By Josette Keelor
QUICKSBURG -- Identical twins Whitney and Brittany Bowman already had a lot in common before both were elected state officers of the Virginia Future Farmers of America Association.
The 19-year-old Mount Jackson residents joined the North Fork Middle School FFA in 2006 after their father suggested they find a club to join. The FFA was handing out gold chapter T-shirts, so it won them over.
Helping their decision were their father, grandfather and uncle, who all had been FFA state officers.
Elected secretary effective June 26, Brittany Bowman replaces her sister, who recently completed a year as secretary. As far as they know it's the first time siblings have served Virginia in consecutive years, even more notable since they are twins, both chosen for the office of secretary.
Also representing Shenandoah County, recent Central High School graduate Garrett Coffey, 17, has been elected to the office of sentinel. From Sherando High School in Stephens City, Daniel Black was elected treasurer.
Including newly elected President Zach Jacobs of Buffalo Gap in Augusta County, four of the state's seven officers are from the Shenandoah Valley, a feat Stonewall Jackson High School agriculture teacher Jay Jarrett said isn't that surprising.
"Most state officers come from the Shenandoah Valley," he said. "This is really the life of FFA in the state."
What's less common is officers coming from Stonewall Jackson, the smallest of Shenandoah County's three high schools with only about 540 students, nearly half of whom are in agriculture classes.
Since the school opened in 1959, there have been seven state officers, he said. One of those was the twins' father, Joseph Bowman, who was state president the same year that Black's mother Kim (Lineburg) Black, a James Wood High School graduate, was selected to the state office, in 1983-84.
Garrett also comes from a long FFA legacy. Both parents, some grandparents and other relatives of his were members, and his 13-year-old brother Jacob also recently joined.
As state sentinel, he said he will "help spread the word about FFA and agriculture."
"It's kind of been a goal that I've had for awhile," he said.
He plans to wait a year before starting college to make time for the demands of the volunteer position, which Whitney Bowman said took up a lot of her freshman year at Virginia Tech.
About three days a week she volunteered at chapter events in and around Blacksburg and also traveled around Virginia visiting other chapters.
Last January while in South Africa for nearly two weeks, she picked carrots and visited local communities, a produce market, a citrus farm and cattle, dairy and sheep farms.
If elected to the national office this October following an interview process, she said she plans to defer school for a year.
"They say you travel about 100,000 miles and visit about 30 to 40 states during the year," she said. "They say you're home three days a month if you're a national officer."
Jarrett said that's a pretty big "if." Only six out of 50 national candidates will be chosen to the office.
If Whitney Bowman doesn't make it this year, she can try again next year, but Jarrett said the determination she has shown in area, state and national conventions gives her an edge.
"One thing that makes these two different from the average FFA member is that they participated in a lot of national career development events," he said. "That's the new term for contest."
"They had a lot of success statewide," he said.
Nationally, FFA has nearly 580,000 members and is one of the largest student-run organizations in the country.
"It's a real challenge to be elected to a state office," Jarrett said. Only one chapter member can serve at a time, so they knew only one twin could make it -- assuming either one made it.
"You never can count on it," he said. "A lot of people think it's neat that the two of them have the same office."