Cain Thurmond graduated from Jefferson (Ga.) High School, attended the University of Georgia for two years as an agricultural economics major and is now taking a year off as the National FFA vice president.

On Thursday, he spent the day at Aiken High, meeting with FFA students from that school and others.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Thurmond said. “I’ve traveled 80,000 miles to 35 states. I really have a huge passion for agriculture and FFA. It helps develop students into leaders of tomorrow as part of the future of the agriculture industry.”

Aiken High’s culinary arts students provided lunch for Thurmond, others affiliated with FFA and community leaders. Joining Aiken High’s FFA president, Anna Mink, was Trent Rushton of Wagener-Salley High, the new state FFA president.

“I got to spend the last couple of days with Cain at some chapter workshops, including sitting in some he did,” Rushton said. “Cain is doing a great job, and he’s inspiring me to try for national office in the future. I don’t want FFA to be over.”

Mink was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to a national officer. The Aiken High chapter recently received two national awards and is in the running for first place nationally in both.

“My biggest issue is keeping my legacy,” Mink said. “I want everybody to have the same feeling for FFA that I do. Meeting Cain for the first time has inspired me, and now my dreams are shooting further. I’d like to run for state office next year and a national office is in my plans, too. It’s OK to dream big.”

Meghan Wood, the FFA advisor at Aiken High, appreciated the opportunity to have Thurmond at the school. He had planned some workshops that focus on leadership and the opportunities in the agriculture field.

Careers have changed dramatically in agriculture, Thurmond said.

“In 1988, Future Farmers of Americas changed its name to FFA to reflect all the growing fields,” he said. “They include scientists, teachers, lawyers, bio-technicians and more.”

Billy Keels, the FFA state director for the past nine years, readily agrees.

“It’s rare to get a national officer here at this time of year, and we’re very fortunate,” he said. “There’s no better way to recruit kids than to have FFA leaders here in the state to talk about the agriculture industry and all the fields available to them.”

While the FFA maintains long-established traditions, the organization is not afraid to grow, Keels said. Not long along, the state had just one female agriculture teacher. Now, 35 percent of them are female.

“We’ve had the Industrial Revolution, then the computer age,” said Keels. “Agriculture will be the next boom in jobs. When you look at bio-fuels and bio-materials and all the other materials used in agriculture, it will be the next growth industry.”