North Buncombe – Amid the challenges faced by the agricultural sector, where factors like the acquisition of farmland by the wealthy and unpredictable weather patterns threaten the foundation of farming, a glimmer of hope emerges. Within the ranks of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program, a group of exceptional young individuals is demonstrating their dedication and prowess. Recently, five students from North Buncombe High School enrolled in the FFA program achieved a remarkable milestone by being awarded their American Degrees at the National FFA Convention.
Sharing this remarkable achievement, FFA Teacher Justin Gillespie, who was voted Buncombe County CTE Teacher of the Year, proudly stated, “I wanted to share that North Buncombe FFA officially has five students receiving their American Degree at the National FFA Convention, fall of 2023.”
He emphasized the rarity of this accomplishment, pointing out, “Less than 0.5% of all FFA members achieve this recognition, and currently, there are over 600,000 National FFA members and over 35,000 FFA members in the state. We are excited for these students.” The names of the accomplished students are Cole Gillespie, Ryan Bartlett, Cambell Hall, Seth Robinson, and Clara Hale.
What is the American Degree?
So, what exactly is the American Degree? According to the FFA.org website, the American FFA Degree is the pinnacle of achievement within the National FFA Organization. It symbolizes a member’s unwavering commitment to their local chapter and state FFA association. The degree reflects the dedication put into supervised agricultural experiences, exemplary leadership skills, and active community involvement displayed throughout the FFA journey.
The criteria for eligibility to receive the American FFA Degree are stringent. Members must have previously attained a State FFA Degree, maintained active membership for a consecutive three-year period, completed secondary agricultural education, and demonstrated exceptional performance in their supervised agricultural experience program. Moreover, the degree also requires a track record of outstanding academic achievement, community service, and leadership aptitude.
Status of the state
The FFA’s influence is also evident on a larger scale. Joshua Bledsoe, State Agricultural Education Leader and State FFA Advisor, expressed that the North Carolina FFA Association is celebrating a groundbreaking achievement: a record-high student membership of 36,559, reflecting an impressive 11.6% increase from the previous year. The state’s FFA members, spread across 350 chapters, are actively preparing for careers in the agricultural sector while honing their leadership skills. The surge in membership positions North Carolina as the fifth-largest FFA state association in the United States.
Notably, the national FFA community is also thriving, with its membership reaching an all-time high. Bledsoe congratulated the 78 North Carolina FFA members who earned the esteemed American FFA Degree, the highest honor within the FFA’s framework.
On the organizational front, the North Carolina FFA Alumni and Supporters Association’s remarkable efforts have not gone unnoticed. For the second consecutive year, the association has been recognized as the top state alum association in the Southern Region. It stands as one of the top four finalists at the national level. Bledsoe extended gratitude to the dedicated members and supporters for their role in championing the FFA’s mission and contributing to this achievement.
The story of these North Buncombe High School FFA students, along with the collective achievements of FFA members on both regional and national fronts, underscores the enduring spirit of dedication, leadership, and community engagement that continues to shape the future of agriculture and society as a whole.