(Update: Adding video)
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- It’s a beautiful Saturday at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds for the Oregon Future Farmers of America State Convention, attended by over 2,500 kids who are excited to learn about leadership.
Because FFA is not just plows and cows any more.
Phil Ward, the CEO of Oregon State FFA, describes the atmosphere.
"So one of the things you'll notice if you make into the session hall this week is that it's a high-energy event, with a lot of really talented kids on stage talking about how FFA has changed their lives and affected their career path," he said.
With 15,000 student members statewide, these FFA students are smart, impressive. Two local young women are leaders here and excited for some intellectual debate.
Alina Walker said, "Both of us are on Bend FFA's chapter officer team. Jael is a district officer and working with a team and leadership, because we are completely student-led. It is incredible, but I have to say, the contest we are competing in today, 'Parli Pros' -- one of my favorites -- which is a form of organized debate using Robert's Rules of Order."
FFA has 29 career development events students can participate in, and leadership and debate aside, there is still room for animals and everything they teach students.
Jael Cruikshank said, "I personally show pigs right here at the Deschutes County Fair, as this is our county. So just in that barn back there, I come every year and raise a hog."
Students who want to raise a animal, but live in town still have a option for them. There are plenty of members who raise animals on another member's property, if they don’t have their own.
Walker explained, "These projects are called are called Supervised Agricultural Experiences, and they can come from anywhere. We have placement SAEs, so you're looking at working at a feed store or some agricultural business, or being a entrepreneur and raising your own animal.
"We have seen a wide range of SAEs, from beekeeping to business owner, and it’s an amazing opportunity for members," she said. "Personally, I raise cattle."
FFA has a lot of support from the business community. TJ Colson, president of Wilco farm stores tells us why he thinks it important to be here
"It"s important for me to be here today because i am a product of and ag and leadership program such as the ffa, and i am compelled to make sure that this industry moves forward and that will tell the story that there is opportunity whether you pursue higher education or whether you pursue the careers and technical side"
Most of all, last weekend, between the awards and the competition, the students showed me the sense of camaraderie, the excitement of being with their peers, excited to socialize and have conversations with the other future leaders of Oregon.