Originally founded as Future Farmers of America (FFA) in Kansas City in 1928, the National FFA Organization has worked to provide high school students with the tools to build an agricultural career. Its mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.
The symbol that represents FFA's values is the blue corduroy jacket worn by its members. The jacket is a common thread running from chapter to chapter, despite the names of different high schools on the back. It was first adopted as official dress for the FFA in 1933; since then over three million jackets have been issued.
The jacket pictured here was worn by Sharon Wesley Jackson, a 1954 graduate of Topeka's Seaman High School, where he was vice-president and then president of the FFA chapter. Jackson went on to earn degrees from Kansas Wesleyan and the University of Kansas, and a PhD in genetics from North Carolina State University. He chaired one of the country's first environmental studies programs at the California State University, Sacramento.
These qualifications alone would rate Jackson as an FFA success story, but more recently he's gained an international reputation as a visionary who is calling for "nothing less than the overthrow of agriculture as we know it," according to one analyst. Better known today as Wes Jackson, he leads the Land Institute, a research organization he co-founded in Salina, Kansas, in 1976. The Institute has gained a worldwide reputation for developing ecologically friendly solutions for agriculture. One of Jackson's more revolutionary goals has been to develop perennial grains. Instead of the traditional annual plants destroyed during harvest each year, the Land Institute is experimenting with perennials grains that would have deep roots to anchor the soil in place, helping prevent dust storms and other forms of erosion.
Jackson has said, "We're out to solve the problems of agriculture rather than the problems in agriculture." He has been recognized by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the "Innovators of Our Time." Among other honors he has received a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, and been named a Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment. All in all, it appears FFA served Wes Jackson well, and that he in turn has lived up to the values behind the blue jacket.
Jackson donated his FFA jacket to the Kansas Historical Society in 2004, where it is in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: FFA Jacket
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: March 2008
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.