“I believe that when you find something you’re passionate about, you should pursue it.”
That simple statement almost codifies the life of Joshua Bledsoe, and what a life it’s been.
Bledsoe, 39, has just been tapped as the chief operating officer for the national Future Farmers of America (FFA) organization, a position that puts him at the top of the 557,318-member agriculture education group.
In the new position, the former Dobson resident will oversee major FFA operations and lead the execution of the organization’s strategic plan. He will head up key organizational units including education, convention and events management, partner services, information technology, marketing, communications and brand management, merchandising and customer fulfillment.
And it all began when he walked into his first agriculture class at Surry Central High School.
Bledsoe joined the FFA at Surry Central High School in 1987 as a freshman, and hasn’t left the organization since.
“I took agriculture courses all four years at Surry Central,” he said. “And was elected as a chapter officer my sophomore year. That’s when I received my first FFA jacket. I was so proud of that blue corduroy jacket.”
While in high school, he held various offices which culminated with serving as district officer his senior year.
Bledsoe graduated from Surry Central High School in 1991 and received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture education with a minor in animal sciences from North Carolina State University in 1995.
Beginning his freshman year at N.C. State, he served as the FFA president.
Shortly after graduating, he began teaching agriculture at West Columbus High School in Columbus County.
He received his master’s degree in agriculture eduction in 2005, and now is pursuing his Ph.D. in agriculture education from North Carolina State.
“I’ve been on the N.C. State campus pretty much since I was 18 years old,” he said Thursday with a laugh.
Bledsoe will be leaving the university, where he serves as the North Carolina State agricultural education leader. In that capacity, he provided leadership and coordination for agricultural education across the state.
He credits the lessons learned in Surry County with his success.
“I had wonderful teachers, so many that I can’t even begin to name them all,” he said. “But the one with the greatest impact on my life was agriculture teacher Donald Vestal at Surry Central. He had a tremendous influence on me to pursue this career path.”
Bledsoe is the son of Dennis and Patty Bledsoe, and grew up in Dobson.
He credits his parents and the community with providing a solid foundation and support over the years.
“I’ve had great parents, a great sister and great extended family support throughout the years,” he said. “They always believed in me and encouraged me to follow my dreams, but at the same time they held me to a high standard.”
And he is still passionate about agriculture.
“The very first occupation on this Earth was a farmer,” he said. “We have to eat, have clothes and shelter.”
And more hurdles are on the horizon.
“We have a grand challenge in front of us. By the year 2050, the experts say we’ll hit a 9 billion population mark. If we’re going to have that many people, we’re going to have to produce more food by then than we have in the past 10,000 years.
“Do we need agriculture? Absolutely. And we need young people to go into agriculture and fill those needed positions.”
He will be moving to Indianapolis, Ind., in mid-February, but said he tries to get back to Surry County as often as he can.
“My wife, Lisa, and I are very excited,” he said. “Of course, there’s no place like home, but I’m going to have the opportunity to work with an incredible staff on the national level. The impact we can have on the members of FFA is both humbling and an honor.
“It’s important that we all find our mission in life, and I believe my mission is to help young people understand the importance of agriculture. This is an opportunity to fulfill that mission.”
And would he ever consider returning to the county to teach an agriculture class at Surry Central High School?
“I’d love the opportunity,” he said.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.