Progress: Future Marketers of America

Published 2:57 pm Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kim Meyer spent 14 years teaching students how to plant, harvest and raise cattle through Albert Lea High School’s Future Farmers of America.

Some FFA officers are, from left, back row: Grady Ruble, Mic Skaar and Henry Manges. Front row: Jack Thompson and Tyler Stadheim. -- Andrew Dyrdal/Albert Lea Tribune

Now, after an eight-year hiatus, he’s back but this time training future leaders, doctors and businesspeople, too.

It’s the same FFA with a different mission.

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“In the last 10 years we went away from planting and farming,” adviser Meyer said, of FFA. “It’s now about career success and leadership.”

FFA has been active in Albert Lea since 1929 and Meyer began advising FFA in 1988 when he went on farm visits and taught students how to raise pigs and cows.

Now many of his students won’t even go into agriculture and that’s OK, he said.

“We go way beyond farming,” Meyer said. “We’re building résumés and public speaking and interview skills.”

But for students who do want to go into ag, Meyer’s got them covered, too. He said careers in agriculture now are better than any time in the past.

“Many former students have great ag jobs because of involvement in FFA,” he said.

Meyer said that FFA involvement makes students more marketable for agriculture jobs but that less that 2 percent of them will actually farm the land.

“It’s not that farming isn’t important,” Meyer said. “There’s just less hands.”

Many of Meyer’s students will go into environmental science, fish and wildlife management and agricultural economics. With those jobs come the need for important business skills.

“We’re putting those skills into practice,” Meyer said.

Albert Lea’s FFA sells $22,000 of fruit for its major fundraiser and the students are responsible for keeping track of orders, deliveries and payments. They also manage the program’s budget.

In March, FFA students will compete in a farm management competition, finding the net worth of farms, their strengths and weaknesses and deciding where improvements can be made.

Meyer hopes many of his students aspire to be leaders in cities and states.

“They get leadership and communication skills though FFA even if there’s no desire to go into an ag career,” he said.

Albert Lea’s FFA also raised $1,230 through a corn drive to buy presents and food for two adopted families around the holidays. They also donated $500 to the Humane Society.