Have you ever heard of the Future Farmers of Dixie? If the FFA had not been created in 1928, you would probably be familiar with the Future Farmers of Dixie. Plans were drawn up for this organization, but they were never implemented because the FFA was created. In this Footnote we will learn what the plans were and why they were never enacted.
In the Early Days of Vocational Agriculture!
The Smith-Hughes Act was enacted in 1917. The National Future Farmers of America came into existence in 1928. What happened during this eleven-year time interval? Numerous schools and states established clubs for the vocational agriculture students. There are numerous examples of agricultural student organizations and some even predate the Smith-Hughes Act.
B. A. Walpole started the Agricolae Club in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1915. This idea spread in Michigan and by 1917 there was a state association known as the Michigan High School Agricultural Association. Illinois is reported to have had agricultural clubs in some schools as early as 1912. A Maine organization known as the Young Farmers Association of Presque Isle was started in 1918. Maryland had a student agricultural club in Middleton by 1919. Endicott, NY was the home of the Endicott Young Farmers Club in 1920. (Farrar, 1956). This is just a sampling of the agricultural student organizations that sprang up throughout the country prior to 1928. There were many others.
In 1926 the Future Farmers of Virginia was established. States that had not yet established state organizations for their clubs looked at Virginia as a model to emulate.
At a conference of state supervisors and teacher trainers in the southern states meeting in San Antonio in 1927 a resolution was passed encouraging the southern states to (Farrar, 1956, p. 15) “…develop a state organization of Future Farmers…”. The resolution also contained a ”resolved” that such organization be known as the Future Farmers of the state in which the organization is located. And the resolution mentioned the desirability in the future of establishing a regional or national federation of such clubs. Similar discussions occurred at other regional conferences of state supervisors and teacher trainers.
Farrar (1926, p. 15) reported that “Another year passed, and in that year many states, following the lead of the regional conferences, consolidated their local organizations into state associations, and a great number of them assumed the Future Farmers name.”
Plans for the Future Farmers of Dixie
At the Southern Regional Conference in 1928, meeting in Memphis, the attendees heard a comprehensive report about establishing a regional organization of vocational agricultural student organizations to be known as the Future Farmers of Dixie. The committee giving the report was chaired by Henry Groseclose of Virginia. R. B. Smith of Arkansas and G. E. Freeman of Tennessee were on the committee.
Here is the report (Ross, 1942, P. 535-538). Pay special attention to section 1c:
In order to preserve and promote uniformity among the local and State organizations for students in the South, and in order to prevent variations that might make the consolidation or federation of the State organizations difficult, the committee feels that certain specific recommendations should be made at this time as follows:
(a) The name of the several State organizations should be uniform to the extent of having as a part of the name of the State organizations the words “Future Farmers,” and that local chapters and members of State organizations be similarly designated. This is particularly desirable for the purposes of publicity and for the sake of a better understanding on the part of the general public.
(b) The committee recommends that the federation of future farmers’ organizations for the Southern Region be called “The Future Farmers of Dixie.”
(c) In the event that our Southern organization creates or influences the formation of a national organization of students of vocational agriculture, the committee recommends that the regional term “Future Farmers of Dixie” be dropped and the name of the national organization be accepted, but that the grade of membership described elsewhere as “Dixie Planter” be retained.
- Membership —
Active membership in this organization—local, State, and regional—should be confined to students of vocational agriculture regularly enrolled in all-day, day-unit, and part-time classes. (Only those students who show a willingness to participate whole-heartedly in the activities of the local organization should be elected to membership.)
While the primary objectives of the State organizations are training for cooperation, leadership, thrift, and the like, the committee wishes to caution against overemphasis of these things at the expense of certain social and recreational activities in which the average boy is highly interested, such as the teacher exchanges, banquets, farm tours, initiations, and the like to encourage more individual thrift, group activity, cooperation, and so on.
- Constitution and bylaws—
(a) The committee believes and recommends that constitutions should be fundamentally identical in every State. It is further recommended that this uniform constitution be framed by a permanent committee on student organizations prior to June 1, 1928, in order that this constitution may be incorporated in the proposed Federal Board bulletin or monograph.
(b) Bylaws should allow sufficient elasticity to permit State organizations to adapt themselves to environment and changing conditions. Each State should have absolute freedom in setting up bylaws so long as the bylaws conform to the body of the constitution.
- Grades of membership—
(a) Grades of membership and qualifications therefore should be uniform. This is important and will cause confusion if not looked into. For example: Carolina farmer is now the highest grade of membership in North Carolina but Virginia farmer only represents the second grade of attainment in Virginia.
