TRAFALGAR — Leah Jacobs took her first agriculture class in seventh grade at Eastern Hancock Middle School.
She was hooked for life.
This week, the recently named Indiana FFA state reporter takes that passion on the road during National FFA Week, Feb. 18 to 25. Jacobs, who will travel to 11 different FFA chapters in east central Indiana, estimated she’ll drive more than 900 miles to promote agriculture and the FFA program.
Jacobs, 20, was named to the prestigious Indiana State FFA officer team in June. The intensive ambassador program requires its seven participants to defer college for one year and move into an FFA-owned home in Trafalgar; the students live and work together, traveling across the state putting on leadership conferences for FFA members and supporters.
This week, the goal of National FFA Week is to promote FFA to the public and schools and to celebrate the importance of FFA and its history, Jacobs said. How she chooses to do that depends on what school FFA officials request from her, whether it’s to sit in on a chapter meeting to lend her expertise or to talk about leadership, teamwork or another topic that affects the chapter, she said.
“Each school has different ways they celebrate,” said Jacobs, who graduated from Eastern Hancock High School in 2015. “It varies day to day.”
She and her fellow state leadership team members use a curriculum focused on growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture, which is based on the FFA vision statement.
Their talking points include talking about how students can grow as leaders, how they can build their communities and use their own career, whether it’s as an educator, an engineer or a farmer, to promote agriculture.
Watching Jacobs grow in her own leadership skills has been gratifying, said Jacobs’s father, Scott Jacobs, an agriculture teacher at Greenfield-Central High School.
“From a dad’s perspective, it’s rewarding to see my child gravitate to something I feel is important and develop those leadership skills that will be used in whatever career she chooses in the future,” he said.
Leah Jacobs, who is majoring in agriculture education at Purdue University, took a year off of college to serve with the state FFA leadership team. Though she is provided housing, a stipend and mileage, the position is primarily volunteer — but it’s been worth it, she said.
“It’s a great opportunity to go to so many agriculture businesses, meet FFA chapters and hopefully become a role model,” she said. “It’s crazy busy, but we love every minute of it.
Visiting her old stomping grounds was one highlight; Leah Jacobs and her fellow FFA state leadership members recently visited Eastern Hancock to play in a donkey basketball game — a fundraiser for FFA that’s become a longtime tradition.
Principal David Pfaff isn’t surprised to see his former student taking on the challenges of the leadership position; she always distinguished herself from other students throughout high school, he said.
“She was tireless, committed and always ultimately dependable,” Pfaff said. “She learned these lessons well from her parents, who truly raised her right. I always knew that if Leah was involved, it would be done extremely well.”
Each year, FFA chapters around the country celebrate FFA week by sharing with local, regional and national audiences what FFA is and the impact it has on members.
Some of the national initiatives taking place this week include a fundraiser at Tractor Supply stores to fund grants for FFA chapters, service projects being conducted by FFA chapters, Give FFA Day on Feb. 21, which encouraged members of the public to support various needs impacting FFA members and National Wear Blue Day on Friday for FFA members to show their organizational pride.