A sea of blue jackets stretched throughout the Indiana Convention Center Oct. 24-26 and into the streets of downtown Indianapolis, as the Future Farmers of America (FFA) hosted the world’s largest annual student gathering, including more than 500 scheduled events, and a large expo with over 400 exhibitors and vendors. This year’s event again saw record attendance, with over 68,000 FFA members, advisers, supporters and guests from across the U.S.
What’s Up With the Blue Jackets?
FFA is a youth organization that prepares students for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. Earth’s population will be 9.8 billion by 2050, requiring a 60 percent increase in agricultural production. People will need rapidly evolving talent, innovation and technical aptitude in outdoor fields. That’s where FFA hopes to make a difference.
All FFA members don a navy blue corduroy, zip-up jacket as part of the FFA official dress.
NALP at FFA
NALP represented the landscape profession and its numerous landscape industry careers at FFA with a modern, fun booth in the ‘Collegiate Connection’ section of the Expo, near several NALP-member colleges and universities. Conversation-starting yard games drew students in, including NALP-branded Bucket Ball, Giant Connect Four and Giant Jenga. The booth also showcased the new #WhyILandscape career-focused banner displays, a video loop of NALP career and NCLC videos, and contained distributable collateral, including career path information, as well as details on the LandscapeIndustryCareers.org site and job board.
NALP Staff members Jenn Myers, director of workforce development; Rex Bishop, director of technical education; and Courtney Lawlor, public affairs program manager, attended the 91st annual event. They were joined at the booth by Gail Reinhart (Hidden Creek Landscaping Inc.), Melody Evans (Hidden Creek Landscaping Inc.), Ed Schultheis (ThruPutNow), and Lynda Wightman (Hunter Industries). Gail, Ed, and Lynda are active members of NALP’s youth engagement and development committee. All worked together to spread the message that the landscape profession is both a vibrant and smart career choice.
Landscape Industry Careers – Front and Center
Beautiful plant material for the NALP booth was again provided by Indianapolis-based NALP member The Engledow Group. “Many visitors said our plant material drew them in and clearly helped indicate who we are as an industry,” Myers said.
“The positive response to our presence and message was overwhelming,” Myers added. “Many were pleased to see NALP and the landscape profession there for a second straight year. Several faculty said they use NALP materials and the careers site in their classrooms. We believe FFA members represent an audience vital to our profession’s future.”
This year, Myers also had the opportunity to speak with several middle and high school educators during an FFA Teacher Workshop. Her presentation focused on landscape industry careers and showcased videos from NALP’s careers site, strongly encouraging those in attendance to provide landscape-related curriculum and training in their classrooms.
A highlight of FFA Convention & Expo every year is the Nursery/Landscape CDE (Career Development Event). Stihl sponsors this competition, where students showcase their skills maintaining landscape plants, evaluating equipment and services, and designing landscapes.
Spreading the Good Word About Landscape Industry Careers
We look forward to attending this event in 2019 and beyond. If you are interested in learning more about NALP’s trip to Indianapolis or participating with us next year, please contact Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org.