‘Legends’ Of Ag

FFA’ers Past And Present Celebrate 85th Anniversary

Posted: March 20, 2013

State Ag Commissioner Matt Lohr (center) helps observe 85 years of FFAwith FFA Co-Vice Presidents Michael Arthur, 19, of Clarke County and Rebekah Slabach, 19, of Halifax County. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Brianna Cave, president of the Blue Ridge Community College FFA chapter, presents the 85th anniversary logo and a framed photo of the original FFA members to the community during Tuesday’s celebration.
Retired educator Ed Long reminisces Tuesday at Blue Ridge Community College about his FFA years.
WEYERS CAVE — For National Agriculture Day, Weyers Cave had its own unique piece of history to contribute.

Twenty-eight Weyers Cave High School students formed the first chapter of Future Farmers of Virginia, which later became Future Farmers of America, in 1927.

A room scattered with the traditional dark blue FFA jackets honored that legacy Tuesday with an 85th anniversary celebration of the organization sponsored by Blue Ridge Community College’s collegiate FFA chapter.

Not only was Tuesday National Agriculture Day, but this week is Virginia Agriculture Week and Virginia Agriculture Literacy Week.

During the event at the college’s Robert E. Plecker Workforce Center, the BRCC chapter honored several local FFA “legends,” such as McGaheysville area resident Ed Long.

Long, 78, was a member of the Weyers Cave High School FFA chapter. After high school, as an adviser to the chapter, he would take groups of young people — many of whom had never been away from their family farms for even a full night — to FFA conferences at Virginia Tech.

“[FFA] meant so much to a lot of the young people,” Long explained in an interview after the event.

He taught agriculture at the former Elkton High School from 1959 through 1966 before becoming principal. He retired as the director of vocational education for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

That was his position when Virginia Agriculture Commissioner Matt Lohr came through the FFA program as a Broadway High School student.

Long remembers Lohr’s move into the roles of state FFA president and national vice president.

“The greatest thing that this organization can provide you is a servant’s heart,” Lohr said to the crowd Tuesday while wearing his own blue jacket from 22 years ago.

He explained three reasons why he believes agriculture is a thriving industry in Virginia that needs young leaders,  many of whom come through FFA.

For one, researchers estimate that the number of people in the world is expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Also, 70 percent of the farmland in Virginia is expected to change hands in the next 15 years, Lohr said.

Lastly, the local food movement has exploded since 2001 and will continue to grow, he added.

“There’s a tremendous opportunity for the future of agriculture,” Lohr said.

BRCC’s FFA chapter plans to have a sign sporting an 85th anniversary logo placed between the Weyers Cave Lions Club and Weyers Cave Ruritan Club signs along Va. 256. 

Though all 28 of the original Future Farmers of Virginia members have died, their legacy lives on at Virginia Tech’s FFA museum. The museum displays copies of the original club charter, a picture of the group and a list of the members’ names contributed by Long.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com

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