RIPLEY, W.Va. - For the second consecutive year, West Virginia FFA membership has broken a state record.
During the 2018-19 school year, FFA membership grew to 6,469 members and 83 local chapters, exceeding last year's record by 1,100 students.
The announcement was made during the 91st West Virginia FFA Convention, held July 10-13 at Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley, West Virginia.
FFA is a youth organization that prepares students for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. Agricultural education is the fastest-growing career technical education (CTE) program and is introducing more students to the agriculture industry and the numerous career opportunities available, according to a news release from the West Virginia Department of Education.
"I'm so incredibly happy to see more and more of our great students getting involved in a wonderful program like the West Virginia FFA," Gov. Jim Justice said in the release. "As someone who's had a personal connection to the agriculture and farming industries for as long as I can remember, I've always been a big supporter of this program. It gives our students incredible opportunities for a hands-on education, and to see their numbers going up and up is a great thing for the future of our entire state."
"Agricultural education and FFA provides our students with the type of rich learning experiences that have a profound effect on the paths they take from high school," West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said in the recent release. "The leadership and analytical skills they develop in FFA will be a great asset to them regardless of what they end up doing in life."
According to the release, there are more than 235 careers that range from agrimarketing, communications and education to science, horticulture and natural resources.
While FFA is rooted in the tradition of rural farming, students from all parts of the country and state are learning about the impact of agricultural science and getting involved in local programs.
In West Virginia, student agricultural enterprises contribute approximately $5.5 million to the state's economy, the release said.
"The continued growth of our FFA chapters should make every West Virginian extremely proud," Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said in the release. "In addition to molding the next generation of farmers, FFA programs teach valuable life skills beneficial to the student no matter the career path. It is clear our children prosper from being a member of a West Virginia FFA chapter."