The Arkansas FFA Association, founded in 1928, is one of the premier organizations educating and engaging the future of the state’s agriculture industry. And while current members – all 14,562 of them – experience life-changing opportunities and learn valuable lessons, the impact of FFA doesn’t stop after high school.
Four prominent Arkansas FFA members have left their legacy on the state’s FFA program. Most recently, Arkansas FFA was honored that two of its own served as back-to-back national FFA officers – Taylor McNeel as the 2015-16 National FFA president and Victoria Maloch, 2014-15 National FFA secretary. Two other Arkansas FFA leaders, Marion Fletcher and Troy Buck, both recently retired as agricultural educators and incredible mentors to agriculture students across the state.
Read on to learn just how FFA affected each leader’s outlook on life:
Taylor McNeel joined FFA as a freshman in high school after growing up showing livestock in 4-H. “The first thing I did was creed speaking,” she says. “My advisor asked me if I wanted to compete at a local level. After that, I got into livestock judging, public speaking and traveling a lot. That’s when I really started falling in love with FFA.”
After attending the state FFA convention for the first time as a rising senior, McNeel says she was blown away, thinking it was the coolest thing she’d ever experienced.
“I decided to run for state office, and no one in my chapter had ever tried to run,” she says.
She was elected to state office as president for the 2013-14 year, then decided to run for national office, earning the spot of National FFA president for the 2015-16 term.
“After high school, I still felt like I had a lot to give,” she says.
Throughout her term and travels, McNeel says she found that one of the coolest things about FFA is how students across the world have found a home there.
“In agriculture, it doesn’t matter where you come from. We can all be connected; everyone comes from different walks of life,” she says.
Victoria Maloch wanted to join FFA for as long as she could remember, after observing her older siblings’ experiences. When she joined in eighth grade, she hit the ground running.
“From serving as a chapter officer to participating in career development events such as prepared public speaking and more, I couldn’t get enough,” Maloch says.
She was elected to serve as National FFA secretary – just like her father. Currently, Maloch is studying agricultural business at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and was recently awarded the Truman Scholarship, which supports the graduate education for young leaders in public service.
She plans to use the funds to obtain either a juris doctor degree or a master of public policy, so she can become involved in food, agriculture and rural policy.
“FFA prepared me to pursue a career in policy not only by letting me experience Washington, D.C., through programs like the Washington Leadership Conference, but also by helping me develop my speaking skills, learn to manage team dynamics and understand the value of civic participation,” Maloch says.
Involved in ag education for 53 years, Marion Fletcher recently retired as Arkansas state FFA advisor. He’s known for always being surrounded by a group of blue jackets, mentoring and befriending the youth of Arkansas FFA.
“Agricultural education and FFA are so important because you’re working with youth who are the leaders of tomorrow,” he says. “That young boy or young girl, who perhaps didn’t feel like they fit in anywhere else, become leaders.”
Fletcher also served as the National FFA treasurer for many years and was given the first-ever National Advisor’s Golden Owl Award at the 2015 National FFA Convention & Expo, honoring his 50-plus years in ag education.
“It’s been a great career, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Fletcher says. “I hope that I can still be of some benefit and use my time now to develop a stronger FFA in this great state and nation.”
Troy Buck, a longtime vocational ag teacher and FFA mentor, recently retired after 55 years in the classroom. He has received many accolades in his career, including being inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame, recognized by Farm Credit as one of the 100 leaders changing rural communities for the better, honored three times as Arkansas ag teacher of the year, and receiving the Pioneer Award from the Arkansas Department of Vocational Education in 1982. His student-run Centerpoint High School meat processing lab – still in operation – was named the Outstanding Ag Program in America in 2000.
But despite the recognition, Buck says his proudest accomplishment is seeing his kids succeed.
“To me, that’s what it was always all about,” he says. “God has really blessed me with kids who wanted to learn and do things, and they did.”
Buck says that FFA is so important for younger generations because it’s the way we’re going to feed the world.
“FFA and agriculture is the way I think that has to be done,” Buck says. “I’m concerned about inner cities and places where people don’t know where food comes from. I hope ag teachers and rural folks can continue to uphold values and virtues to help our world.”