4-H vs. FFA

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By Adreanna White

While in high school, I was a very active member of the Bandys High Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. As a child, I occasionally heard about 4-H, but unfortunately I never became involved. After high school, I started attending the University of Mount Olive where I am currently studying Agricultural Education. While at school, I found many of my friends had been active in 4-H and many of my classes required  students to volunteer  with 4-H. Through my time volunteering, I became interested in what 4-H had to offer so the summer after my freshman year, I became a Cabin Counselor at Millstone 4-H camp and this summer I am an intern at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Catawba County Center office, working closely with the 4-H agent, Donna Mull. Over the course of my internship, I have learned many things about 4-H that I did not know about. In a recent conversation with the Catawba County 4-H Agent, we discussed the similarities and differences of 4-H and FFA.

A few similarities and differences between 4-H and FFA includes the age range that is allowed, the structure and format, and the internal parts of 4-H and FFA. To start, FFA is primarily focused on Agriculture and Leadership development whereas 4-H allows any topic to be covered as long as there is an adult volunteer willing to assist with the curriculum. 4-H is open to the ages of 5 to 18. FFA is open to students in high school and on occasion, you’ll find a middle school that has a FFA. They are both set-up in a similar format. In 4-H, there are individual Clubs. The 4-H clubs make-up  the County 4-H program. 4-H’ers often participate on a district level in 4-H which is comprised on a set of approximately 20 counties. There are also state and national 4-H opportunities. FFA is a club of its own which is called a Chapter. Many chapters from a few counties create a Federation. Many counties create a Region. All the Regions make up the State Association and then all the State Associations create the National Association.

4-H and FFA both have camps. In North Carolina, 4-H has three camps, Millstone 4-H Camp, Betsy-Jeff Penn Educational Center, and Eastern 4-H Center whereas FFA has one, The NC FFA Center at White Lake. One difference that was interesting to me was that while the FFA has officers at all levels, 4-H does not have National Officers. The highest officer positions in 4-H are at the State level. Another difference that was interesting to me is that to attend National 4-H Congress, the child must apply to go whereas any member of FFA can attend the National FFA Convention and Expo.

To be a 4-H member, there is no cost to join. To be an FFA member, each Chapter sets a fee that covers the cost to join all the levels of FFA, but it is very inexpensive to join. 4-H and FFA both compete in some similar competitions such as Shooting Sports, Livestock, Poultry, and Horse Judging, and Public Speaking. FFA calls their competitions Career Development Events (CDEs). They even compete in the same competitions sometimes. 4-H members are able to complete Project Books that are specified to a certain topic and FFA members complete a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) which is a semester-long project that the student chooses to complete.

Although there are several differences between these two organizations, they both have a similar mission: to better the lives of youth by involving them in activities that spark their interests. Through these activities, children and teens are able to develop skills such as leadership, responsibility, and public speaking. Both organizations give amazing opportunities to youth.