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Published October 12, 2010, 10:53 AM

FFA leader has seen many changes

Larry Case can teach you a thing or two about agriculture. Literally. Case is National FFA Organization adviser, making him the nation’s top agricultural education official.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Larry Case can teach you a thing or two about agriculture. Literally.

Case is National FFA Organization adviser, making him the nation’s top agricultural education official.

The Missouri farm boy, who’s set to retire at year’s end, has seen a major evolution in agriculture and his organization since he took the top job in 1984.

“There’s a big change toward technical content, more science and technology,” Case says.

The organization’s longstanding focus on production agriculture remains, but isn’t as dominant as it once was, he says.

FFA still helps future farmers and ranchers. It also prepares members for careers in everything from sales to research.

Case, 67, played a key role in FFA’s transformation.

He grew up a small livestock farm in Missouri and joined FFA in seventh grade. His rural high school had only 43 students.

The farm didn’t generate much income and other family members wanted to farm, so farming wasn’t an option for him, Case says.

But Case made his career in agriculture anyway.

In 1966, he began teaching ag education at a rural high school in Missouri. Over time, he assumed greater responsibilities at the local, district and state levels. He served as the Missouri director for vocational and ag education for seven years.

He took over national leadership of what then was the Future Farmers of America in 1984. The organization took the National FFA Organization banner in 1988, though it usually refers to itself as FFA.

The 1980s weren’t an easy time for the organization. It was losing membership, reflecting the nationwide trend of fewer and bigger farms. With fewer farm kids as potential members, FFA needed to change with the times.

As National FFA Organization leader, Case “guided creation of a strategic plan and a strong management team” that lead to “tremendous membership growth and educational innovation,” according to the U.S. Department of Education news release announcing Case’s retirement.

FFA reached a record-high 523,00 members nationally this year.

Case is based in Arlington, Va., close to the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, which provides leadership and helps to set direction for the FFA.

Most of the National FFA Organization’s daily operations are conducted in offices in Indianapolis.

Case, for his part, says the changes in his 26 years in the top spot reflect FFA’s determination to remain relevant to the needs of young Americans.

He’s optimistic FFA will continue to evolve as necessary.

He offers this advice for young people: “Find out what you’re interested in, what you’re passionate about, and do it.”

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