During a discussion around an oak table at Virginia Tech almost a century ago, the seed for a national organization promoting agriculture and leadership sprouted. 

In September of 1925, four Virginia Tech agricultural education teachers Edmund Magill, Henry Groseclose, Walter Newman, and Harry Sanders sat at an oak conference table on Virginia Tech’s campus to hash out their ideas for bringing youth together to learn about and celebrate agriculture and leadership. Their brainchild, The Future Farmers of Virginia (FFV) became Future Farmers of America (FFA) two years later, and is now known throughout the country as National FFA Organization.

That heavy oak, multi-drawered table along with organizational documents and many “Chapter Chats” newsletters describing the beginning and growth of FFV and FFA are housed in Litton-Reaves Hall’s FFA room. John Hillison, a retired faculty member and former department head for the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), is dedicated to preserving the roots of this national organization.

"At this table, in September 1925, it was determined that boys studying agriculture should have their own organization, now the F.F.A. Present: Walter S. Newman, Edmund C. Magill, H.W. Sanders and Henry C. Groseclose," reads the brass plaque on the oak table.

"At this table, in September 1925, it was determined that boys studying agriculture should have their own organization, now the F.F.A. Present: Walter S. Newman, Edmund C. Magill, H.W. Sanders and Henry C. Groseclose," reads the brass plaque on the oak table.
"At this table, in September 1925, it was determined that boys studying agriculture should have their own organization, now the F.F.A. Present: Walter S. Newman, Edmund C. Magill, H.W. Sanders and Henry C. Groseclose," reads the brass plaque on the oak table.

“I reached out to Inga Haugen in the University Libraries to preserve and digitize the Chapter Chats, which were the state publications for Virginia FFA,” said Hillison. “We’ve wanted to do this for a long time.” 

Haugen, library liaison to CALS, former University Libraries’ Agriculture Library Assistant Laura Kerr, and student assistant Meagan Russell are cataloguing and digitizing these documents. 

“The building is humid and not ideal for the preservation of these bound books of Chapter Chats. Many of these are the only copies left from the early years,” said Kerr. “They show how this national organization got started, how it’s changed, and the outside forces that affected it — like economic influences, world wars, and the rise and fall of agriculture feed and supply companies.” 

The changing times are reflected in these Chapter Chats. In 1969, girls were first accepted as members and in the following years the newsletters include more pictures and articles by female agriculture educators and advisors. These documents give a glimpse into rural society and the country’s agricultural history.

The library team will make these primary documents digitally available and findable through the University Libraries.

“This increases the impact and reach of these documents,” said Haugen. “Instead of only being housed in Litton-Reaves, we can make them available to anyone with an internet connection. We will preserve them for future research while making them findable and accessible to all interested in learning about the history of this important national organization and agriculture education.”