CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Leaders of West Virginia FFA announced Wednesday it reached a record membership during the 2017-2018 school year.

The organization announced it had 5,360 members across 77 chapters last year, surpassing the previous record set in 1963.

Jason Hughes, West Virginia’s FFA advisor, said agriculture education is the fastest growing career technical education program in the state.

“The growing FFA membership is a testament to the exceptional quality of educators teaching and advising students to meet future industry needs,” he said.

Hughes said the FFA is no longer focused solely on creating the next generation of farmers, but rather showing the different job opportunities in the agriculture industry.

“Agriculture is on the rise in this state as a potential for economic development as more people are interested in where their food is coming from,” he said. “There is a pretty large movement in farm-to-table and farm-to-school, and our ag-ed programs have taken advantage of that and many of our students have as well.”

Hughes said FFA students have helped generate an economic impact of $5.5 million for the state.

State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine said the growing popularity of FFA is inspiring.

“Membership cultivates leadership, supports personal and academic growth, and supports the diversity and new opportunities in the industry of agriculture,” he said. “The students, advisors and mentors who make FFA such a success should truly be proud of their achievement.”

Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt applauded the West Virginia FFA for the record membership.

“It is evident West Virginia contains the home-grown talent needed to expand our agricultural industries. In addition to inspiring the next generation of producers, FFA programs teach invaluable life skills to our students. Those involved in FFA learn everything from leadership to public speaking.” he said. “No matter their career path, these students benefit from being a member of a West Virginia FFA chapter.”

The West Virginia FFA is holding its annual convention this week at the Cedar Lakes Convention Center in Ripley. Members of the 1962-1963 officer team were on hand to congratulate the newest members for the record-breaking mark.

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