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Blue Jacket Bonanza Tradition Continues
Posted On:
Monday, February 25, 2019

For hundreds of Santa Maria FFA members and more than 600,000 across the United States, the iconic blue corduroy jacket is more than the organization's official dress.

It is a sense of dedication and perseverance. It is a community that spans schools and states. It is a family.

"When I see them at a competition and they have on their dress uniform, they're standing taller [and] their faces are shining," said Teri Bontrager, longtime executive director for the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau. "To me, they're so proud to wear their uniforms. They just change when they put them on."

But for some students, particularly those enrolled in the federal free or reduced price lunch program, the cost of the iconic jacket may pose a financial burden on their family. Hoping to help offset the cost of participating in local FFA programs, Bontrager launched Blue Jacket Bonanza in 2010, a program that provides students a chance to earn their own blue jacket.

Consisting of an application process requiring a written essay, personal interview and completion of community service hours, the county Farm Bureau has awarded 499 jackets — including the 34 given to students this year — since the program's inception. The National FFA Organization endorsed the program in 2012, guaranteeing local Farm Bureaus a flat-rate price for each jacket, scarf and tie they purchase for a local student.

"The jacket symbolizes their identity within this organization," Pioneer Valley High School agriculture teacher Tyler Dickinson said, explaining that students often have to borrow FFA jackets from friends or family during competitions at the start of the year. For those students, particularly those who do not come from farming or agricultural families, Dickinson said borrowing a jacket from someone else can often chip at their individual identity.

"Having that personalized gift [and allowing] them to showcase their true worth and true potential in this organization is what this jacket symbolizes," he added.

A large FFA emblem adorns the back of the jacket, with the member's state and program name embroidered above and below. On the front, the member's name, office and year (for officers) are embroidered on the right side of the chest. Each jacket provided through Blue Jacket Bonanza includes a special 2-by-3-inch patch.

"Having your name on it ... makes you feel great," said Stephanie Corona, a senior at Santa Maria High School who was awarded a jacket through the program her freshman year. For her, the jacket helped establish her own identity and set her apart from her sister, who was an FFA member five years ago. 

"She was in the FFA program, but she was never involved like I was," Corona added. "Wearing that jacket creates a new image for me — I'm not my sister, I'm my own being."

Individuals or organizations that would like to support the local Blue Jacket Bonanza program are encouraged to contact the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau at 805-688-7479 or email

Article courtesy of Mathew Burciaga, Santa Maria Time Education Reporter
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