Three agriculture teachers at Monroe County schools illustrate the continuation of a groundbreaking move 50 years ago – female participation in the Future Farmers of America (FAA).
Jennifer Terrell teaches at Hamilton High School, Warner Creekmore joined the staff of Amory Career and Technical Center this year, and Kayla Easton has taught agriculture classes for five years at Smithville Attendance Center.
All three programs have greenhouses and vegetable gardens that function as lab space, in addition to conventional classrooms. However, Creekmore said FFA is more than horticulture and farming. FFA competitions include displaying skills such as tool identification, public speaking, debate and food safety.
The FFA was organized in the late 1920s to promote and support agricultural education, but membership was originally limited to males. Women found ways to get around the rules favoring men by becoming social ambassadors for their groups until they were finally admitted to full-fledged membership 50 years ago.
Creekmore is a second-generation FFA member, following in the footsteps of her father.
“My job is to recruit. It’s hard these days because not many are interested,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a role model in any position I’ve been in. I’m breaking ground in a different way. I’m influencing young people.”
Eaton was raised on a farm and grew up involved with cattle, hay production and row crop farming. In 2016, she was selected as the North Mississippi Rookie Ag Teacher of the Year. She also runs a cattle operation, hay production and vegetable farm with her husband.
“Being involved in FFA helps students to develop leadership skills, personal growth and career skills,” Eaton said. “As the FFA advisor, I help prepare students for career development events and leadership development events. I was a member of the FFA when I was in high school and understand the importance of students learning these career skills.”
Her father was an FFA member when he was in school, and her mom was selected as FFA Sweetheart when she was in school. Eaton’s husband was also an active FFA member and officer.
Terrell was introduced to FFA later in life when she was pursuing her master’s degree in ag and extension education. While members of her family became engineers and nurses, she is the only one who is currently involved in agriculture.
Terrell attended a high school in Alabama where boys took agriculture classes and girls took home economics. Although girls could technically join FFA at that time, it was still not something her high school promoted.
Terrell grew up learning how to garden with her mother and grandmother but truly fell in love with agriculture in college while milking cows at the Mississippi State University dairy farm and helping conduct research for MSU Extension Service weed specialist Dr. John Byrd.
“FFA is something I would loved to have been a part of in high school,” she said. “I would have chosen my current career path much earlier. I have seen this organization completely transform members by helping them gain confidence through overcoming their fear of public speaking or simply giving them a since of belonging. We become a family of sorts.”
This year is Terrell’s fifth year teaching agriculture at Hamilton. She was honored as Distinguished Ag Teacher by Missisisppi FFA State Officers for the last three years at the Mississippi FFA State Convention.
Terrell expressed appreciation to the Hamilton community for the support of the FFA program.
“Barry and Debbie Thompson graciously established a FFA leadership scholarship three years ago for our members. Clark Ford in Amory has also been a huge support by contributing to a scholarship for FFA the last four years.”
Terrell is also excited about the establishing of Hamilton FFA Alumni and Supporters this year.
“This will allow more involvement and support of our community and FFA members,” she said.