By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
BOISE – A tractor raffle program that raises scholarship money for Idaho FFA members will look a little different this year.
But the small changes in the Idaho FFA Foundation program should provide a huge incentive for the FFA members across Idaho who sell the raffle tickets.
Before this year, it cost $10 for each ticket someone purchased for a chance to win a tractor, a Traeger grill or a $250 gift card to D&B Supply.
Sixty percent of the tickets sales went to scholarships, 6 percent went to the chapters that sold the three winning tickets and the remaining 34 percent was used to cover administrative costs of the program.
Beginning this year, tickets will cost $20 each but half of the total of each ticket sold will go directly back to the chapter that sold it. That chapter can use the money as they choose.
Also new this year with the program is that scholarships are only available to students in the chapters who have actually participated in selling tickets.
The new rules should act as a big incentive for FFA members to sell tickets, said Sid Freeman, the Caldwell farmer and Idaho Farm Bureau Federation member who along with his wife, Pam, started the raffle program in 2010.
“This way, it gives FFA members a direct incentive to sell tickets; that’s a huge incentive,” he said. “It has been received very, very well.”
“Almost every (FFA) teacher I’ve spoken with about the new program says, ‘It’s going great, can I have more tickets?’” said Idaho FFA Foundation Executive Director Marcia Jedry.
Heading into its 10th year, the raffle program has awarded $146,000 in scholarship money to 134 students from 41 of the state’s 95 FFA chapters.
Another $22,000 will be awarded in April to FFA students.
Most of the scholarships are for $1,000 but two $2,000 scholarships are awarded each year for ag education teacher degrees to help secure more ag-ed teachers for the state and reduce the ongoing shortage of those positions nationwide.
Freeman said approximately $450,000 has been donated to or raised for the tractor raffle program over the past nine years from businesses across Idaho in the form of banner sponsorships – these are used to purchase the tractors – as well as in-kind contributions and ticket sales.
He said the tractor raffle program started out as a simple way to get rid of an old tractor from his farm while raising some scholarship money for FFA members. He said it has become much bigger than he ever imagined.
With the help of ag-related businesses, the Freemans in 2010 refurbished a 1941 Farmall M and drove it around the state on a borrowed trailer to promote it. It was raffled off in April 2011.
“The enthusiasm for the tractor raffle has gone through the roof,” Freeman said. “It’s a great fundraising mechanism for FFA students but it also has become this huge statewide awareness campaign about the benefits and success of agricultural education with the FFA component.”
With the help of Idaho FFA Alumni members and some ag education teachers, the raffle tractor will travel about 5,000 miles a year, being towed on a trailer that was donated by C&D Trailer Manufacturing of Caldwell in 2013.
This promotes the tractor raffle program, which has become a visual symbol of Idaho’s FFA program.
Freeman said the state’s agribusiness community, as well as other businesses such as banks and construction companies, have all been huge supporters of the program.
Businesses can purchase banner sponsorships, which allows their name to appear on the 12 banners associated with the tractor raffle program.
“Businesses all across the state have been a huge help with all of this,” Freeman said. “We have more people wanting to be a banner sponsor than we can actually fit on the banners, which is a very good problem to have. Industry wants to be part of a successful campaign like this one because they understand the quality of young individuals that come out of our ag education and FFA programs.”
Besides raising money for scholarships, the tractor raffle campaign has also helped boost awareness of agricultural education, Jedry said.
“Students who participate in FFA are significantly more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college or a career and technical education of some kind, and some are actually heading directly into a career job itself,” Freeman said. “They are also more likely to return to their communities as leaders in the future.”
Agriculture is the top sector of Idaho’s economy and many FFA students will be leaders of that industry in the future, he added.
“The tractor raffle has raised awareness about the FFA and what it does in agricultural education and how important that is in our state,” Jedry said. “It gives us a way to speak to people in every community that we are present in and educate them about the value of agricultural education.”