Today’s FFA is more than just farming |

Today’s FFA is more than just farming

How many teenagers have you met that know how to raise a blue ribbon-winning heifer or even show interest in learning about agriculture? For most teenagers today, life revolves their iPhones and spending countless hours in front of a TV or computer screen, but not everyone. In the more rural parts of Summit County, a student organization formerly called Future Farmers of America is popular

Travis Banks, North Summit High School (NSHS) senior and FFA president bragged that the National FFA organization is the largest student organization of its kind in the nation, with just over half a million members.

Katie Silcox, North Summit FFA advisor, said that FFA is more than just another student club because it’s intra-curricular, which means that student learning takes place within the classroom and outside of class.

One of the requirements to be a member of FFA is enrollment in a science or agriculture related class. Students must also complete a Supplemental Agricultural Experience project (SAE). This project can be anything agriculture-related outside of school. Some students raise animals, or work in an agriculture job, explained Josh Blazzard, South Summit FFA vice-president. Students who raise animals can sell them and use the money to help pay to attend FFA events, if they choose.

In addition to an SAE, club members must participate in Career Development Events and pay membership dues, according to Lachelle Lewis of the South Summit FFA chapter.

At NSHS, golfers, drama participants, football players, and cheerleaders are part of the club. Silcox said that you don’t have to raise an animal to be part of FFA. She explained that although Coalville is a rural community, they aren’t overly agricultural. She said that that FFA teaches about agricultural topics as well as leadership and other life skills.

For instance, students learn about different cuts of beef, which will help consumers making purchases at the meat market. They learn public speaking by competing in various competitions. Students learn how to organize large groups, because they do all the legwork, making travel arrangements for their various events.

FFA students at North Summit will be learning how to grow and sell poinsettias this holiday season. On Wednesday, the class will go to a greenhouse to pick up their plants. The botanist will give the students instructions on how to care for their plants, and then it’s up to the students, explained Silcox. Christmas, the class should have plants that are fully-grown, potted, wrapped in foil, finished with a bow, and ready to sell. Although poinsettias are grown to be aesthetically pleasing, Silcox said that her students can apply all the same principles to grow a crop that will feed hungry people, such as corn.

Many of Silcox’s students take her floriculture class where they learn the entire process of growing plants, from seeding plants in the greenhouse, to making floral arrangements that will appeal to consumers.

The North Summit FFA chapter has about 70 members. Silcox said that most chapters around the country have 15 percent of their members who actually show up at events, but at North Summit, they usually get 30 to 40 percent active participation.

North Summit FFA meets twice a month. Banks said that they travel a lot. Students from both North and South Summit are preparing to head to Indianapolis, Ind. on Oct. 24 to participate in the national convention. Silcox said that this year they will listen to convention speakers and watch some of the competitions. In previous years, they have sent students to the national convention to compete. North Summit will also be going to Denver this January for the National Western Stock Show.

Lewis said she thinks people join FFA to go on fun trips. She said that last year they had about 30 members, and this year they have 58. One reason Lewis thinks they saw a jump in membership is that students wanted to go to the Summit County Fair with the club, but first they had to join.

According to Silcox, agriculture is the largest employer in the United States. "Everyone had breakfast this morning, and someone had to grow it," said Silcox while explaining how important agriculture is in our society. She is often heard telling her students that if it weren’t for agriculture, we would all be running around without any clothes, starving.

According to Silcox, the two greatest challenges facing the agriculture industry today that she wants to educate her students about are urban sprawl and water rights. She said that the same land that is ideal for growing crops is also ideal for building homes on. With more homes being built every day, farmers have to grow more food for more people on less land.

South Summit FFA members explained that they don’t have a rivalry against neighboring chapters like the football team does; instead they organize events and work together. Silcox, however, is mildly concerned because Dusty Ercanbrack, the South Summit FFA advisor was one of her students at North Summit. She said that the North Summit chapter was very successful during Ercanbrack’s era, and she’s worried that Ercanbrack took some of her secrets over to South Summit.

One series of events the two chapters work on together, along with students from Morgan, are student-led town hall-type discussions. One of the topics they discuss in these meetings is water conservation. Silcox said that participating in this type of event helps prepare students for the future because they’ll be less intimidated when they stand up in a similar setting full of adults. Silcox said that they try to include other groups such as 4-H and the Farm Bureau in these talks, because FFA can have a greater impact if they get more people educated and involved.

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