Ports of Indiana is donating five acres of land to the Mount Vernon High School FFA for students to grow crops and raise funds for future educational programs. Ports of Indiana has leased farmland to the Mount Vernon School District for several years, but this was the first time students have been invited to the port for an agreement signing, a port tour with the Ports of Indiana CEO and to participate in an open house with port officials and customers.
FFA is a school-based national youth leadership development organization of more than 850,000 student members in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its national headquarters is located in Indianapolis and Indiana FFA is the state’s largest career and technical student organization with more than 12,000 members as part of 219 local FFA chapters. The FFA's mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.
“I am a former FFA member and it’s a true honor for me to be able to host these students at the port and celebrate what FFA means to our young people and our communities around the state,” said Ports of Indiana CEO Jody Peacock. “For me, FFA gave me a broad perspective on agriculture beyond what I learned on my family’s pig farm. It’s also the first place I learned to tie a tie and do public speaking. There will always be a special place in my heart and in this port for the FFA.”
Ports of Indiana will lease five acres of land to the Mount Vernon High School FFA for a 12-month period and has waived all fees related to the transaction. FFA students will participate in farming the land and gain valuable experience from observing the agricultural process, and then sell the crop to raise funds that will directly benefit FFA programs. The students rotate crops yearly between corn or soybeans; corn will be farmed in 2023. Student plot manager, Carlton Redman, contacts farmers, and the local co-op to help get seed, plant, and harvest the crops. The land is used for several class projects, including soil tests.
“The Mount Vernon FFA is extremely grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Ports of Indiana,” said Alicia Schmidt, Mount Vernon High School agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. “This opportunity gives students a chance to learn about production, agriculture, land and money management, sustainability, and planning. It also gives students an opportunity to attend events without worrying about transportation and financing.”
Each year, the students sell their crops to local grain facilities and port companies, including CGB and ADM. The FFA program typically raises around $3,500 from the five acres. Proceeds help fund many programs including FFA leadership/career development events; job interviews, ag sales demonstrations, the Livestock Skillathon, National FFA Convention, Indiana FFA Convention, and transportation to various community-service activities and trips.
FFA is not just for students who want to be farmers. FFA also welcomes members who aspire to careers as teachers, doctors, scientists, business owners, and more. For this reason, the name of the organization was updated in 1988 from “Future Farmers of America” to “FFA” after a vote of national convention delegates to reflect the growing diversity and new opportunities in the industry of agriculture. FFA continues to help the next generation rise up to meet challenges by helping its members to develop their own unique talents and explore interests in a broad range of agricultural career pathways.