During May and June, G&R Farms partnered with 13 regional and national retail operators to raise nearly $90,000 in scholarship and grant funds for FFA students in 22 states through the Growing America’s Farmers (GAF) promotional program.
GAF is the brainchild of Walt Dasher, a third-generation southeast Georgia farmer and a strong advocate of Future Farmers of America (FFA). During the past five years, the GAF program has already raised $150,000 for FFA member scholarships. But the 2021 program broke records thanks to growing retail and partner support, including first time grower-shipper participant Bushman’s Inc. with many participating retailers seeing increased sales during the promotional period.
Left to right: Cliff Riner, G&R Farms; Scott Stump, chief executive officer, National FFA; Walt Dasher, G&R Farms; Jim Williams, executive director of development, National FFA Foundation.
The program works by the supply partner setting aside a percent of total retail sales for the participating retailer, followed by a donation being made to the National FFA Foundation in the participating retailer’s name. The National FFA Foundation then redirects those funds back to state and local FFA programs of the retailer’s choice where they support students pursuing careers in production agriculture.
“The Growing America’s Farmers program shows the importance of upstream and downstream business partnerships and the valuable resources they provide to foster and create opportunities for students,” said Gary W. Black, Georgia agriculture commissioner. “The more we encourage these types of partnerships, the more likely we are to support future security in our food systems.”
“The average age of the American farmer is 58 years old and they are part of multi-generation family farms facing more pressure,” said Dasher, vice-president of G&R Farms. “We need to attract, support and train young agriculture leaders that will become the torchbearers and next generation of food producers.”
Across the country, FFA is attracting and training those leaders. FFA membership is at a record high with 760,000+ members in 8,739 chapters across all 50 states, including chapters in 24 of the 25 largest U.S. cities. Additionally, it is setting records in member diversity.
“As a third-generation family farm, this is about more than marketing and promotions. This is a personal mission that hits at the heart of who I am and what I stand for,” said Dasher. “As professionals in the food industry, and as consumers, we should all recognize how important it is to support, foster and inspire the next generations of producers who will not only grow our food, but also elevate our food systems.”
Planning for the 2022 GAF program begins in October and officially kicks off in March for National Agriculture Month. Retailers or grower-shippers interested in participating in the 2022 program should contact the G&R Sales team at (912) 654-2100.