When it comes to corporate sponsorships, it’s hard to find a better fit than John Deere and the FFA. 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of John Deere’s sponsorship of one of the world’s largest youth leadership development organizations.
As the longest running corporate sponsor of the National FFA Organization, John Deere has contributed more than $13 million to the organization the past 75 years. That support today includes sponsoring career development events like Farm & Agribusiness Management and Forestry, in addition to programs that encourage student development, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.
Dave Gilmore, senior vice president, John Deere Financial, sits on the National FFA Foundation Sponsors’ Board. “There’s no doubt that FFA is unsurpassed in preparing today’s youth for tomorrow’s agricultural challenges, and I’m proud of our long relationship,” he notes. “FFA is not only building future leaders, but responsible citizens and stewards of our precious natural resources,” Gilmore added.
“Future Farmers of America” was founded by a group of young farmers in 1928, with a mission to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population.
Today, there are more than 653,000 FFA members, ages 12-21, in over 8,000 chapters in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In FFA’s early days, John Deere furnished newly-formed chapters with models of a walking plow. In addition, Deere’s farm magazine The Furrow devoted a page to FFA news in each issue. The article would recount activities of various chapters and some occasional amusing anecdotes like this one from May, 1947:
“A stunt which always proves popular at parents’ night meetings of the Oshkosh, Nebraska, chapter is to select four men from the audience, and then have two Future Farmers ‘judge’ them as fat steers.”
In 2014, Deere was among the first corporate partners to form an FFA Alumni Affiliate. From 13 charter members, the Deere Alumni Affiliate today has more than 375 members, largely concentrated in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Affiliate members help judge competitions, train chapter officers, mentor students, and assist local chapters. “Many employees, especially those who are FFA alums, are extremely passionate about FFA,” said Steve Conrad, who is the current president of the group. “They are committed to FFA and understand the critical need to develop future leaders and support Ag education,” he added.
Alumni Affiliate member Joel Hergenreter says everything good in his life today is because of FFA. “I have two primary passions in my life: precision ag and my family. FFA introduced me to precision ag, precision ag enabled my entry into John Deere, John Deere introduced me to my wife and then came our children. This combination of work and life passions makes my life whole!”
Corporate Sponsorships Manager Amy Allen has overseen the Deere-FFA partnership for the past six years. “Our first FFA contribution of $1,000 in 1943 may not have been much, but it set the stage for a mutually-beneficial relationship that has spanned seven decades,” she said. “We are proud to have had a small part in FFA’s success,” she said.