5th & 6th grade FFA expansion depends on educators, school boards

The new school year means FFA chapters can expand membership to 5th and 6th graders, but an education official says that expansion won’t automatically happen everywhere.

Sally Ladsten with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction tells Brownfield many schools have a robust ag education program, but they might not be ready to expand to the lower grades. “We do see some schools in the State of Wisconsin that are offering 5th and 6th-grade agriculture courses that I think will definitely capitalize on this opportunity, but for others, it will be a decision of if they’re ready to make that jump or not based on the capacity of their agriculture teachers.”

Ladsten says some schools might have the ability to expand the FFA program while others are using all available resources to maintain what they have, so each district must decide what works for them. “At a middle school level in particular, we often see a lot of exploratory courses exploring the agriculture industry, and so school districts might choose to have a 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th-grade course. Some schools might say what they have now is working and they might not have the capacity to go to those lower levels.”

Ladsten says the department is excited to see FFA growth and expansion to the lower grade levels, but they’re not sure what that might look like yet.

She says like the existing FFA members, the 5th and 6th graders will need to be in an agriculture class with a licensed agriculture instructor to qualify for FFA, and agriculture educators remain in short supply.

AUDIO: Sally Ladsten with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction discusses FFA expansion with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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