Written by Taylor Craig
As State FFA Coordinator, Jason Davis is in the midst of one of his favorite weeks of the year.
He is busy producing the biggest youth convention in North Carolina — the 89th North Carolina State FFA Convention. More than 3,000 FFA members, advisors and guests from across the state are gathered in downtown Raleigh for the three-day event.
Davis is the man in the middle of the action, but he found time to sit down with us for a quick chat. Read on to learn about his journey — and why he’s a big believer in the power of FFA.
What is your educational journey?
Class of 1994 — Hobbton High School, Sampson County, N.C.
Class of 1996 — Associates in Arts, Sampson Community College, General Education
Class of 1998 — Bachelor’s of Science, NC State University, Agricultural Education
Class of 2002 — Master’s of Science, NC State University, Agricultural Education
Class of 2017 — Doctor of Education, NC State University, Agricultural Education
So in a sense I’ve been an NC State student for a long time.
What do you love about NC State? Specifically CALS?
Howling Cow banana pudding ice cream! No, seriously, CALS has been my home as a student and faculty member for the last 20 years of my life. I am in a unique situation in which I am engaged with many aspects of the college, from technicians and research farm operators, to researchers, to faculty and former alumni. There is a spirit of community and family among those individuals connected to the college.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
The best part of my job is watching students from across the state come to our annual State FFA Convention and strive to be their absolute best. I watch those students compete in Career Development Events and I can see them grow. But the icing on the cake is the state officer teams I get to train — I will meet “my team 13” this week.
Getting back to my roots and throwing on my boots — my favorite hobby is growing watermelons! I enjoy returning to Sampson County to work in the family garden and grow crops. After traveling, time at my desk, attending meetings, and working on a computer, there is something refreshing about plowing land, harvesting crops and being outdoors.
Why did you choose to study Agricultural Education?
In high school I initially thought that I would be an architect. What many people do not know is that I can draw almost anything. During my junior year of high school my family returned to North Carolina from my dad’s deployment to Okinawa, Japan, and Blytheville, Arkansas. As I registered for classes, my dad informed me that “every man needed to know his tools, so you are taking an agriculture class.” Little did I know the ramifications of this. My agricultural teacher, Mr. Tim Warren, was a great teacher, friend and mentor. He really took the time to reach each and every one of his students and he saw something in us that we didn’t see in ourselves — potential. He was such a positive influence on me — that’s when I knew I wanted to do the same for others.
What advice would you give a student just starting out in CALS?
CALS offers many different opportunities and experiences for students. Please take advantage of these opportunities in your time at NC State — you won’t regret it.
You’re a big believer in youth development programs like FFA. Why is that?
At the turn of the 20th century, the federal government was concerned with the potential of a world war. The first step in preparation was a stable food supply. In order to boost production, farmers were asked to plant hybrid seed corn. However, the farmers were hesitant to plant it due to fears and superstition. Instead the farmers’ sons were given some hybrid seed corn and asked to bring the harvest to the local fairs to compete for awards and prizes. You can imagine what happened — the sons’ corn far out-produced dad’s and soon everyone was planting hybrid seed corn. At the same time food preservation was a big issue. So tomato canning clubs were started to aid in food preservation. These activities grew into the 4-H clubs and FFA activities that we have today. We have seen through our history that our social programs aimed at wearing seat belts, stopping smoking and even today with fighting obesity, have all started with youth, because they have the greatest opportunity for change. I believe it all starts with our youth, it’s our job to give them all the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.