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Columbia Grain cultivates next generation through FFA

Find out how CGI's hands-on grain marketing initiative fosters education, leadership and talent development to grow future agricultural leaders.

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When I first started at Feed & Grain, it was drilled into me the issues we wanted to cover were the ones that kept feed mill, grain handlers and grain processors up at night. That's where the idea for New Crop came from: nothing has kept managers awake more for the past five years than the struggle to find the next generation of feed and grain employees.

We've discussed in past blogs about looking outside traditional recruitment pools to find new employees and recruits for the industry, but that doesn't mean the classic paths to a career in our industry have entirely dried up.

Columbia Grain International Legacy Program

In 2017, the USDA reported the average age of farmer producers in the U.S. was 57.5. This highlights the need to invest in education and cultivate a new generation of agriculturists to ensure a sustainable food supply for the future.

In response, Columbia Grain International (CGI) introduced the CGI Legacy Program, which supports local Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapters through a hands-on grain marketing initiative.

As a prominent player in grain origination, processing, and distribution, CGI maintains strong relationships with local producers in Washington, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota, enabling them to understand the requirements of a thriving agricultural industry.

The Legacy Program involves FFA students collaborating with local farmers to secure soft white wheat donations while receiving valuable marketing education from CGI. The funds generated by the program send students to leadership conferences and events, facilitating their growth as future agricultural leaders.

In its initial phase, the program allowed 19 students to attend the Idaho FFA State Leadership Conference at a reduced rate. In the future, the program aims to support FFA member travel to both the Idaho FFA State Leadership Conference and the National FFA Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, during the fall of 2023.

Future Farmers of America

Future Farmers of America is an organization the industry has long supported, and for good reason. This dynamic youth organization in the U.S. focuses on preparing students for leadership roles and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. Many of the feed and grain industry leaders were once in FFA, and many organizations choose to donate and participate in FFA as an opportunity to develop and recruit new talent.

There are several reasons to get involved in FFA:

  • Investing in the future: Supporting FFA allows companies to contribute to developing the next generation of agricultural leaders. By investing in the education and training of young individuals interested in agriculture, companies can help ensure a skilled workforce for the industry's future.
  • Access to talent: FFA provides a platform to connect with talented students passionate about agriculture. Companies can establish relationships with FFA members, identify potential employees, and recruit skilled individuals who have received hands-on education and training in agricultural sciences, technology, and business.
  • Industry promotion: Partnering with FFA allows companies to promote their brand and raise awareness about their products or services within the agricultural community. By aligning themselves with an organization dedicated to agricultural education and leadership, companies can enhance their reputation and credibility among stakeholders in the industry.
  • Corporate social responsibility: Supporting FFA demonstrates a company's commitment to corporate social responsibility by investing in the local community and fostering the growth of youth. It showcases a company's dedication to sustainable agriculture, education, and the well-being of future generations.
  • Networking and collaboration: Getting involved with FFA provides opportunities for networking and collaboration with other industry stakeholders, including farmers, educators, policymakers, and other companies. Companies can participate in FFA events, conferences, and initiatives to connect with like-minded individuals, share knowledge, and collaborate on projects that benefit the agricultural sector.
  • Workforce development: By engaging with FFA, companies can contribute to workforce development efforts by providing internships, scholarships, mentorship programs, or job opportunities to FFA members. This involvement helps bridge the gap between education and industry, fostering a pipeline of skilled agricultural professionals.

Is your company or organization involved in FFA or any other agriculture youth organization.? If not, consider it a relatively low-cost local way of investing and recruiting the next generation of employees.

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