MacKenna Clifton made history last fall when she became the first female from North Carolina to represent the 850,000 members of the National FFA Organization as Southern Region Vice President. Clifton is also the first North Carolina representative since 1996 and just the 14th person from the state to serve on the national board since 1929. Each year, six individuals are chosen to serve as national officers to advocate for agriculture, agriculture education and FFA. Clifton previously served as the 2020-21 North Carolina FFA Vice President at the Secretary’s Station. Stay tuned as we check in with her to learn about her year at a National FFA Officer. Check out the blog below to learn a little about the process of becoming a National FFA officer and how she chose to pursue her passion for agriculture.
The Journey to the National Officer
In high school, Clifton was a member of the West Rowan FFA where she also served as NC FFA Vice President at the Secretary’s Station in 2020-2021.
The process to become a National Officer is extensive. Each state FFA association can submit one member annually. That member takes part in a rigorous interview process with the National FFA Officer Nominating Committee. Thirty-five candidates vied for the national office when the process began, with the final six being chosen at the National FFA Convention in October.
Clifton’s year as an officer will be busy – in addition to international travel, her schedule includes several FFA events, meeting with donors and supporters, and engaging with legislators and decision makers. Clifton will meet with thousands of students, deliver hundreds of workshops and keynotes during her year as a national officer. In fact, Clifton has taken a year off her studies at N.C. State University to serve.
An untraditional route to Agriculture:
Clifton entered her high school agriculture program as a transfer student to West Rowan High School. She had no experiences in agriculture and didn’t know if the program would be the right fit. “My teacher, Jason Chester, encouraged me to take a leap and explore the opportunities that could be afforded through agriculture and the FFA,” she said. “I began by attending FFA meetings and eventually decided to pursue leadership opportunities. That one investment made by Mr. Chester led me to my future career and began my journey within the National FFA Organization.”
“What interested me most about agriculture as a high school student was the community and family fostered by the industry. As a transfer student to my high school, it was easy for me to stick out. I was searching for a home, and ultimately, I found that within my agriculture classroom and FFA,” Clifton said. “Along with this, agriculture offered me a way to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others. There was and is a need for increased agricultural literacy throughout our communities and I was thrilled to play a part in meeting that need.”
One way she increased agricultural literacy in her community is through her supervised agricultural experience. “I created a 2-3 day event entitled “Discover Ag Day” for fourth graders throughout my county to immerse themselves in hands-on learning experiences related to agriculture,” said Clifton. “I began as a student who had no background in agriculture and have worked diligently to become an educated consumer and advocate for agriculture. My atypical beginning allows me to relate to individuals who have limited experiences with or in agriculture, but my experiences have also enabled me to relate to those who are well-versed in agriculture. This year, I look forward to growing and using my voice to highlight our great industry.”
Clifton has continued her agricultural journey at N.C. State University where she is currently a junior majoring in Agricultural Education. “I have a deep passion for teaching and would love the opportunity to educate the general public about the agriculture industry,” she said. “Whether that be in a high school classroom, political setting, or business and industry setting.”
“The Ag Education program at N.C. State has provided me with a strong foundation in teaching methods and curriculum development, as well as hands-on learning through field experiences,” she added. “The program has also exposed me to various aspects of the agriculture industry and provided opportunities to network with industry professionals. Countless professors, mentors, and staff members have invested time, talent, and resources to properly equip me for my future endeavors.” Clifton looks forward to returning to NCSU after her year of service.
This year, Clifton said she looks forward to instilling confidence in others through intentional conversations and interactions. “I hope to share my experiences and resources with others so that we may all find our home within agriculture and FFA.” On Jan. 31, the National FFA Officer team will be traveling to South Africa to invest in learning experiences related to international agriculture.
Stayed tuned as we check in with Clifton and learn more about her time as a National FFA Officer.