UA student elected to National FFA Officer Team

Mark Hammontree

Going into the ninth grade at Eufala High School, Jackson Harris joined a team of other high school students for a tractor repair competition. It was one of his first experiences with the Future Farmers of America, and five years later Harris still considers it one of his favorite memories of his time in the organization.

Harris, currently a sophomore majoring in community development through New College, was one of six students elected to the 2013-14 National FFA Officer Team on Saturday, Nov. 2 at the 86th National FFA Convention and Expo. As the Southern Region Vice President, Harris will spend the next year traveling across the country and internationally as a representative of the National FFA Organization.

With 579,678 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,570 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the National FFA Organization is one of the largest student-run organizations in the United States.

Harris said he was motivated to become more involved in the organization after attending his first national convention in 2008, where he listened as one of the outgoing national officers gave her retiring address to a crowd of over ten thousand.

“I set a goal then and there, not to necessarily be a national officer, but to go through FFA in a way that would let me offer something to the organization at a national level,” Harris said.

During his freshman year, Harris, along with another UA student who had served as a state FFA officer, began a collegiate FFA chapter at The University of Alabama to meet the need for a campus organization that talked about the agricultural industry and career opportunities and to support FFA chapters in west Alabama.

This semester, Harris has been taking agriculture at Oklahoma State University through the National Student Exchange. Harris said he chose to take the semester at OSU to be able to gain a better perspective on the agricultural environments of other parts of country, as well as the opportunity to take classes not offered at the University.

With his election as a national officer, Harris will not return to classes at the University until the spring of 2015.

“There’ll certainly be a lot of nights where I’m sitting in a hotel room somewhere, and I’ll be missing my parents and my golden retriever and my friends here at college,” Harris said.

Despite the long amount of time he will spend traveling far from home, Harris said he and the other national officers realize the value of their work and the purpose of the organization they represent.

“Luckily the sacrifice still makes a lot of sense to us all because we hold the organization in such high esteem, knowing what it can do for students,” Harris said.

Harris and the other national officers will have until Thanksgiving to wrap up their classes at their respective schools, before beginning training which will last for most of December.

Harris said he is proud and excited to be the first University of Alabama student to ever make the national officer team and hopes that he can give back to both FFA and the University.

“FFA got me on my first airplane. It got me in my first big city. It allowed me to travel my own state and learn a lot about where I came from,” Harris said. “I owe the organization a lot, and I’m excited for the opportunity to give back in some way.”