It’s one thing to talk about different soil types or a cow’s digestive system.
Experiencing those things in real life? That’s something unique that members of the inaugural Wayne FFA chapter have been able to experience during the group’s first year at Wayne High School.
With National FFA Week taking place this week, the 33-member chapter led by advisor Toni Rasmussen has learned a lot in its first few months of existence and gained a lot of experiences they might not otherwise have had without being a part of FFA.
From judging livestock to learning about horticulture, FFA members have taken a lot in during this first year.
“There have been a lot of opportunities we’ve had that we wouldn’t have had without FFA,” said Mariah Frevert, president of the Wayne FFA chapter. “I never thought I’d be walking around in a field judging soil, but it was a lot of fun and there were a lot of opportunities to try things that you’re not sure whether you are going to like them or not.”
“It’s been cool to see the other sides of the ag industry,” added Tyler Gilliland, chapter vice president. “Ag is more than just farming, and it’s been really neat to see some of the other businesses that are associated with agriculture.”
The new FFA chapter and the addition of ag-related curriculum have been a welcome addition to the school, and Rasmussen said she has received a ton of support from the community since her arrival at the start of the school year.
“We have had a lot of support from the community and a lot of support from the school, which has been really helpful,” she said. “The kids have gained a lot of experience and a lot of skills in things they may not have had experience in before.”
There is a lot to learn about agriculture, even in determining the quality of soil on a farm.
“Soil is more than just dirt,” Frevert explained. “There are materials to look for and determining how soil holds the water. If it holds too long, you’ll have standing water that isn’t good for your crops; but if it doesn’t hold water long enough you’ll have problems with your crops growing.”
That knowledge gained in the classroom and FFA activities is important, especially for those students who come from farm-family backgrounds.
“A lot of the kids who have come from the farm may have the experience, but maybe didn’t know the whys of what they were doing, so being able to do things like soil judging and dairy judging and the things we’ve learned in class has been really good for the kids to help them understand the scientific principles behind it.”
Both Gilliland and Frevert agreed.
“We run a dairy farm and we show at the county fair, and sometimes my dad will pick out what he thinks is the best cow and it ends up getting a red ribbon,” Gilliland said. “Now, with FFA, we’ve went to dairy judging competitions and I was able to get a better understanding of what to look for and hopefully that will help us out.”
“I have my own pig operation where I raise pigs and show them and sell them,” Frevert added. “With livestock judging, we’ve been able to look at how you want your pigs to look, and I’ll be able to take that back (home) so when my dad and I are buying more pigs or cattle, we’ll have that knowledge.”
The new FFA program has provided new opportunities for Wayne High students, according to Wayne High principal Mark Hanson.
“Agriculture and FFA are very hands-on activities and a lot of things these kids do are like that,” he said. “You can talk about digestive systems, but until you actually have one and see what they really look like is really interesting to the kids and sparks an interest in them, and I was glad to see Miss Rasmussen make that extra effort to have one of those brought in.”
Hanson, who was an FFA advisor at another school before coming to Wayne, said the future opportunities students can get in the FFA chapter easily go beyond the traditional agriculture area.
“People think that FFA kids will just go back to the farm, and the thing is there sometimes are limited opportunities to go back to the family farm, but there are so many support jobs in the ag field,” he said. “You look at sales and service opportunities at a place like Grossenburg, going into seed sales, agronomy or crop consulting — these aren’t farming jobs directly, but they are supportive to the farming community, so there are a lot of support jobs out there that aren’t ag-related.”
Wayne’s FFA chapter has represented themselves and the community well in competitions and conventions this year, and they have spent this week celebrating National FFA Week. On Monday, chapter members were in full dress for a group picture; Tuesday was ‘pajama day’, Wednesday was teacher appreciation day, Thursday was a chance to serve donuts and juice to students and staff, and the week will be capped with a pep rally on Friday.
The chapter will be busy through the rest of the school year, including an upcoming career development event in Norfolk, a farm show in Omaha, the state FFA convention this April in Lincoln, and a year-ending local banquet. They will also be involved in National Ag Day on March 20 to help bring agriculture awareness to the Wayne community.
“They have done pretty well for the first year,” Rasmussen said. “The kids have learned a lot and seemed to have enjoyed it, and we’re already talking about what we’ve learned and what we want to do or not do next year, which is great — it’s all about the experience.”