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Benita Hodge Credits FFA with Launching Her Career On New Episode of Growing Our Future Podcast

The National FFA Organization works to strengthen science and agricultural educational opportunities for students across the country. The Texas FFA Association and Texas FFA Foundation are the largest state organizations in the country.

On this episode of the Growing Our Future Podcast, Aaron Alejandro introduces Benita Hodge, Survey Administrator at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and first female African American to earn the prestigious American FFA Degree. Her continued work with FFA helps students and teachers understand the wide range of careers in agriculture, and inspires future leaders to go after what they love.

Listen to the full episode with host Aaron Alejandro and Benita Hodge here.

“A Place For Everyone”

Benita Hodge knew early on that she had an affinity for the natural world. In the rural area of Texas where she grew up, she spent time with her grandparents caring for what she calls a “small acreage.” When she sought out her high school’s FFA chapter, Hodge felt an immediate sense of belonging. “I learned that even though I did not grow up on a farm or ranch, there was still a place for me in agriculture and the FFA,” Hodge says.

Hodge “Jumped in” to FFA immediately. Connecting with her Ag teachers in horticulture and animal sciences, competing at national events, and joining a professional network made up of producers, engineers, educators, and more led Hodge to discover her passion for statistics. According to Hodge, the “accountability, responsibility, professionalism and leadership” skills she gained in FFA gave her a competitive edge. A series of strategic internships led her to her first job at the USDA, where she has worked ever since.

Making History

“Not everybody gets to be a first,” Alejandro says. Indeed, Hodge is proud to be the first female African American to earn the prestigious American FFA Degree. Still, achieving that “first” was never her focus, Hodge says. Instead, she was intent on doing what she loved, and attaining her goals. She acknowledges that there were difficult moments along the way. “I had to stretch myself,” Hodge says, “and not let anything hinder me.”

Alejandro agrees that having purpose is essential. “You were driven by passion,” he says. “There was something there that you wanted.” Hodge worked tirelessly to earn the American FFA Degree, and the lessons she learned along the way have given her not only a “seat at the table”, but a “voice at the table” when it comes to urgently important work in agriculture.

“I’ve been so proud to see others who’ve come after me,” Hodge says. “There are plenty more people out there with a lot to offer.”

A Message for Future Leaders

The professional network Hodge built–first in FFA and later as a member of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) –has helped her achieve her career goals. The leadership skills she built inform the way that she leads today. Integrity is key, she says. “People want to know that you’re honest, that they can trust you, and that you’ll show respect.” According to Hodge, it’s important to line up one’s words with one’s actions..

Communication is also fundamental. “If you’re leading people, you gotta be able to communicate so they know where you’re leading them,” Hodge says. Flexibility, especially in an ever-changing world, ensures that leaders are able to step up when they need to, even in the face of disruption.

Hodge knows that the students and educators who participate in FFA are the future. She wants students to remember the huge range of possibilities when it comes to a career in agriculture, as well as the essential nature of the work. “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture,” she says.


The Texas FFA Foundation’s purpose is to strengthen agricultural education and the Texas FFA program, so each student can develop their potential for personal growth, career success and leadership in a global marketplace..

Learn more about the Texas FFA Foundation at

Learn more about the NASS at:

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