Scott Stump believes in the future of agriculture…like, really believes in it.
So much so that this past summer, he was selected to serve as the CEO of the National FFA Organization—an organization of over 700,000 agricultural education students from across the country who are developing leadership skills and preparing for careers in agriculture.
From wearing the blue jacket himself to serving as the organization’s new CEO, Scott has been bleeding National Blue and Corn Gold for decades—serving as an agriculture teacher in Northern Indiana, working at National FFA throughout the ‘90s, and even being appointed by former President Trump to support career and technical education efforts at the US Department of Education.
Magnetic caught up with Scott to hear about his background, his vast array of experiences, and what he sees for the future of agriculture.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you get involved in agricultural education?
My roots in agricultural education and FFA are in Northeastern Indiana. My father was my agriculture instructor and my mother was my 4-H club leader. Saying “yes” to the many opportunities in FFA led me to Purdue University for a degree in agricultural biochemical engineering. However, after serving as an Indiana FFA State Officer, I returned to Purdue, changed my major to agricultural education and ultimately a teaching role in North Manchester High School.
Before taking the lead at National FFA, you worked for the U.S. Department of Education. What was it like working for the federal government, and how did that role prepare you for your role as CEO?
Serving as the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) was an incredible growth experience. OCTAE administers and coordinates the over $2 billion investment in equipping Americans with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed. Like my new role at FFA, my focus was working with state and local education leaders to ensure learners of all ages had access to the education and training needed to succeed in their personal and professional careers. Today, I continue that work focused specifically on preparing talent for the industry of agriculture.
You’ve been at National FFA in the past managing the national officer team and the National FFA Convention & Expo. When was that, and what differences have you noticed in the organization between then and now?
My first experience working for National FFA was from 1992 through 2001. In the 20-years that I have been away from the National FFA Center, the organization has grown significantly in membership from 457,278 in 2001 to 735,038 in 2021. In addition, between then and now, FFA has expanded our career and leadership development events to include agricultural communications, agronomy and job interview events.
In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge facing the Ag industry today, and what do you see as FFA’s role in helping to overcome that challenge?
Today, our industry faces a profound need for talent rooted in the production of food, fiber and fuel to meet the needs of an expanding global population. This talent will also need to be fluent in data science, artificial intelligence, and sustainability to meet the demand. FFA will continue to evolve our career and leadership development events, individual awards programs and resources to prepare students for the future of our industry.
The Ag industry has made monumental changes in recent decades. How have you seen agricultural education change with it?
Without question, technological and consumer pressures are driving significant changes in the industry of agriculture. Through the work of the Council for Agricultural Education and the National Association of Agricultural Educators, teachers across the nation are being equipped with new curriculum and strategies to prepare students for these changes. This work, coupled with the evolution of programs at FFA, will keep us on the path to growing the next generation of agricultural leaders who are prepared to change the world.
What do you envision for the future of the National FFA Organization?
National FFA is currently in the midst of a strategic planning process that will drive our work over the next three years. Out of those conversations, I envision a future where FFA is relevant and responsive to America’s next generation of students and our industry. I see an expansion of diversity in our membership and talent pipeline. And, I see all of this future squarely rooted in the belief FFA members have memorized for generations; a belief in the future of agriculture.
You’ve served in several roles in various locations around the country and have certainly met a lot of people. Who is one of the most interesting people you’ve met during your career?
I have been blessed to meet quite the cast of characters over my career. One of the most interesting was Corey Flournoy, 1994-95 National FFA President. Corey’s path to leadership in FFA did not start on a farm or ranch. Instead, it came from his acceptance to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS). At the age of 14, he was introduced to and fell in love with an industry and organization he had never known in his suburb of Chicago. Corey’s leadership and personal story opened the door for many students to access and succeed in FFA.
What’s a recent book you read, and what’s a key takeaway or insight you took from it?
My most recent read includes, Know what you’re FOR by Jeff Henderson. In a time when it is easy to identify what you are against, it was an important reminder to identify and focus your energy on what you are for.
What does Scott Stump like to do for fun…if you have time while leading one of the nation’s premier agriculture youth leadership organizations?
In addition to spending time with my family, especially as a new grandpa, I like to play guitar. There is something magical in the resonance of a six-string acoustic that brings me joy. Whether playing at church on a Sunday morning or sitting on our porch playing campfire songs with my family, music brings me joy!
Have someone in mind that you think would be a great Movers & Shakers feature? Nominate them here.