DANVILLE — Less than one percent of the Future Farmers of America achieve the National FFA American Degree. At their 85th convention last week, Fallon Jackson, a 2011 Danville Community High School graduate, earned the distinction.
Jackson is the first from the school to receive the honor, one that goes to only 3,245 of the FFA’s 540,379 members. Members can be age 12 to 21 and hail from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The award is the symbolic of the highest achievement of the organization.
“The first thing I thought was ‘wow,’” said Jackson, who now is a University of Kentucky student majoring in equine science and management. “I didn’t think that someone who came from a small farm like me could win it. Most are from bigger production farms and mine’s just five acres. It was astonishing that someone on a small scale could win it.”
Requirements include the FFA member be a high school graduate, earned and reinvested $7,500, and have above average leadership in FFA involvement. Jackson was as district officer, then chapter president, and finally district president. Her FFA advisor Duane Huge was not surprised his star student won.
“Her program continued to grow year after year. Her leadership in FFA over the years was just far and above what most of my students are. (As district president) she oversaw the FFA activities that were going on at about 14 schools in our district,” he explained. “They’re like sports conferences and we’re in district 8. A lot of our FFA competitions that we participate in throughout the year are based in a district and she oversaw most of those things that took place in the district. She also served on the state nominating committee for state officers to help select a new state officer team.”
Jackson, if she has her druthers, intends to one day manage a thoroughbred farm that specializes in race horses. She said that the FFA experience has been valuable to her not only professionally, but personally.
“It helped me with public speaking, definitely. When I was a freshman going into high school, I was really shy, wouldn’t make eye contact, couldn’t form thoughts on the go and (FFA) taught me to speak my mind. If you get super involved, there’s leadership potential,” she said, adding that the FFA also helps to prepare youths for the job market by coaching them on resume and interviewing skills.
Very active in the Hendricks County 4-H program showing horses and beef, Jackson was also named Miss Congeniality of the 2010 Hendricks County Fair.
“I would say what will make her a success is that she has a real drive and a real strong work ethic that’s been shown throughout the FFA program and being able to achieve all that she does,” said Huge.
He also champions what FFA can do for young people, and calls the agriculture industry one that sometimes is misunderstood, and one that is growing, not regressing.
“(FFA) really gives them opportunities to develop potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agriculture education.
“Agriscience is a great job growth area,” he added. “Even through this economy we’ve had the last couple years, (schools) have mentioned they’ve not had a problem finding jobs for their agriculture majors. The biggest problem we have with young people is that all they see is farming. They think agriculture is just about farming. They don’t appreciate all the other jobs that go into supplying the farmer with all those goods and services he/she needs or what happens to the product once the farmer sells it.”
“What I would encourage the younger generation to do is if someone does have a farm, take it over whenever your parents or grandparents decide to retire. There’s no community like the agriculture community,” said Jackson. “Utilize all the resources that you have. Get in contact with someone that works on a larger farm. People in the agriculture industry are always willing to help out someone who wants to do something.”