The National FFA Organization organized my first international experience when I was national FFA president in 2001. For decades, National FFA Officers have traveled to Japan to represent FFA and American agriculture to one of our largest agricultural trade partners. The officers work with members of the Future Farmers of Japan—an organization founded during Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s occupation following World War II.
I owe much to FFA. It gave me opportunities beyond compare, and I wanted to give back in a unique way. I wanted to give others, from around the world, the opportunities I was afforded through FFA and agricultural education. It was from this genesis that I created AgriCorps, a Peace Corps type organization that connects American agriculture volunteers to the demand for agricultural education in developing countries.
AgriCorps does three things. First, we develop globally minded American agriculture professionals with experience living abroad. Second, just like FFA alumni, we support Future Farmer or 4-H organizations in developing countries to produce young leaders committed to farming as a science and a business. And finally, we do our part to create food security around the world through improved agriculture production and value chains.
Many believe that traveling to a developing country is like stepping onto another planet. As a matter of fact, our old language reflected this perspective by dividing the globe amongst the First (Modern/Western), Second (Communist), and Third (Impoverished) Worlds. Yet this language doesn’t quite fit. Stepping into a developing country is not like stepping into a different world; it’s like stepping back in time. It gives us a perspective into our own histories.
And here is the exciting part: Many of these developing countries are at the same stage of development the United States was in when 4-H and FFA were formed, albeit with larger and more rapidly growing populations. The need to share our FFA experience with others around the world is great. FFA gives opportunities to succeed, individually; it also collectively advanced and modernized America. We can create the same impact around the world!