Agriculture commissioner on hand for FFA groundbreaking

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam shakes hands with Brendan Register, 17, president of the Taylor Middle-High School chapter of the National FFA Organization (also known as Future Farmers of America) before a groundbreaking ceremony for the new National FFA Organization Headquarters at the Florida Farm Bureau Monday, March 10, 2014.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, March 10, 2014 at 5:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 10, 2014 at 5:36 p.m.

With the building that is to become the new Florida FFA Association state headquarters behind him, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam addressed the 100 or so middle school- and high school-aged FFA members clad in their trademark blue corduroy jackets with gold lettering at Monday's groundbreaking ceremony.

“One of you is going to have the cure for some future citrus disease, some future peanut blight, some future grain ailment, some livestock challenge,” he said. “One of you is going to find a new way to market a product that's going to keep Florida on the cutting edge. One of you is going to find a way to resolve our water challenges that beset our state. One of you is going to find a way to go into a classroom as a future ag teacher and inspire the next generation who will wear that blue jacket, and so that virtuous cycle is what we're here to celebrate today.”

About 250 people, including Florida FFA and Florida Farm Bureau leaders, members, parents and teachers attended the groundbreaking Monday morning on the Florida Farm Bureau campus at 5700 SW 34th St.

Putnam apologized for Gov. Rick Scott, who he said had to cancel at the last minute.

The Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Company and private donors are funding the $1.5 million project to turn a former day care into the FFA's 6,000-square-foot state headquarters to include offices, conference rooms and dormitories for state officers.

The Florida FFA has been leasing 1,600 square feet of office space in the Farm Bureau building.

Emily Fredriksson, 17, president of the Lafayette High School chapter, said it will help for the association to have more room for events throughout the year.

She said the FFA has taught her a lot through leadership conferences and parliamentary procedure competitions.

“I've gained so many skills like leadership and speaking and confidence,” she said.

Carlie Vining, 13, president of the Williston Middle School chapter, said the members came to show their support and appreciation before going to a soil judging event at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences facility in Citra. Next week, club officers will attend leadership training in Tallahassee as part of Ag on the Hill.

The Florida FFA Association provides resources and support to more than 300 local middle and high school chapters. Executive Director Ronnie Simmons said a record number of students are enrolled in agricultural education — more than 50,000, including 17,000 FFA members — and contributions to support the programs increase each year.

Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick said his organization's contribution is representative of the partnership it has had with the FFA for 70 years.

“We're able to recognize that the future of Florida agriculture rests in the hands, the hearts and the minds of our youth today, and that future is bright in my opinion,” he said.

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