Clad in their own navy corduroy Future Farmers of America jackets, officers with West Henderson High’s FFA chapter gathered Tuesday with the Henderson County Farm Bureau to surprise one of their alumni with a jacket of his own.
A 1978 West graduate, Sen. Chuck Edwards visited McConnell Farms on Tuesday unaware that he’d be receiving the coveted FFA jacket he’d earned 40 years prior upon winning the North Carolina state forestry competition.
“He thinks he’s coming to give a speech to Farm Bureau board members on current legislation,” said Joe Taylor, West’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor.
Danny McConnell, owner of McConnell Farms and president of the Henderson County Farm Bureau, said he recalled Edwards talking to him years ago about his days in West’s FFA chapter and his 1977 state forestry competition win.
“He told me his family was unable to get him a jacket at the time. That stuck in my mind ever since,” McConnell said. “He deserves one.”
Taylor said any FFA member is eligible to purchase a jacket, but the cost can be prohibitive. He said that these days, West’s chapter assists its FFA officers in purchasing their jackets, but that opportunity may not have been around for Edwards in 1977.
Funded by the Henderson County Farm Bureau, Edwards’ FFA jacket required approval from the state FFA coordinator once the former member’s participation was confirmed.
“They’re very strict,” Taylor said.
When current FFA officers presented Edwards with his jacket, he said, “It’s a very humbling honor.” He added, “I really have enjoyed getting to know more of the agriculture folks in this area and seeing the youth as involved as they are.”
– By Molly McGowan Gorsuch
Public Information Officer