Think of the Caledonia Chapter of Future Farmers of America as a modern-day myth buster for an age-old profession.
Interest in the student organization is keen even if students don’t plan on a career raising livestock or tilling 200 acres.
FFA is a career and technical student organization that promotes agricultural education. It does so by teaching agriscience classes such as food science, leadership skills, veterinary science, equine science and horticulture.
They’re lessons they can carry with them into adulthood.
“It really makes us get out of our shell and gets us to do things as an adult,” said senior Kylie Frahm, 17. “I used to be really shy, but now I reach out to new people. I’ve gained a better version of myself. You learn to be a servant leader.”
Students find out the pluses and minuses of processed, organic and all-natural foods. Learning about horses’ skeletal system is fascinating to them. They can’t get enough of understanding the digestive systems of cattle, ducks and sheep.
FFA students are encouraged to move beyond their personal boundaries of comfort. They’re responsible for planning all the details the annual toy tractor sale and scholarship auction/hog roast require. Such events nudge them to being all the more responsible for themselves and others. They embrace a teamwork ethic.
And they realize that servant leadership means not seeking the limelight but humbling working behind-the-scenes to accomplish mundane tasks such as setting up and taking down tables, greeting people at the door and emptying smelly trash containers following an FFA-sponsored event.
“I’ve learned to work with adults I may not have associated with,” said sophomore Kaitlynn Harper, 15. “It’s pushed me to create long-lasting relationships with people.”
In the Top Five Percent
The Caledonia Chapter ripples with pride for earning Three Star Awards, including the 2014 National Chapter Award Program from the National FFA Organization.
Such achievements rank the Caledonia Chapter in the top five percent of chapters in the nation. That means of the 7,500 FFA chapters in the nation, less than 200 chapters can legitimately lay claim to that honor.
The Caledonia Chapter is one that can.
Recently about 12 of the 50 FFA students traveled to Louisville, Ky.,to participate in the 87th National FFA Convention, a national youth organization of more than 610,000 student members from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The convention’s intent is to prepare young people for careers in the science, business and technology in agriculture and natural resources.
Alexandria Schut said potential employers are drawn to students who are FFA members.
“I really met a lot of different employers at the national convention,” said Alexandria, president of the Michigan FFA Chapter. “They see FFA on our resume and it goes to the top. They know we have a lot of fire and passion.”
FFA students learn and recite the five components of the FFA Creed, which affirms in part they believe in leadership from themselves and respect from others and in their ability to work efficiently and think clearly.
They learn why community matters.
“It’s great to grow together with my fellow classmates,” said junior Lexi Lieske, 16.
FFA also plows ahead with hands-on farm to fork lessons. FFA students find out how food is grown and how it’s processed for human consumption.
Read Labels First
That includes reading ingredient labels on food packages and asking related questions, such as if artificial sweeteners like aspartame are OK? What’s the difference between processed, all-natural and organic food?
“I don’t come from an agricultural background, but it’s very helpful just having an agricultural education, learning about crops and different commodities and what’s inside the food we eat,” said Kaitlynn.
In the back of their classroom is green house where produce such as green peppers and tomatoes are grown and given as gifts to teachers at the end of the school year.
FFA gives students a front-row seat into the future of farming.
“Students are understanding when they make a hamburger at night, it puts reality into thinking where it’s coming from,” said Stacy Bender, FFA advisor and High School science/agriscience teacher. “We’re educating them to the potential of what is out there as far as careers go. There are so many jobs in agricultural that they don’t even know exists.”