Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe drove two John Deere tractors to the Capitol on Friday morning in honor of students driving their tractors to school during National FFA Week.
National FFA Week, established in 1948, is a time for National FFA Organization members to raise awareness about the importance of agricultural education.
More than 200 Missouri FFA students attended the event, which included an agricultural career day and a proclamation ceremony where Parson, a fourth-generation farmer, designated Feb. 22-29 as this year's National FFA Week in Missouri and encouraged the students to work hard to be successful leaders. He said the influence they have on others is the most important aspect of leadership, and he wouldn't be standing there if it weren't for the influence older generations had on him.
"It's about making the people around you better," Parson said. "That's true leadership. That's what makes you successful."
Yomar Roman, the National FFA Southern Region vice president, travels from Puerto Rico to two states each year. His role is to see how members celebrate FFA Week at the local level and to hear their stories so he can share them at board meetings in other states. Roman attends the University of Puerto Rico, and he wants to be an agriculture teacher and farmer after he graduates.
Roman didn't originally plan to be involved in agriculture or FFA. He worked for two years to try to get into a prestigious high school in Puerto Rico, but he was not accepted. Feeling lost, his adviser suggested a local high school that had agriculture classes.
"That was not a moment of fail," Roman said. "She was guiding me to my destiny."
Roman said FFA is more than agriculture — it's about the people you meet.
"It's about the family," he said. "A family that accepts everyone, doesn't matter sexual orientation, the color of their skin, the name they call God, where they came from, the language, how they look. This is a home."
FFA member Chase Daniel, a senior at Greenfield High School, plans to go back to his family's farm after he graduates from college. Daniel said he enjoys traveling and learning about different agriculture methods across the country.
"I know that I wouldn't have the knowledge that I do now without FFA," he said.
FFA member Hattie Taylor, another Greenfield High School senior, said she plans to get a culinary arts degree in hospitality management. She also grew up on a farm, and her family raised and sold cows.
"I just like how we were a big part of the food society supporting our whole nation selling our beef, and it just influenced me to be a part of that in selling and producing more," she said.
Taylor said FFA has expanded her knowledge and perspective.
"It helps you build leadership, get new friends, experience life in a different way," she said. "We go to national conventions, we get to travel places, see how other people live. It's just a whole new way of looking at the world."