Virginia Tech student Andrew Seibel named president of the National FFA Organization
Seibel, a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will spend the next year traveling the globe as a national representative of FFA, an organization with deep ties to Virginia Tech.
In 2013, Andrew Seibel slipped on his first Future Farmers of America jacket. The new piece of clothing was accompanied by a card inscribed with an open-ended sentence: “My FFA Journey July 2013-…”
“For a very long time, I never knew what the end date on that prompt would be,” Seibel said.
Almost a decade later, Seibel, now a sophomore in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, filled in the dots with Oct. 29, 2022, a date that didn’t so much mark an ending, but rather a new beginning.
Seibel was named president of the National FFA Organization at the 95th National FFA Convention and Expo in late October. He is the 13th national FFA officer from Virginia and only the fifth to earn the national president title, one that offers an abundance of opportunity and requires even more responsibility.
Seibel got a quick taste of the fast-paced, jam-packed experience. On Nov. 21, he traveled to the White House for the annual turkey pardoning. President Joe Biden spared the turkey and snapped a selfie with Seibel. A week later, Seibel stood on the steps of the Executive Mansion with Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin for the presentation of the Christmas trees. Next year, he’ll travel both domestically and internationally as a top representative of the FFA, a premier organization that prepares members for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture.
“I’m still wrapping my head around all of it. It’s been a decade-long journey and a multiyear dream,” Seibel said. “It is an incredible opportunity to represent on a national scale my university, one that means so much to me and my family.”
A university that also means a lot to the FFA.
The organization’s roots can be traced to an oak conference table on Virginia Tech’s campus in 1925. There, four agricultural education teachers gathered to discuss ideas for bringing youth together to learn about and celebrate agriculture and leadership. Their brainchild, The Future Farmers of Virginia, became Future Farmers of America two years later and is now known throughout the country as the National FFA Organization.
“Virginia Tech is deeply rooted in the FFA, and all of us at the university are very proud of Andrew’s achievement and excited to see him carry on its rich legacy of service and leadership,” said John Hillison, professor emeritus in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education and an unofficial historian of the FFA.
One might argue that Seibel has been preparing for this prestigious role his entire life. He grew up on a third-generation beef cattle farm in Roanoke. His father, Andy Seibel, held various jobs in agricultural education with the FFA and Virginia Cooperative Extension before being named the executive secretary of Virginia FFA. His mother, Megan, is the director of Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results, a two-year leadership program for adults in agriculture. Both parents hold multiple degrees from Virginia Tech.
Seibel became active in the FFA in middle school. He participated in multiple competitions, such as soil judging and public speaking. During his junior and senior years of high school, he became even more involved as he prepared to run for state office. From 2020-21, Seibel represented more than 30,000 Virginia students enrolled in agricultural education as the state secretary of the Virginia FFA Association. The year-long commitment required Seibel to take a break from his studies at Virginia Tech, where he is majoring in agricultural and applied economics.
His newest endeavor as national president will require the same commitment, if not more.
Very few FFA members have the opportunity to run for national office. Each state may annually declare one candidate. The process is extensive and requires the candidates to prepare months in advance of the National FFA Convention. The National FFA Organization through an extensive interview process selects six members to represent the organization as national officers. This year, there were 35 candidates for a national office, and Seibel earned the top title.
His passion for the FFA, his motivation, tenacity, and hard work finally paid off.
“Now it’s time to hit the road,” Seibel said.
At the end of the fall semester, he’ll say goodbye to Blacksburg and hello to new destinations and opportunities. After formal training with other national officers, he’ll spend a week in Florida before two weeks in South Africa.
“It's going to be a cultural experience to make sure that we're well-versed in international agriculture and some of the things that our partners are doing in different countries,” Seibel said. “We need to be culturally intelligent to be proper voices for agriculture.”
Following the international trip, the officers will go their separate ways as advocates for the FFA. Individually, they are expected to travel about 120,000 miles throughout 40 states.
“It’s going to be a whirlwind of activity, but I have so many people in my life who I know will support me along this amazing journey,” he said.
One of those loyal supporters is Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr ’95. Lohr and Seibel share many similarities, including their passion for the FFA and their alma mater. Lohr earned his degree in agricultural education from Virginia Tech after serving two years with the National FFA Organization. He served one term as vice president.
“They truly were some of the greatest years of my life,” he said.
Lohr said one of his greatest takeaways from the experience were the communication skills he honed. Now a state representative and politician, "those skills have definitely come in handy,” he said.
“It doesn't matter what you do in life if you can communicate your message - if you can motivate and inspire – that is so important,” he said.
Lohr also learned the value of resiliency, especially when addressing the unexpected issues that travel often presents.
“There are going to be missed flights, lost luggage, flat tires on rental cars, and all of the things that can go wrong, but you have to learn to adapt and roll with it and continue on,” he said. “There are so many types of life skills that I learned that year that I'm able to still put to good use today. I can't stress the skills enough that this organization can provide, and Andrew is going to have an incredible year.”
While Seibel’s term as national president is just beginning, he and others are already looking forward to his return to Blacksburg, to his family, his peers, his mentors, and to a very special place on campus.
The Virginia Tech FFA Historical Room in 250 Litton Reeves holds a collection of 12 FFA jackets worn by previous national FFA officers from Virginia.
“When Andrew Seibel completes his term as president, we will be pleased to add his FFA jacket to the collection,” Hillison said.