More than Cows, Sows, Plows: Nebraska FFA At All Time High


More than cows, sows, and plows, FFA soars to an all-time high in Nebraska, with more programs than ever before for kids to learn about biotechnology, natural resources, marketing and much more.

A packed house at Adams Central just outside Hastings celebrated the latest school to add an agriculture program.

"We live in a farming community, can't believe we don't have one already," student Samantha Granstrom said.

State FFA Director Matt Kreifels and State President Spencer Hartman visited with the Adams Central School Board, but weren't sure what decision they would make.

Hartman said he learned the news through social media.

"I was just ecstatic," he said. "I had the opportunity to go with Matt to Adams Central six or eight weeks ago and share the FFA message with them, ag education, and wasn't sure leaving there what direction they were still debating, when I woke up and heard that I was excited."

Ag education and FFA have been redefined. The look is the same, with the familiar blue jackets and they still learn about crops and livestock.

"We also study the business and science of agriculture," State Ag Education Director Matt Kreifels said.

Some people think they know what it's about.

"The old saying, it's cows, plows, and sows," Spencer Hartman said.

But Hartman, the state president said it's much more than that.

"I built a hydroponic tomato operation so I think that goes to show the applicable skills you learn in the classroom along with the FFA side, marketing contests as well as parliamentary procedure and sales," said Hartman, from Imperial.

Adams Central isn't alone. 20 schools beefed up ag programs in the last four years.

"Which is a huge leap and with yesterday's announcement of three schools adding for next year, we'll actually be at an all-time high for number of schools in the state of Nebraska that offer ag education and FFA," Kreifels said.

Curriculum includes things like biotechnology and natural resources, preparing students for diverse possibilities.

Kreifels said, "Agriculture is the number one industry in the state of Nebraska and anytime we can help develop a pipeline of students to get exposure and career preparation for that industry, it's huge."

So why don't more schools do it? Like Adams Central, it's about money, because it requires a teacher.

Kreifels said, "A lot of people think, we'll just get an FFA chapter as another club, and it's actually different than a lot of organizations."

To put the growth in perspective, there are more programs in the state now than in the '50s.

And that was before many rural schools consolidated or closed, so there are fewer schools now, but more ag programs.

Hartman, the state president and a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln thinks that trend will continue.

He said, "Ag education is something especially in Nebraska where agriculture is our number one industry where every school could have ag education."

Most schools are Class B and C, but Kreifels said they would love to add more Class A schools like Lincoln or Kearney.

Adams Central joins Auburn and Cross County as schools that officially added ag education this week.