By Sydney Snider, OCJ FFA reporter
As a student who grew up around FFA and agricultural education, Luke Jennings knows the impact the organization has on students and communities.
“I have been around FFA my whole life,” said Jennings, a freshman member of the Felicity-Franklin FFA Chapter. “And I have seen how it has changed so many lives.” Jennings’ mom is the FFA advisor and agricultural education teacher at Felicity-Franklin high school, located in Clermont County. The impact of FFA is what led Jennings to apply for the 2018 Culver’s essay program. The program asks students to explain what the most recent National FFA theme means to them. This past year’s theme was “I Can. We Will.”
In his essay, Jennings wrote, “If we believe in the future of agriculture, then we must become advocates for agriculture. As the world’s population is rapidly growing and is approaching 10 billion people by 2050, we agriculturists must feed and clothe these people. It is estimated that less than 2 percent of the population are involved in the production of food. To end world hunger, to feed the world and to put agriculture back in the spotlight, we must raise agriculturists. Maybe I can feed 50 people as a single farmer, but together we will feed the entire planet.”
Each year, Culver’s selects three essays to receive award money: $7,500 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $2,500 for third place. The money goes to the student’s chapter to support FFA trips and event costs.
Jennings was named the first place winner this year and was overwhelmed with joy. “When I found out I won I was actually in the car on the way to an orthodontist appointment and my mom got a call saying that they really, really liked my essay,” said Jennings who was shocked that he won. “When I submitted my essay I did not really think I had much of a shot. Besides I was only an eighth grader and there were hundreds of submissions from across the country written by people of all ages. I was just at a loss of words.”
The award money will help cut down costs for the chapter to attend the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis this coming October. Jennings is proud that his essay will help more students from his home chapter expereince national convention.
“In my small community, the poverty line is very high. I wanted to participate in this essay contest to hopefully allow more students to experience the things they normally wouldn’t have been able to do. Last year, my chapter took over 60 students to national convention for a five-day trip. I hope my contributions will be able to increase this number,” said Jennings, who added that the goal is for his chapter to take 80 members to national convention.
Jennings believes more students should participate in the Culver’s essay program because of the lasting impact it can have.
“First of all, I would like to say how thankful I am for Culver’s support of American agriculture and FFA. Secondly, I would like to say that anything can happen,” he said. “Even if you don’t think you can win, anything is possible. I was so honored to win this contest as an eighth grader against so many older participants. Even though personally you don’t gain any money from this contest, the money your chapter receives will benefit so many more people.”
Jennings ended his first place essay by stating that the essay theme, “I Can. We Will.” is more than a theme, “it is a mindset and attitude that everyone across the world needs.”
The Ohio FFA Association congratulates Jennings on his first place essay! If you would like more information on the Culver’s essay program, visit www.culvers.com/essaycontest.