In Her Own Words: The Meaning of FFA

By *Christina Bingham, Max FFA Chapter

As a seventh grader in 2013, I was given the opportunity to join the FFA. I’m not from an immediate agricultural background and neither of my parents were active members of the FFA. *At the time, I even thought the FFA still stood for “Future Farmers of America.”

When I was pondering whether to join the FFA, my family took a trip to my grandparents’ home in Devils Lake, North Dakota. It was the day before I had to turn in my FFA dues and forms and my decision still wasn’t certain. Casual conversation about this choice sent my Papa, Fred Bingham, down the stairs to the basement. He returned, carrying his 60-year-old national blue and corn gold corduroy FFA jacket. Across the front was his name – Fred Bingham – and an FFA emblem reading “Vocational Agriculture.” The back of his jacket read “North Dakota” just as we’re all used to seeing, and on the bottom, “Benson County.”

I saw his eyes light up.  I saw a passion in my Papa that day and the love he had for this organization.  At that moment, I decided I would be joining.

Christina stands with her Grandfather, "Papa Fred," both wearing the blue jackets.
Christina stands with her Grandfather, “Papa Fred,” both wearing the blue jackets.

As the years passed, I wanted to know more about his FFA story and home chapter.  The A.S. Gibbens FFA Chapter was the 6th chapter to be chartered in North Dakota FFA history on November 8th, 1929. I learned that Papa became a member of the A.S. Gibbens FFA Chapter in 1952 as a freshman, where he continued and even served as his chapter’s Sentinel in 1955. The year 1952 was the also the year the FFA Code of Ethics was adopted and the first year the National Future Farmer Magazine (now, New Horizons) was published.  At this same time, the North Dakota State Advisor (2nd ever) was Ernest DeAlton and women wouldn’t be allowed into the organization for seventeen more years.

Papa attended school at the Benson County Agriculture and Training School (BCATS). This school was named for a Cando legislator who introduced legislation in 1911 to form county agriculture and training schools. The school began operation in 1914 and was open until 1968. Papa had three FFA advisors over the course of his time in the A.S. Gibbens FFA Chapter: Oscar Pederson (1950-1953); Peter Konzak (1953-1954); and Gerald Wagner (1954-1970).

Papa Fred was awarded the honor of State Star Farmer 60 years ago at the 29th ND State FFA Convention on June 5th, 1958, at the age of 21. His father, Fred Sr., never had the opportunity to join the FFA; however, he was awarded the Honorary Chapter Farmer Degree of the A.S. Gibbens FFA Chapter on December 11th, 1958.

Fred Bingham Senior and Junior's North Dakota State Star Farmer and North Dakota Degree of Honorary Farmer certificates.
Fred Bingham Senior and Junior’s North Dakota State Star Farmer and North Dakota Degree of Honorary Farmer certificates.

Today, as I write this, I’m a senior in high school.  I’ve been a member of the Max FFA Chapter since that very first day as a seventh grader, and it’s given me opportunities and skills I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

I often think about the decision our delegates made in 1988.  Although the acronym for the FFA was eliminated in that year, those letters and their rich history still stand for something.  For me, they stand for “Future Faces in Agriculture.”

*Christina is currently a senior and a member of the Max FFA Chapter. Her parents are Mark and Peggy. Christina recently attended the National FFA Convention and placed as the 4th high individual in the Agriscience Fair.
*The FFA or Future Farmers of America changed its name at the National FFA Convention in 1988 to the National FFA Organization.  Delegates at this convention created this change to reflect the growing diversity in the agricultural industry.


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