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No Plows, Cows, Sows: FFA Not Your (Grand)Father's Youth Farm Group

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A record number of kids are donning the blue corduroy jacket of FAA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America. The jacket is an icon of rural life - the organization is sort of like Boy Scouts for farming, and it dates back to the 1920s.

Even though fewer and fewer young people grow up on farms these days, the extracurricular activity is attracting more urban and suburban kids interested in food and agricultural science.

Eighteen-year-old Reece Melton unlatches the fence leading into a muddy pen at the St. Vrain Valley School District's working farm in Longmont, Colo., near Denver.

"You wouldn't think there's a livestock facility back behind here," Melton says. He's president of the district's FFA chapter, and takes care of the farm's cows, goats and pigs during school hours.

From 2007 to 2012, the U.S. lost almost 100,000 farms, according to recent census data. During the same period, FFA enrolled an additional 60,000 students, and opened new chapters, bringing the organization to its highest number of students in its almost century-old history, just shy of 580,000.

That's a lot of blue corduroy jackets.            

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