Cargill partners with National FFA students to strengthen the future of food and agriculture
December 21, 2016
Beyond Instagram pictures of brunch and Snapchats of the latest cafeteria fail, today’s youth care deeply about food and agriculture. There is a growing movement of young people who want to know more about what they eat and where it comes from. This presents Cargill with an opportunity to engage a new generation of employees, farmers, and consumers.
One measure of this movement is membership growth in the National FFA Organization. Since 1951 Cargill has supported the National FFA and local associations and chapters in the markets it serves, investing more than $14 million. This support creates connections with future talent and fosters innovative career education.
Cargill understands the importance of education and recognizes that today’s students will be tomorrow’s agricultural leaders. With the population expected to escalate quickly by 2050, the agriculture industry needs talented, driven and passionate young people interested in helping feed the world.
In addition, sustainability, food security and nutrition are key focus areas for Cargill. FFA members are uniquely poised to address these issues though ag education and service engagement or experiential learning.
Cargill’s John Niemann, a leader in the company’s protein group, has been a lifelong member of FFA, including serving as a former Kansas state officer, and currently serves on the national board. He works diligently to promote and grow FFA, and has seen the relationship positively impact employee recruitment and retention at Cargill.
“FFA is seeing national growth,” said Niemann. “Specifically, it’s growing in diversity through renewed interest from students in urban and suburban areas in the country.”
Preparing tomorrow’s leaders
By connecting with students early in their educational journeys, Niemann says Cargill plays an important role in their success, as the students gain career and leadership skills through hands-on experiences. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it wasn’t for FFA,” he said.
One specific FFA program Cargill supports is the Agriscience Fair for middle and high school students, which recognizes student researchers studying the application of agricultural scientific principles and emerging technologies in agricultural enterprises.
“These kids are doing really good work here – collegiate level research. This program really fits well with Cargill. We are very diverse with how we are nourishing the world,” said Niemann. You can hear him speak more about the importance of FFA here.
Cargill also is a primary sponsor of FFA’s Blast Off program. As a leadership development program, Blast Off helps newly elected state FFA officers identify their strengths, develop personal growth plans, master speech writing and delivery, and develop personal management skills.
According to Niemann, consistent engagement with FFA supports these students throughout their educational careers and prepares them to be future Cargill employees, farmers, and knowledgeable consumers. The recent National FFA Convention had more than 64,000 attendees, and Cargill’s presence and work at the convention resulted in more than 1,200 students signing up to receive email newsletters about Cargill and career opportunities.
Attending the National FFA Convention for a student is quite an achievement. From Cargill’s perspective, it joins the opportunities to network with students and build awareness and understanding of the company – making the connection to the branded products they may be used to seeing on the farm.
“It’s about building the next generation of agriculturalists and scientists, educating and supporting their personal goals for success,” said Niemann. “Students of all backgrounds will be integral to Cargill’s success in years to come. Programs like FFA are key to bringing young people into agriculture and food production, including farming and working for companies like ours. This ongoing partnership will continue to attract new talent and engage current employees.”