New Kids on the Block
In just its first year, Oak Ridge FFA is already making huge strides by having 50 percent of high school students enrolled in the chapter.
Oak Ridge began building the framework for its agricultural education program a few years ago. With the passage of a bond issue in spring 2018, funds were available to construct a shop, employ an agricultural education teacher and begin the first FFA chapter in school history.
Oak Ridge FFA Advisor Nick Thiele said community support has been overwhelming and student interest has been high. Due to the hard work of a number of people, Oak Ridge has enjoyed a rich tradition of academic excellence and successful student activity programs.
“Our high school has been in existence since 1874, and we have always been a diversified agricultural area,” Thiele explained.
Oak Ridge FFA has already elected officers, established a Facebook page and held its first fundraiser, bringing in $1,100. Chapter members have attended local fairs and FFA Field Day at Barton Research Farm. Oak Ridge has also held a Greenhand initiation event, and the chapter is working to help build members’ SAEs.
A chapter chartering ceremony is also being planned, and members expect to participate in area, district and state contests this spring. Crop research plots on the school farm are in the works for Oak Ridge. And, the chapter hopes to complete both the interior and exterior of its new shop. Plus, the chapter has plans to work with area 4-H leaders, establish a farmers market and volunteer at a therapeutic horsemanship ranch.
Thiele explained that Oak Ridge also hopes to be actively involved in its community and school. The chapter’s goals include using a greenhouse to provide hydroponic vegetables to the school and collaborate with other student organizations to disperse and market their produce. Next year, members plan to volunteer at community clean up events.
The chapter hopes to recruit even more members through an Ag Exploration class offered to junior high students, teaching them about agriculture and FFA. Thiele said FFA members are keenly aware of their role on the school’s campus and in the community to make FFA visible.
“(Members) know their actions and enthusiasm will create some of the best recruiting opportunities,” he explained.
Students said offering FFA at the school is an honor. Chapter President Hayden Seyer and Vice President Dylan Muench are thankful FFA is now offered at their school.
“I think it will be a great benefit for the school because students will be involved in more outdoor activities and will understand the concept of FFA,” Muench said. “It will benefit the school because more students will be involved in many activities in the community.”
Muench wants to help educate others about how food is produced and the purpose of agriculture. He also hopes to focus on his SAE, which includes working on his family’s other local dairy farms, as well as showing dairy heifers.
Seyer said FFA is a great addition for their school and relevant to career goals. He also is proud to serve as the chapter’s first president, being an integral part in developing new chapter traditions.
“I want to ensure our FFA builds a solid foundation during our first year,” Seyer said.
In addition, Seyer knows that FFA opens opportunities for students to become involved. FFA has allowed him to build on skills he learned in 4-H. He also is able to showcase his role on his family’s row crop and beef cattle operation through his SAE.
“I’d like to thank my parents, and the parents of my fellow members, as well as our school administration and board of education for making our FFA chapter a priority, he said. “We are lucky to grow up in such a great community.”
—by Alison Bos Lovins