It hadn't been too long Tuesday since the last time Gov. Mike Parson drove a tractor — that was Sunday. But his drive from the Governor's Mansion to the State Capitol in a biodiesel-fueled green John Deere was to show support for the next generation of Missouri farmers.
Parson — who has his own cattle farm in Bolivar — drove to the Capitol to join state agriculture and education leaders and dozens of local student members of the state chapter of the National FFA Organization to declare this week as National FFA Week in Missouri.
It's an FFA tradition to drive a tractor to school during National FFA Week, according to a news release from Parson's office.
"You get to see the future of agriculture out there today in these young men and women wearing those blue jackets. It was an honor for me to drive up there and be able to say hello to them for a minute," Parson said Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda.
He had greeted the students outside the Capitol after stepping out of the tractor — approximately 80 student FFA members who represented the local communities and schools of Nichols Career Center, Blair Oaks, California, Russellville, Eugene, Eldon, Tipton and Ashland.
"Missouri FFA continues to help the next generation rise up to meet the challenges of feeding a growing population by helping its members to develop their own unique talents and explore their interests in a broad range of career pathways through their experiences in agricultural education," according to the news release from Parson's office.
The United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs reported in 2017 the world's population nearing 8 billion people is expected to grow to 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. All of those people yet to be born will enter into a world that already has one out of every nine people undernourished — mostly in developing countries, and mostly in Asia, according to the U.N.
"Missouri's number one industry is agriculture, and the only way we're going to keep that going and be able to do the things to meet the demands of the world is through these young men and women, so it's important they're involved," Parson said.
Corban Bonnett, a senior at Blair Oaks High School, said he plans to pursue a career in agriculture by first attending College of the Ozarks.
"They have a fully operational dairy, hog and cattle farm, so I plan to enter into one of those and figure out what I would like to do," Bonnett said.
Bonnett has been in FFA for two years. Fellow Blair Oaks student Emma Hurst said the school's FFA chapter was chartered last year.
Bonnett said his family farms.
"We don't have any cows on it right now," he said. "We show steers in the Cole County Fair. We've been to the Missouri State Fair a couple of times," and they have chickens, too.
Hurst, a sophomore, said of her future career: "I'm very passionate about mental health and human health in general, and how agriculture affects that, so I'd like to go into an agricultural field.
"My mom, my sister and I own a company called Lady Livestock Company, and we have registered Angus (cattle)," she said of her background in agriculture.
Alec Krumm, a Jefferson City High School junior who attends Nichols Career Center, said he's in his third year of FFA. Krumm said he did not grow up into agriculture, but he raised rabbits and ducks with his older sisters.
"I want to go to college and get a bachelor's degree in environmental science and then go to law school so I can be an environmental lawyer," he said.
The FFA students at the Capitol on Tuesday also heard from eight agriculture business and policy leaders about insights into entering the workforce and what the future may hold for agriculture and rural communities in Missouri.
Missouri FFA has more than 25,000 members, according to the news release from Parson's office.