MT. ANGEL, Ore. — It has been a banner year for Wilco's FFA Forever Program, with record donations for state FFA associations in Oregon, Washington and California.
The Oregon-based agricultural cooperative raised more than $200,000 during its annual August fundraiser. That includes more than $100,000 from customers at 23 Wilco retail stores across the three states, and $70,000 from participating vendors. Wilco also donated an additional $25,000.
"We definitely collected a record amount, which was amazing," said Jake Wilson, director of marketing and e-commerce for Wilco.
Part of that was due to the recent opening of two new Wilco stores in Petaluma and Sonora, Calif., which boast strong FFA support in their communities, Wilson said.
"Overall, we saw an increase in Oregon and Washington as well," he said. "People really came out to help. It's been pretty neat to see."
Wilco established the FFA Forever Program in 2012 shortly after Oregon FFA lost its state funding. Since then, the co-op has pledged more than $1.5 million in support for local FFA associations, promoting youth leadership and agricultural education.
Sam Bugarsky, president and CEO of Wilco, said the co-op's commitment to supporting rural communities and helping youth in agriculture thrive "has never been stronger."
"Partnering with our vendors, customers, employees and farmer-owners to assure that the future of agriculture is bright is one of Wilco's core values and is absolutely a highlight of our co-op," Bugarsky said in a statement.
Wilco's support for Oregon FFA and 4-H members extends beyond the FFA Forever Program. This year, the co-op also nearly doubled its spending at junior livestock auctions — bidding and purchasing market animals at 26 events across three states.
In all, Wilco spent more than $130,000 at the auctions, contributing to more than 150 individual projects and bidding thousands of times to bump up prices for kids.
Finally, Wilco is providing more than $150,000 in youth rebates for 4-H and FFA members in Oregon, Washington and California to help jumpstart their 2022 projects. The rebates can be redeemed at Wilco stores throughout October.
Wilson said he has noticed an definite uptick in support for FFA and 4-H members throughout the pandemic and numerous natural disasters such as wildfires and ice storms that have caused significant hardships for agricultural producers.
"It just seems to have been one thing after another," Wilson said. "We've continued to see the communities rally together to help."