When Joshua Bledsoe entered high school as a freshman in 1987, he was surprised to find agricultural education listed as his elective at Surry Central High School in Dobson.
Though he lived in a rural area, Bledsoe did not grow up on a farm, and he wasn’t sure about “ag ed” as an elective. But his father encouraged him to stay the course, a decision that set Bledsoe on his career path.
Bledsoe, state agricultural education leader and state FFA adviser since 2009, will join National FFA in Indianapolis next month as chief operating officer. This will be his second position with the national organization, having served as a senior team leader for the national Leadership and Education Program Delivery team from 2005 to 2009.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Bledsoe said. “I’m looking forward to working with the national organization, with a clear mission and more than 85 years of experience helping young people achieve success.”
In his new position, Bledsoe will lead key FFA organizational units, including education; convention and events management; partner services; information technology; marketing, communications and brand management; and merchandising and customer fulfillment.
When Bledsoe graduated from high school in 1991, he had fond memories of his involvement with agricultural education and FFA: meeting state leaders, spending summers at FFA camp at White Lake and walking into the National FFA Convention and a sea of blue corduroy jackets.
His experience with FFA extends from his high school days, serving as an officer at the chapter and district levels, and later as state FFA president while he was a student at N.C. State University in 1991 and ‘92.
After graduating from N.C. State with his degree in agricultural education, Bledsoe taught agriculture in Columbus County from 1995 to 2000. There, he saw his FFA chapter’s membership grow, added TWO greenhouseS for the program and started an arboretum for the horticulture program. The West Columbus High School ag ed program was recognized in 2000 as the top program in the Southeast U.S. In 1998, Bledsoe was named Teacher of the Year for Columbus County Schools.
“I believe in the agriculture teachers’ creed: ‘I’m an agriculture teacher by choice, not by chance,’” he said.
Jan. 1, 2001 – appropriately numerated 01/01/01 – marked Bledsoe’s first day as North Carolina’s state FFA coordinator based in N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a position he held until 2005. While working at N.C. State, he earned his master’s degree in agricultural education.
The state FFA staff provides leadership and service throughout North Carolina in public, private and home school settings, serving more than 42,000 students and more than 400 agriculture teachers in 300 programs. The North Carolina curriculum includes 23 courses in areas like horticulture, animal science, agriscience and biotechnology.
Bledsoe feels that now is a good time to be involved in agriculture education. “I think agriculture has a bright future. The prestige that agriculture is enjoying is long overdue.”
Since the late 1980s when Bledsoe entered the program as a high school student, agricultural education and FFA have seen growth and change. FFA’s membership has grown across the country, and there are many more women in FFA leadership positions.
“What we offer has diversified as agriculture has diversified,” Bledsoe said. “Today there are more career development events and more award areas for FFA members.”
“Our job is to expose our young people to the breadth of agricultural diversity across North Carolina, as well as across the global economy,” Bledsoe said.
“It’s okay if some of the young people we serve don’t pursue a career in agriculture,” he said. “We want them to have an understanding of agriculture and its importance. If FFA helps them find their passion, then we’ve done our job.”