Boys were leaving the farms.
The Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act (1917) sought to “provide for the promotion of vocational education … in agriculture and the trades and industries”. Initially not available in Hawaiʻi, the provisions of the Act were extended to the Islands on March 10, 1924.
The law provided funding “for agricultural education that … is under public supervision or control; that the controlling purpose of such education shall be to fit for useful employment …”
“… that such education shall be of less than college grade and be designed to meet the needs of persons over fourteen years of age who have entered upon or who are preparing to enter upon the work of the farm or of the farm home”. (USDA)
Later, on the continent, Walter S Newman proposed forming an organization that offered farm boys “a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way they will develop confidence in their own ability and pride in the fact that they are farm boys.”
In 1925, Newman and a few other Virginia Tech agricultural education teacher educators (Henry Groseclose, Harry Sanders, and Edmund Magill) spoke of forming agriculture classes for boys.
The idea was presented during an annual vocational rally in the state in April 1926, where it was met positively. The Future Farmers of Virginia was born. Two years later, the idea reached the national stage during the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City, Mo.
‘Manual education’ was not new in Hawaiʻi, especially agricultural training and hands on experience.
Instruction in elementary agriculture for boys and in homemaking for girls became a strong feature of public education under Richard Armstrong’s administration.
Armstrong was the second Minister of Public Instruction in Hawaiʻi (and often referred to as the father of American public education in Hawaiʻi.) His administration made very real contributions to education in agriculture in Hawaiʻi.
JE Higgins was appointed teacher of agriculture for the Honolulu schools in 1900. His work in 7 schools consisted mostly of growing vegetables, flowers, sorghum, sweet potatoes, strawberries, corn, carrots, and the beautification of the school grounds.
In 1908 an itinerant vocational instructor was appointed for each of the major island. The instruction was mainly prevocational and consisted, for the most part, of practical instruction in gardening. (History of Agricultural Education)
Back on the continent … in 1928, 33 students from 18 states gathered in Kansas City to form the Future Farmers of America.
Then, in the Islands … on December 28, 1928, delegates from seventeen island chapters met at Lahaina, Maui to draft the Territorial Constitution.
The following chapters were represented: Kona, McKinley, John M. Ross (Hakalau,) Maui, Lahainaluna, Laupāhoehoe, Haiku, Honokaa, Hilo Intermediate, Aiea, Pāhala, Makawao, James Dole (Leilehua,) Pahoa, Molokai, Kohala and Hilo High. WW Beers was the first Territorial Adviser of the Hawaiian Association Future Farmers of America.
On April 20, 1929, Charter Number 13 of the Future Farmers of America was issued to the Hawaiian Association. By winning the State association award in 1934, the Hawaiian Association became the outstanding association of the Future Farmer organization for that year.
In 1929, national blue and corn gold became the official colors of FFA. A year later, delegates adopted the official FFA Creed and by 1933 the familiar Official Dress of blue corduroy jackets was adopted.
Girls were restricted from the earliest forms of FFA membership by delegate vote at the 1930 national convention. It wasn’t until 1969 that females gained full FFA membership privileges (today, females represent more than 45 percent of FFA members and roughly half of all state leadership positions.)
Since 1928, millions of agriculture students have donned the official FFA jacket; all 50 states are currently chartered members of the national organization, representing 610,240 individual FFA members and 7,665 local chapters. It’s a testament to the power of common goals and the strong ideals of the FFA founders.
Their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They taught us that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art. (FFA)