The 91st National FFA Convention was an overwhelming — and unifying — look forward. And, your eyes needed to be wide open to take it all in.
Impossible to miss were the more than 42,000 FFA members in blue corduroy jackets, coming in waves … each swell bigger than the one before it. In total, more than 69,000 people attended the convention. There were the vendors — from college recruiters to car makers to manufacturers of agricultural equipment. And there were the must-sees, including a fortune teller named John Deere.
The blue jackets serve as an immediate identifier of FFA’s impact — a symbol of common beliefs. Of course, it is the names on the front and the locations on the back that make them unique. Eagle Point, Oregon. Deep Trail, Colorado. Lakeland, Virginia.
Fifty states in all, as well as Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, representing countless communities, linked by a love and understanding of agriculture.
The four-day event held at Indianapolis’ Indiana Convention Center also was a celebration of John Deere’s 75 years supporting FFA and the future of agriculture.
At three-quarters of a century, John Deere’s ties to FFA run deep.
Today, FFA is a much larger organization with with more than 8,600 chapters. It serves students ages 12-21 in areas of agriculture and leadership development with 670,000 FFA members nationwide.
See highlights from the floor of the 2018 National FFA Convention.
A Shared Vision
During his keynote address, Deere’s Chairman and CEO Sam Allen acknowledged the shared vision and goals of the two organizations.
“John Deere’s core values are highlighted by integrity and commitment — two principles that shine brightly in FFA’s own Code of Ethics,” Allen said. “Both organizations believe in the great benefits that agriculture provides to society. And both organizations believe in the future and place great faith in it.”
With the help of FFA, John Deere also captured the past by constructing a time capsule filled with iconic items from both organizations. The time capsule was gifted to the National FFA Foundation and won’t be opened until 2093, 75 years from now. But it was the future that literally took center stage on countless presentations, whether they were student workshops or forward-looking topics like feeding the world in the technology-driven Blue Room.
As much as the future was in focus, FFA members enjoyed the present, seeing old friends from across the country and taking the time to see what may change their work on the farm.
“I like walking around all the booths to see what is new and improved,” said Herb Summe, a high school senior with the Ross-Butler chapter in Hamilton, Ohio. “It’s an opportunity to meet up with friends who are far away.”
John Deere Booth Puts Students, Future Together
At 4,000 square feet, John Deere’s Future You booth at the 91st annual National FFA Convention provided both entertainment and truth in advertising.
The Future You theme was backed up with career pods, interactions with Deere’s cutting-edge technology, and the star of the show – a fortune telling display featuring John Deere himself. The interactive display projected John Deere’s image on screen and spit out printed fortunes for anyone willing to interact with his quick wit.
“A lot of thought went into our booth,” Amy Allen, manager of corporate sponsorships, said. “It was the right balance of information and entertainment, showing FFA members how Deere and their future could be one together.”
John Deere’s booth was one of more than 400 that occupied the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Eye-popping photography and graphics grabbed attention. But the mix of learning and fun activities kept the Deere booth busy with a constant stream of attendees.
“I’ve looked at a lot of the technology here at the John Deere booth, and they have a lot of technology that I haven’t seen yet,” said Josh Schildmeier, a student from the Boonville, Missouri, FFA chapter.
In addition to career pods – focused on agronomy, agribusiness, engineering, technology, and John Deere tech programs – interaction around Deere advancements in technology captivated both students and adults. The booth featured a participatory game show with questions about Deere innovations; iPads that provided a three-dimensional look at products; and a weed stomping game that mirrored “Dance, Dance Revolution” and showcased the company’s “See & Spray” technology.
The John Deere as a fortune teller had a “Wizard of Oz,” man-behind-the-curtain feel to it as real-time, non-scripted responses left many guests stumped.
“I’m not really sure what’s going on inside there,” Michael McKay said as he pointed at the display. “He knew too much about me,” the Corvallis, Montana, chapter student added.