Remembering and preserving the history of the New Farmers of America

The New Farmers of America organization was founded in 1935 for young African-American men interested in agriculture. Thirty years later it merged with FFA.

What started as a simple question in class at Scott’s Hill FFA set the ball rolling on a journey into history and diversity in agriculture education.

According to FFA member Malachi Johnson, “From when the NFA started to when the NFA merged all that history was lost, and I asked Mr. Cherry, ‘where is that history, how come we don’t have much of it and why?’”

After Malachi shined a spotlight on the issue, his classmates joined in on the project, forming a human resources committee to interview local New Farmers of America members from the Montgomery High School chapter.

“We have found five members of this NFA chapter and we’re interviewing them,” FFA member Kenlee Mooney states. “We’re trying to get them to come down so we can talk to them and try to understand what they went through with the NFA, and how it molded them, and how it shaped them, and try to dive into their history a little bit more.”

The students are working with the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation to film the interviews and plan to unveil a documentary at their chapter banquet in April. In the process, the chapter was able to locate a rare NFA jacket.

“Malachi asked them what happened to the NFA... and then we started looking for jackets. We found one, Mr. Cherry posted it on Facebook, and just from that picture, me and Malachi got emailed by TSU asking if we were interested in going to their university,” FFA member Chase Yarbro adds.

For students like Malachi, the project is personal: “For me, that means a lot to my black culture, and not only the culture but the history. Just being able to see that there has been a past in the NFA and to know that it’s not as present as it should be.”

While others are grateful for the opportunity to learn more.

“You learn a lot of history; you don’t usually know about the NFA and everything,” member Saylor Smith states. “So, it’s just a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to continuing it.”

Scott’s Hill Chapter President, Ethan Hall says that the students are proud to do their part in preserving NFA history.

“People care about this. There are people who were involved and had history and lineage with the NFA that were molded not only throughout their high school careers but also their way of life, through agriculture and the NFA and our end goal is to understand that NFA history needs to be cherished,” Hall explains.

In addition to the documentary, Scott’s Hill FFA is also creating a permanent display, that includes every possible type of jacket that could have been worn by local members, including the FFA sweethearts and NFA members.

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