide says.
Career development events include agronomy, horse evaluation, floriculture, nursery landscape and beyond. Chapters and students hold celebrations and activities across the state in celebration of National FFA Week, while gearing up for these competitions.
One of the flagship events for the FFA year is the annual state convention. To be held April 16-18, this event draws students from across the state to compete at South Dakota State University’s campus in Brookings.
“It’s the culmination of our year for the different events and activities,” Eide says. “It’s exciting and motivating to win, but the skills they’re learning in decision-making and working as a team is helpful and driving them to careers in agriculture.”
Nikki Fideldy-Doll is the North Dakota FFA advisor, and says that growth is continuing for the organization. “We’ve been seeing steady growth for many years, with individual memberships increasing since 2015,” she says.
With 93 chapters and over 7,000 members, FFA continues its strong legacy across the state. “This year we added one new chapter, Drayton, so that’s increased our program count,” she says.
Students from North Dakota had a strong showing at the National FFA Convention in 2022, with some members taking home top honors. Students who won at state-level events were advanced onto the national competition.
CELEBRATIONS: North Dakota FFA advisor Nikki Fideldy-Doll says FFA’ers are excited to celebrate the upcoming National FFA Week.
The state-level events include Leadership Development Event Day, the winter Career Development Event and the state convention. “These happen throughout the year, so national convention is a great place for those students to get together and showcase their skills,” Fideldy-Doll says.
Teams from Kindred, South Prairie, Killdeer, Napoleon, Rugby and Mandan were among those receiving top honors at the national convention. Students also placed with top honors in individual contests, including diversified crop production, plant systems and social science.
“We had some individuals receive honorary American Degrees” for “those adults who are really important in helping run our organization,” she says.
These recipients were Paul Berg, Brooks Hetle, Brooke Thiel and Troy Enga.
Fideldy-Doll says the national convention is always an opportunity to showcase the FFA student’s talents on a national stage. “We have such diversity. So when North Dakota goes, although we’re small, we are mighty, and we had a great showing of that at convention this year.”
As National FFA Week draws closer, chapters are putting celebratory plans in place.
“We’re looking forward to helping chapters celebrate during National FFA Week and using that week as a platform to showcase our schools and communities about the importance of FFA and agriculture education,” Fideldy-Doll says.
Helping students succeed is one of the top goals of North Dakota FFA, she says. “Our goal is always premier leadership, personal growth and career success, and helping students achieve these goals.”
Agriculture educators and FFA advisors who are integral to the program are stepping into new chapters across the state, but there are still some openings to support these programs.
“North Dakota has been lucky to have filled most of our open positions,” Fideldy-Doll says. “A few of our openings are actually programs that want to grow, so they have one teacher in that program but still want to grow and add another position to the school.”
About the Author(s)
Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress
Sarah McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications, along with minors in animal science and Extension education. She is working on completing her master’s degree in Extension education and youth development, also at NDSU. In her undergraduate program, she discovered a love for the agriculture industry and the people who work in it through her courses and involvement in professional and student organizations.
After graduating college, Sarah worked at KFGO Radio out of Fargo, N.D., as a farm and ranch reporter. She covered agriculture and agribusiness news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Most recently she was a 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D., teaching, coordinating and facilitating youth programming in various project areas.
She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, serving on the executive board for North Dakota Agri-Women, and as a member in American Agri-Women, Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.
In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, enjoys running with her cattle dog Ripley, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.
Sarah is originally from Grand Forks, N.D., and currently resides in Fargo.
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