More than 100 youth from around the state are in Palmer for the annual Alaska State Future Farmers of America (FFA) Convention, attending workshops and skills sessions that give students a good foundation for what it takes to farm in the Last Frontier.

On Wednesday morning, several groups participated in the agriculture mechanics career development event, which involved identifying tractor parts, surveying, welding and electrical wiring.

“We need a well-diversified education. Farming, agriculture, it comes in multiple careers from food processing to aquaculture,” said Alaska FFA Association vice president Brandon Traini.

The convention gives students a chance to not only learn about the farming industry in Alaska, but around the country.

Visiting guests included members from Maryland’s FFA chapter, as well as Yomar Roman, the president of the Puerto Rico FFA chapter.

Roman said his community excels in pork production and exotic fruits. His trip to Alaska was his first experience with snow and he was excited to learn about how Alaskans farm in such cold weather.

Roman said Puerto Rico and Alaska have similarities when it comes to food insecurity during natural disasters.

“After [Hurricane] Maria, we don’t have any food because a lot of the food that we eat in Puerto Rico comes from the nation. We don’t have for a lot of months. That’s when we learned how important it is to farm on your own,” Roman said.

Agricultural educator Scott Faulkner from North Pole's Silent Springs FFA chapter said Alaska communities face a similar threat of being cut off during an earthquake.

“Our shelves in Fairbanks have less than a two-week supply of groceries for our people there. The more items that are grown in Alaska reduces that need for importation of food,” Faulkner said.

Enrollment in the organization is growing. Alaska FFA executive director Kevin Fochs said there are nearly 400 young people participating in chapters around the state, from Kake to Fairbanks.

Traini said it’s a good sign to see so many more young people getting involved to promote agriculture and becoming the future farmers the state needs to have a more stable food supply.

“Especially at a time where our state could benefit from economic diversification, that’s one of the things we push. We can improve the state through farming by supplying fresh, local food throughout our local communities and have an impact that way,” Traini said.

The Convention wraps up on Friday, April 19.

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