Aaron Alejandro Discusses the Importance of Agricultural Education for Today’s Youth

Aaron Alejandro, Executive Director of Texas FFA Foundation, was interviewed on the Mission Matters Business Podcast.

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Aaron Alejandro speaks about how the Texas FFA Foundation is empowering young people to pursue their dreams in agricultural science and supporting communities with the help of brand donors and sponsors.

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What mission matters to you?

Alejandro says his mission revolves around three vital and renewable resources: youth, agriculture, and leadership.

“In just about 29-years, we’ll need about 70% more food than we have today.  Unfortunately, we will not have 70% more natural resources.  We are going to need some of the brightest minds to address our global food challenges,” he warns. “Empowering our young people in agricultural science today and providing them leadership skills through the FFA will make them well-rounded leaders and dynamic influencers tomorrow.”

How did the journey begin?

Alejandro was ten when his father passed away, and when his mother found it challenging to control his escapades single-handedly, she enrolled him into an open-campus residential community. It proved to be a catalyst for Alejandro when he was placed in an agricultural science class and became a member of the FFA.

“While I struggled to make the life lesson connections through agriculture at first, I soon realized the program opened incredible doors of opportunity for personal and career success,” he says. “Attending college was a challenge because of the lack of financial support. However, I believed in the fact that I lived in a country of opportunity and the iconic FFA jacket – which leveled the playing field – provided a path to academic success.” His perseverance paid off, he notes, when he was elected state FFA president in 1985-86.

Serving as the Texas FFA’s Development Executive for more than 20 years, he says he’s proud of the leadership development opportunities for students and teachers while helping facilitate $2.4 million in scholarships annually.

The state of agricultural science

“In the last 21 years, I’ve seen tech science education and the FFA grow incessantly nationally,” Alejandro says, noting the organization has more than 219,000 students enrolled in Agricultural Science courses in Texas alone. In fact, one in six FFA members in the United States lives in Texas, he explains as Texas FFA membership is excess of 139,000 members. Courses of study include equine science, plant science, animal science, food science, floral design, mechanized agriculture, wildlife management, and more.

To meet the needs of tomorrow’s hungry world, he explains, young people need to learn about how food is grown, distributed, marketed, and transported, and it’s critical they become entrepreneurs, innovators, and influencers — all critical roles in the process of feeding our global population.

Tell us how brand sponsorships affect the Texas FFA Foundation.

“I joined the Foundation as a result of the Texas FFA Leadership Council,” Alejandro says, “a focus group which visioned the possibilities for Texas agricultural science education and the FFA.  We launched a capital campaign and raised our first million dollars from Ford Motor Company and Texas Ford Dealers – a historic benchmark for the FFA.  It became the catalyst for our endowment which has grown to over $15 million dollars today.”

“We’ve grown the Texas FFA Foundation substantially over the years with the help of donor brands, such as Texas Ford Dealers, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, and Justin Boots, McCoys Building Supply, Seitz Fundraising, and Priefert Manufacturing that recognize the strength of our marketplace and core values, i.e., respect for ourselves and our communities, responsibility for our family, and resiliency to overcome challenges,” he continues.

“Our sponsors see the pride our students, teachers, and sponsors take in their participation.  Leadership efforts that positively impact their peers, community, and country which make them eager to join our mission.  Consequently, every time we visit with a sponsor, we show gratitude by living our brand.”

What’s next?

“This summer, we’ve got the 94th Annual Convention of FFA, the largest youth convention in Texas,” Alejandro says. “More than 2,500 students will be recognized on stage for outstanding performance, more than $2.4 million in award and academic scholarships will be awarded in front of 14,000 people during the week-long convention. Apart from its preparation, we’re working on new projects and cultivating new sponsors.”

When asked about his next big goal, Alejandro says he aims to create a million-dollar Texas FFA “Shark Tank” with the endowment offered as seed money for agricultural or entrepreneurial ventures.  “We want student projects to go from ‘blue jackets’ to ‘blue chips.’”

To learn more about Texas FFA Foundation, visit mytexasffa.org.