The Committee recommends the following grades of membership—
(3) That the name of the third degree be left to the discretion of each State until the permanent committee can make its report next year.
The committee realizes that the term “Planter” has no historical significance for some of the inland States. We feel, however, that it is distinctive and is to be preferred to such terms as “Junior master farmer.” The permanent committee should change this term very soon if it is to be changed at all.
(b) Grades of membership should be based upon attainment. Uniform standards should be set up in the constitution and no State allowed to deviate from those standards—
(1) The grade of “Dixie planter” recommended by the committee should represent a very high type of achievement. A score card for rating applicants for this award should be worked out and followed in selecting the winner of the honor.
(2) Applicants must have received the State planter key before they are eligible for this award.
(3) Not over 20 active Dixie planters should be chosen in any 1 year.
(4) There should not be more than two from each State in any 1 year.
(5) Arrangements should be made for awards other than the key. Scholarships, farm machinery, pure-bred livestock, sums of money to be invested in farming, trips, and the like should be considered. No doubt these awards will be given gladly by certain companies and individuals.
(a) The committee recommends the adoption of Virginia’s insignia, i. e., the owl, plow, and rising sun. Each pin or key should have upon the front of it the letters designating the State organization—”F. F. V.” for Virginia, “F. F. T.” for Tennessee, “P. F. O.” for Oklahoma, and so on. While the committee is not interested in the source of these pins, we believe a saving can be effected by purchasing all pins and keys from the same manufacturer.
(b) Greenhands wear a bronze pin—
Farmers wear a silver pin.
State planters wear a gold key.
Dixie planters wear a key of a different metal or design, the details of which are left to the regional agent.
Uniform initiation and other ceremonies should be worked out by the permanent committee. These should be printed or mimeographed and distributed to the officers of the various local and State organizations. In no case, however, should they be printed in the official State organization magazine.
Objectives should be set up for the Southern Region. Each State should bear the regional objectives in mind when setting up its objectives.
State objectives should be set up at the annual State Convention of Future Farmers. These objectives should be definite. Annual objectives will differ in all States but should be uniform in regard to the State’s share of the regional objectives. Annual objectives should be set up by the State executive committee with the help and advice of the State adviser.
Local objectives should be set up by local chapters as soon as possible after the State meeting. Each local chapter should assume its share of the responsibility for carrying out the State objectives by incorporating in its objectives its proportional part of the State objectives. To these objectives the local chapter will, of course, add certain objectives not incorporated in the State objectives.
The committee recommends the following objectives for the Southern Region—
(a) A “Future Farmer Chapter” in every department of vocational agriculture in the Southern Region.
(b) A thrift bank in every chapter.
(c) Twelve well-organized uniform State organizations by January 1, 1929.
The committee recommends that each State organization incorporate under the laws of its State. This is necessary to prevent commercial organizations from capitalizing on the name and publicity given the State organization of vocational agricultural students as is now being done in at least one State.
- Committee on student organizations—
The committee recommends the appointment of a permanent committee on “Student organizations” with full power to act. It is highly desirable that this proposed committee do some work very soon in order to prevent our State organizations from growing too far apart on fundamentals. A full report should be submitted to this conference next year.
- Convention of Future Farmers of Dixie—
The committee recommends that a convention of the Future Farmers of Dixie be held in the Southern Region in 1929. Awards for outstanding accomplishments should be made at this convention by conferring the grade of “Dixie planter” upon worthy students.
Did you pay attention to section 1c of the report? It was stated that if a national organization was created, the Future Farmers of Dixie would become a part of the national organization. In 1928, actions taken at the Central Region and Pacific Region conferences called for the Federal Board of Vocational Education to copyright the name Future Farmers and to incorporate a national organization known as the Future Farmers of America.
The Chief of the Agricultural Education Section of the Federal Board was requested to draw up a national constitution and make plans for a national convention to formally create the national student organization. This work was done in the summer of 1928. Henry Groseclose and Walter Newman from Virginia made several trips to Washington, D.C. to assist in this task.
In November of 1928 eighteen states sent 33 delegates to Kansas City to officially create the Future Farmers of America. Thus, the plans to have a Future Farmers of Dixie were never implemented.
Farrar, John. 1956. FFA at 25. National FFA Organization.
Ross, W. A. (1942). Future Farmers of America. In Stimson & Lathrop, History of Agricultural Education of Less Than College Grade in the United States. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.