by Milosh McAdoo, NC Pork intern and former NC FFA State Officer
There is something special about seeing a young person sporting the blue corduroy jacket of the National FFA Organization. This jacket may not be this year’s trendiest fashion statement; however, it does represent the deep love and passion that the more than 735,000 members throughout our country and over 20,000 North Carolina members have for agriculture, leadership development and career success. Since its inception, the National FFA Organization, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, has worked to cultivate positive experiences for middle school and high school agriculture education students, in order to foster leaders in schools, communities and future careers. Each year, the organization dedicates an entire week to celebrate its members and the successes of FFA. This week is National FFA Week!
This organization has impacted innumerous lives and developed strong leaders of agriculture; one of these leaders is current North Carolina FFA (NC FFA) State Officer, Gray Palmer of Hillsborough. As a state officer, Gray conducts workshops, gives keynote speeches and engages with industry stakeholders on behalf of all the members of the association. However, he didn’t just stumble into this position by accident.
Gray’s involvement in agriculture started long before he entered high school and became an official FFA member himself. In fact, it was his older brother Trey’s involvement in agriculture education and FFA that helped establish his love for the industry. While in high school, Trey, who served as a NC FFA State Officer from 2016 to 2017, was encouraged by his Orange County agriculture teacher to show a pig at a livestock show. After his older brother’s experience, Gray wanted to get in on the fun as well. Fast forward to today, and the family has won multiple hog shows and competed at a particularly high level at state and national competitions.
For Gray, his experiences have meant so much more than learning how to physically care for animals. Breeding, raising and training pigs for shows has instilled in him the value of working hard, and through his exposure to an abundance of industry leaders, has taught him how to effectively communicate and collaborate with others. His endeavors in the swine industry have also driven him to use all the skills he obtained to serve others. One of Gray’s biggest goals during his show career was to be in the Sale of Champions at the North Carolina State Fair. While this goal may not have come to fruition for himself, helping his younger sister obtain this honor felt just as impactful. With his love of learning more about the industry, he has also helped out a local commercial hog producer when he needed the assistance. This service and the lessons learned from being involved in the pork industry has directly translated to his experiences in the National FFA Organization.
There is no question that Gray has become a better member and leader in FFA because of his involvement in swine production. He has competed at the National FFA Livestock Judging Contest; won awards because of his pig projects; served as an officer at the chapter, regional and state levels; and most importantly, has inspired countless young folks to pursue agriculture. Many of these accomplishments can be attributed to his own history in raising pigs.
Gray is not an anomaly when it comes to the interchangeable impact that animal agriculture and FFA have on each other. FFA has produced key leaders within the animal agriculture industry and will continue to do so in the future. In fact, after finishing his degree in Agricultural Communications, Education and Leadership, Gray hopes to work in agriculture policy and law, advocating on behalf of pork producers and agriculturalists.
NC FFA plans to engage with members all throughout the week through social media, having a different theme for membership to post about each day! Find them on Instagram @ncffa and on Facebook by searching North Carolina FFA Association.