High school students learn leadership on the future of food

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COLUMBIA - It's likely you've seen the sea of high school students dressed in corduroy jackets all around Columbia on Thursday. Students from 300 schools across Missouri gathered for the 88th annual National Future Farmers of America Organization convention hosted in the Hearnes Center Thursday and Friday. FFA expects about 8,500 students and parents to attend the convention.    

"Whenever I've walked around people will come up and ask me why are you wearing that blue corduroy? What are you doing here? People are interested and curious," said Brandlyn Martin, Missouri FFA vice president.

The high school students in blue are part of the National FFA organization that revolves around helping prepare students for careers in agriculture. The organization has work-based learning type instruction, competitions and career and leadership development events.

Missouri State FFA Advisor Leon Busdieker said careers in agriculture aren't just raising cows and plowing fields. 

"One out of ten people in Missouri are involved in agriculture," Busdieker said. " One is involved in production agriculture but the other nine support that industry providing the seed, the chemicals the technology that the farmer uses on the other side and is taking that product and putting it into an formula that the consumer wants and desires."
Busdieker said that agriculture is a top industry in Missouri. He doesn't expect that to change any time soon. 
"I think sometimes we don't see that business or occupation as being directly tied to production in agricultural so we think it's something else but it's all connected. It's all providing the food and fiber that we as consumers have come to rely on," Busdieker said.
Busdieker said the main goal of the convention is to get students excited about different careers and leadership opportunities within agriculture. 
Martin is a freshman at the University of Missouri and has been involved with FFA since high school. She said FFA has helped her in her future career choice as an agriculture journalist. 
"I actually do not come from a convention farming background. FFA has taught me that even though I don't have that background I can still learn about agriculture and still have a passion for industry without the farm background," Martin said. 
Busdieker encourages the Columbia community to talk to the FFA students while they are here to continue the conversation about food getting from the farm to the table. 
"If you see agricultures a whole and the opportunities for students today, as long as four out of four people continue to eat, we're going to need agriculture," Busdieker said.