For starters, did you know that agricultural activities began in New Jersey before the founding of the National FFA Organization in 1928? In fact, records show that statewide judging competitions for vocational agriculture students dated as far back as 1920. The actual formation of any type of agriculture organization began in 1923 when State Supervisor H.O. Sampson, a man highly respected for his witty personality and determination, established The Young Farmers of New Jersey.
Furthermore, another important player in New Jersey's rich FFA history was L.S. Archibald, a teacher and Advisory Council member. In a 1924 publication, he was quoted in saying, "I have no doubt that other states will be copying and looking to New Jersey for a model from which their state's organizations will be formed. Who can tell, but that a nationwide organization may eventually be formed and that the president of it may be a New Jersey boy?" At that time, Archibald's prediction seemed to be nothing more than wishful thinking. However, just four years later, his forecast became reality when Leslie Applegate, from Freehold, New Jersey, was elected the first national president of the FFA.
Actually, the New Jersey Association was granted their charter to the FFA on November 20th, 1928, making them the third chartered state. It is also recorded that in October of this year, a Mt. Holly High School student won first prize in milk judging at the National Dairy Show in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1930, New Jersey held its first official FFA public speaking contest on May 15th. But contests, conventions, and meetings were not the only things the FFA consisted of when it first began. There were many chapter activities conducted, some very different and some quite similar to those carried out in the present day. H.O. Sampson was a firm believer in chapter activities, and he was once quoted as saying, "The most effective FFA work can be done in the local chapters. The members should study the aims and purposes of the organization and develop each one with the local chapter in mind." Today, the H.O. Sampson Recognition Program honors chapters for outstanding participation in state level activities. Chapters can receive a gold, silver, or bronze rating based on their percentage of participation in all state FFA events.