The National FFA Organization was established in 1928, known then as Future Farmers of America. The organization officially changed its name to the National FFA Organization in 1988, and is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, featuring more than 669,000 members and more than 8,600 chapters.
The goal of the organization is to provide students with opportunities for personal growth, help develop their potential for leadership and support future career success through agricultural education.
Missouri FFA ranks fifth in the United States with nearly 26,000 members, making it a popular organization for students in the state. Each April, many of those students make the trip to the University of Missouri to attend the state convention. This year, MU was host to a group who is on a mission to replicate the success of the National FFA Organization overseas – the Future Farmers of Ukraine (FFU).
A total of 13 individuals from the Ukraine, including students, teachers and a farmer, made the trip to connect with Missouri FFA members and advisors. The group was able to experience the state convention, meet with Missouri state officers and other members, and discuss opportunities with MU faculty, staff and students.
“This trip was amazing,” said Anna Stepaniuk, who has been a member of the Uman FFU Chapter since 2018. “The first second we arrived at the University of Missouri, it was incredible. We’re so thankful to everyone who helped us make this trip real. You can read about conventions and learn about them while surfing through the internet, but it made it so amazing to actually experience it.”
The group from the Ukraine were guests of the Agricultural Education and Leadership program at MU. The United States Agency for International Development, through the Ukraine Agriculture and Rural Development Support (ARDS) Program, funded the trip.
“This has been a tremendous experience to be able to showcase agricultural education in the United States,” said Jon Simonsen, associate professor, director of graduate studies and program chair, Agricultural Education and Leadership. “I look forward to continuing the collaboration to assist in developing the Future Farmers of Ukraine.”
Stepaniuk and several of her fellow FFU members were welcomed to the stage during the third session of the convention. The group exchanged gifts with the Missouri state officer team, including flags from their respective organizations. Stepaniuk also had the opportunity to speak to the more than 8,000 Missouri FFA members and guests in attendance.
“I was amazed when I had to make a speech in front of everyone,” Stepaniuk said. “I wanted to leave. But with the support of my team and the Missouri FFA members, who I didn’t even know, I got through it. They were cheering for me even though they didn’t know me and that meant a lot.”
FFU is a public youth organization in Ukraine that was established just three years ago through the Ukrainian Agrarian Council. Following the National FFA Organization model, FFU is focused on teaching youth aged 14 to 18 leadership skills and offering them opportunities for personal growth and career success in the agrarian sector.
“Our structure is a little different than the National FFA Organization,” said Olena Yaroshynska, principal of the Ukrainian Agrarian Lyceum, coach of the Methodological Center and FFU national coordinator. “We weren’t able to integrate FFU with the high schools across Ukraine, so we created our own private establishment. We began by creating chapters in the regions where farmers and agribusinesses were willing to support our youth. We get help from the agribusinesses in each area, who help let our youth know about FFU.”
FFU chapters are spread throughout Ukraine. Each chapter has a leader, generally a farmer in the respective area. The group who made the trip to Columbia featured members of the Uman, Sokolovka and Bilogiria Chapters.
“Our students are supported and financed by local farmers who are interested in the development of the youth,” Yaroshynska said.
Along with the FFU, a Ukrainian Agrarian Lyceum, who Yaroshynska is the principal of, has recently been created. The Lyceum is an academic institution for sophomore and juniors in the Ukraine who are looking to create opportunities and train youth who are motivated to make a difference in agriculture in the future.
Those who made the trip were: Yaroshynska; Tetiana Bondar, coach of the Methodological Center, teacher of the Ukrainian Agrarian Lyceum, FFU local trainer; Alla Tovkes, coach of the Methodological Center, teacher of the Ukrainian Agrarian Lyceum, FFU local trainer; Oleksandr Kosenyuk, FFU member (Sokolovka Chapter), farm owner; Dmytro Horodnichev, FFU member since 2017 (Uman Chapter); Kateryna Krasovska, FFU member since 2018 (Uman Chapter); Stepaniuk; Antonii Radzivilov, FFU member since 2017 (Uman Chapter); Ivan Yalovchuk, FFU member since 2018 (Bilogiria Chapter, Khmelnytsk Region); Vladyslav Koseniuk, FFU member since 2018 (Sokolovka Chapter); Yuliya Denysyeva, interpreter/translator; Vladyslav Karpenko, rural business development expert; and Yelena (Alona) Guseva, project management associate.
“It was exciting to see how the hard work that Missouri has put in is paying off in terms of supporting youth,” Yaroshynska said. “The convention also demonstrates the power of the organization and its influence. It really motivates us as we return to Ukraine.”