Celebrating 50 years of women in FFA

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) This week, 3,500 are expected to attend the 90th Wisconsin FFA Convention at the Alliant Energy Center.

FFA is celebrating 50 years of women involved in the organzation.

FFA, originally called Future Farmers of America, was founded in 1928 as a national program for boys. It wasn't until 1969 that women were officially allowed to join.

Nationally, the gender split is 54% men to 46% women enrolled. In Wisconsin, there are actually more women involved than men. In the Badger State, total membership is 20,825. Of those members, more than 51% are women, 47% men, and 1.8% undisclosed. This according to stats provided by the National FFA Organization.

This is a trend that Jillian Beaty, the agriculture education instructor at Oregon High School, sees in her own chapter.

"My student demographic has changed," said Beaty. "A lot more women - a lot more."

Her past six FFA chapter presidents have been women.

Caitlin Beyler is the outgoing Oregon FFA President. She says the organization has inspired her to get involved in new things and she's proud to have followed in the footsteps of so many women leaders.

"I feel like I wouldn't be the same person I am now, kinda branching out to new settings," said Beyler.

Beyler wouldn't have had these opportunities if it wasn't for trailblazing women like Marian Viney. She was one of the first women president for the Oregon FFA Chapter serving from 1981-1982.

Viney had the opportunity to attend a number of state and national conventions. She even attended a leadership summit in Washington, D.C.

As a high school student, Viney, had to navigate a male dominated club. At the time though she didn't think to much about it. It wasn't until she was digging through a box of her old awards that she realized the statue on the trophy didn't represent her.

Holding the trophy she won from the Creed Contest, Viney laughed, "It's a male. So, I wonder if I thought of that when I received it."

All these years later, Viney is still working in the agricultural industry. She's a agricultural journalist working for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She also donates her time helping out with the Oregon FFA Chapter and serves on the school board.

Viney is just one of many powerful women who helped lay a foundation for the next generation of women to impact the agricultural industry.

Below are some significant dates and women who've made an impact (according to National FFA Organization).

1969 - First official year for female membership into the National FFA Organization.

1970 - Anita Decker from New York and Patricia Krowicki from New Jersey served as the first female delegates at the 43rd National FFA Convention.

1976 - Julie Smiley from Washington became the first woman to serve at the national level as the western region vice president. Since then, more than 80 women have been elected to the National FFA Officer Team.

1982 - Jan Eberly (seated lower left) from California was elected to serve as the first female national FFA president.

2002 - Karlene Lindow shattered another glass ceiling for women in FFA in 2002 when she was named the American Star Farmer. She raised hogs in Chili, Wis., and her jacket now hangs in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Wisconsin women to have left a major impact:

Clara Hedrich - One of our very first women agricultural education instructors

Jackie Mundt - First female National FFA President from Wisconsin

Alicia Hodnik - Most recent National FFA Officer from Wisconsin

Sharon Wendt - First Wisconsin FFA Advisor

Cheryl Zimmerman - First Wisconsin FFA Executive Director - Completing 26 year of service

Karlene Lindow - First Female American Star Farmer

Amber Vickers Keller - First Wisconsin FFA President