Perspectives Online

Profits from bestselling FFA T-shirt fund creation of new endowment

In addition to selling T-shirts (below) on the Brickyard, the Collegiate FFA also collected food (above), clothing and monetary donations for the Salvation Army.
Photos by Becky Kirkland

Where would you be without agriculture?" asks the back side of the T-shirt of the N.C. State Collegiate FFA chapter. The front side gives the answer: "Naked & Hungry."

That's a "Jeopardy" type Q&A so catchy that the T-shirt became the hottest-selling garment in the National FFA catalogue, and profits from those sales became the means of funding scholarships for North Carolina FFA students.

It began a couple of years ago when Jennifer Richardson and Christian Wilson, then agricultural education undergraduates in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, brought the T-shirt design idea to Collegiate FFA adviser Joshua Bledsoe. "From there it was just a hit," he said.

Richardson and Wilson are now, respectively, an agricultural education graduate student at University of Florida and an agriculture teacher at Southern Guilford High School. And their T-shirt slogan continues to resonate as a hit among buyers.

Last year, CFFA president Allison McCabe submitted the design to the National FFA's T-shirt design contest, which promised that the top five designs would be featured in the national catalogue, with the entrants receiving half of the gross sales. The N.C. State shirt not only was selected to the top five, but, "it became the one of the best-selling clothing items the FFA catalog had ever had," said Bledsoe.

"When NCSU CFFA found out we could submit our T-shirt for the national contest, we thought we would have a great chance at winning because the shirt has been such a huge success on campus and at state FFA events," said McCabe, who earned her 2004 bachelor's degree in agricultural education and now is working on her master's. "But we had no idea that the shirt was going to be as big a hit as it was. At the national FFA convention, the store sold out of our shirt every single day they were open."

At the end of a year of sales, the chapter received a check for $15,997, which in turn became a gift to the North Carolina FFA Foundation in the College to establish the N.C. State University Collegiate FFA Scholarship Endowment. Income from the endowment will be used to provide scholarships for incoming College freshmen who are FFA members.

"FFA has had the chance to mold some of the greatest national, state and local leaders in the past," McCabe said. "I hope this endowment will allow those who have become leaders in FFA in high school to continue their education and continue building their leadership skills to make their community even better."

Collegiate FFA members surround J. Bradley Kidd (seated, left), club president, and Joshua Bledsoe, club adviser, as they sign the NCSU Collegiate FFA Scholarship Endowment agreement.
(Photo by Daniel Kim)
Bledsoe said, "Each year we'll continue to sell T-shirts, and each year we'll make contributions to the endowment, so we can offer more scholarships to current and incoming students."

At a February 10 endowment-signing reception, Dr. Johnny Wynne, dean of the College, said, "Collegiate FFA has done a good job in raising funds to benefit fellow students. You should feel good that you have done something that will help those that follow you on and on."

Just before the signing ceremonies, many of the students in attendance had been on the NCSU Brickyard, braving particularly cold winds as they participated in FFA's Naked and Hungry Day - a day of fund-raising and sales of the famous T-shirt.

"We're targeting support for the homeless and the hungry, so we're also collecting canned food, clothing and monetary donations to go to the Salvation Army," said Justin Lowe, a state FFA officer and a junior in agricultural education from Liberty, as he manned the shack serving as the base of operations. "We wanted to open it up to as many avenues of support and service as we could."

He was assisted by Matthew Pence, freshman in animal science from Cleveland, and Holly Deal, a junior in food science from China Grove, who mentioned that other CALS student clubs, such as the Collegiate 4-H, Biology Club and Teaching Fellows had also helped with donations.

Nearby, undaunted by the brisk breezes, Ted Clayton, a freshman in agricultural and extension education, served his shift in a box and leotard as the Naked & Hungry guy featured on the T-shirt, while Jenny Hinson from Monroe and Jen Schiskey from Raleigh, both AEE sophomores, held signs.

Later, in the warmer confines of the dean's office, Marshall Stewart, state agricultural education coordinator, told the CFFA group, "What you're doing for the future says something about your character and what FFA has taught you. I know the youngsters coming behind you will be pleased and grateful."

- Terri Leith