This year marks the 50th anniversary of National Ag Day, and we recognize the vital role agriculture plays in the rural economy of the U.S., with 21.1 million people employed in the agricultural and food sectors. There is hope for a resurgence of young farmers with rural places experiencing population growth for the first time in decades. However, lack of diversity is still a challenge facing the agricultural and farming sectors, with just 1.4 percent of farmers identifying as Black or mixed race.  

As we celebrate the crop growers and livestock farmers who provide safe, abundant, affordable food every day, and veterinarians who care for cattle, pigs, poultry and other livestock, it’s equally important that we help cultivate the next generation of agricultural professionals. Committed to championing thriving and inclusive professions for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and farmers, the Zoetis Foundation prioritizes grantmaking that drives more inclusive veterinary and farming communities and broader access to training. 

The Foundation is proud to support the National FFA Organization as it prepares student members for leadership and career success. FFA is a national youth organization with state associations and local chapters that reach over 850,000 members across the U.S. that makes a positive difference in students' lives by developing their leadership skills, personal growth, and career development through agricultural education. 

“The Zoetis Foundation is proud to support FFA and help inspire the next generation of farmers and agricultural professionals,” says Jeannette Ferran Astorga, President of the Zoetis Foundation. “We look forward to continuing our support to help advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the field.” 

In 2022, FFA embarked on a strategic initiative to address DEI within its student population and advisors. The organization is helping state associations identify gaps and barriers, and create opportunities to reach a more diverse pool of candidates and students. In its initial phase, FFA developed surveying and assessment tools to gather data from their members and advisors and analyze participation in national events, including the annual National FFA Convention & Expo

A grant from the Zoetis Foundation helped FFA develop core educational competencies for the organization’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiative, like helping students develop situational awareness and emotional intelligence to connect with various groups. Last fall semester, FFA developed and distributed a poster series to 14,000 educators in all agricultural education programs across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help articulate the organization’s value statements that promote a more inclusive, equitable organization for all FFA members. 

“We are seeing a positive momentum as members, advisors and state leaders embrace and operationalize the FFA value statements,” said Lori Randle, Senior Regional Director at National FFA. “The poster series has created a common language at all levels of the organization which highlights our EDI values to FFA members and stakeholders.”  

Last year, FFA also established the first cohort of the State EDI collaborative, made up of nine states that came together to develop state-level EDI plans. In January 2023 the state teams delivered their final EDI plans and metrics, which will guide their progress to implementation. “I loved the collaboration with other states and really value what others are sharing and bringing to the table,” said one member of the State EDI collaborative. “It helped me so much and I look forward to our future meetings.” 

In 2023, FFA plans to establish a second cohort of up to ten states. The Zoetis Foundation is thrilled to support FFA’s work to engage underrepresented students and encourage participation in agricultural education. “We believe FFA and agriculture is a place for all to belong,” added Randle. “Through the support of the Zoetis Foundation, we expanded our capacity to see and promote inclusion and diversity in our membership, leadership, and staff to reflect the beliefs and values of the National FFA Organization.”