The Western Farm Show is a Kansas City tradition that dates back to 1960 and has been held at the American Royal Complex in the historic West Bottoms every year since. Twenty five years ago, the Western Farm Show started another tradition in conjunction with National FFA Week – hosting FFA advisors and students.
"We've thought for years we should have an FFA Day at the Farm Show. FFA members are the future of our industry and our work force. There's a great tie in to this audience," says Cory Hayes, Vice President of Training and Education for the Western Equipment Dealers Association, which owns and produces the Western Farm Show. "We provide complementary tickets to the FFA chapters that want to come of the Farm Show and we have short educational seminars they can participate in."
This year's show, which was held February 20 through 22, drew an estimated 4,000 FFA students from chapters in Missouri and Kansas. But the show provides more than an opportunity to learn about agriculture. Another tradition at the Western Farm Show is the "Border Battle" between FFA chapters in both states – a food drive which has taken place each year since 2012.
"The 'Border Battle' is a service project that was built on the great rivalry between both states. We thought let's see if we can use that rivalry to create something on a fun and meaningful basis," Hayes says. "We reward the chapter that has brought the most food items with a $500 check from the Western Farm Show to spend on whatever they need to benefit their chapter."
This year, Lone Jack, Missouri FFA took the title, donating 1,944 items, after earning this distinction in 2012 and 2013. Other Missouri chapters with large collections this year included 2014 winner, Windsor FFA, which donated 1,771 items; Holden FFA with 1,332 items; and DeKalb FFA with 1,196 items. Leading Kansas chapters included Southeast FFA with 542 items and Ft. Scott FFA with 125 items.
Together, the 94 participating FFA chapters, 76 from Missouri and 18 from Kansas, collected a total of 7,642 pounds of food items. That's over twice as many pounds of cans and other non-perishable food items as the 2014 show, and enough to provide 6,368 meals. Food collections were turned over to Harvesters – The Community Food Network, a regional food bank based in Kansas City that serves a 26-county area of northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas.
"All of the participating FFA chapters can be very proud of this achievement and the knowledge that their efforts will directly help many in our region who are fighting hunger," Hayes says. "We commend all of these students and their advisors for the hard work and dedication they have shown in making this year's Western Farm Show food drive such a huge success."
Helping the hungry
Within the 26-county area served by Harvesters, about 375,000 people are food insecure, which means they don't know where their next meal will come from. "Hunger is an issue throughout our 26-county area. A lot of people think of giving food and giving back over the holidays. That's a big help, but hunger unfortunately is a year-round issue," says Sarah Biles, Interim Director of Communications at Harvesters. "It's very important for us to be able to provide a steady supply to those that are food insecure throughout the 26-county area, and food drives are important for us to meet that need."
Community service is as woven into the fabric as blue and gold for Southeast FFA, this year's top Kansas Chapter, whose members are required to collect at least 25 food items to participate in the annual field trip to the Western Farm Show. "One of the biggest components of FFA is community service. Living to serve is the last line of the FFA motto," says Scott Sutton, Southeast FFA Advisor and agriculture education instructor. "We do several service projects throughout the year, and the canned food drive is a way to be involved and represent our state in the 'Border Battle' while doing something good for the community."
"In Kansas, agriculture is the number one industry. Being an Ag organization, we feel it's our duty to help feed our state," Sutton adds. "Most of our members' families and the organizations we're associated with raise food, and we feel it's an opportunity to give back to the community in our own way."
More information on the Western Farm Show and the annual "Border Battle" food drive is available at www.westernfarmshow.com. For more information on Harvesters Community Food Network, visit www.harvesters.org.