Tractor raffle helps generate interest in ag education
By SEAN ELLIS
CALDWELL, Idaho -- A tractor raffle started two years ago by a Caldwell farmer has turned out to be much more than just a way to fund scholarships for Idaho FFA members.
Besides raising money to fund scholarships for tomorrow's agricultural leaders, the raffle has helped publicize and generate interest in agricultural education programs, said Idaho FFA Foundation Executive Director Laura Wilder.
"While we started out to have a project to raise money for scholarships for FFA members and the Idaho FFA program, it's turned out to be a wonderful visual symbol of ... the FFA and it's really helped us promote agricultural education programs throughout the state of Idaho," she said.
"This campaign has become more than just a fundraiser for FFA. It's become an awareness campaign about the FFA program and how much good it's doing for the state," said Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman, who started the raffle two years ago with his wife, Pam.
Freeman said the support of the state's ag community has made the program a success. Farmers and other people involved with agribusiness have donated 10 tractors, which are professionally restored by the Freemans with help from people involved in the industry.
Quality Trailer Sales of Caldwell on Jan. 30 gave the tractor raffle project a $5,000 trailer, which will be used to haul donated tractors around the state to generate interest in the raffle.
Quality Trailers Sales Executive Jeremy Gordon said his company was glad to help when it found out the project needed a trailer.
"We're really big when it comes to anything that has to do with FFA kids because they're our future," he said. The FFA program "makes a big difference in helping them get started in agriculture."
G&R Ag Products of Caldwell donates sprayers for the tractors each year.
"These kids that are coming up through that FFA system are the next generation of farmers that we will be doing business with," said company owner Curt Ruehl.
Sixty percent of the money raised by the raffle is used to offer scholarships and the rest is used to fund FFA programs.
During its first year, the raffle program raised $23,600, enough money to offer FFA members 14 $1,000 scholarships, and $37,800 was raised the second year, enough for 22 scholarships. If the project meets its $50,000 goal this year, the foundation can offer 30 scholarships.
This year's tractor is a 1949 John Deere M with a sprayer on the back and is fully functional, Freeman said.
As a result of the tractor raffle, other ag companies have decided to partner with the Idaho FFA program, Wilder said.
"We've had other businesses ... become involved with supporting Idaho FFA us as well because they've seen the tractor raffle project, and they've realized what a great program it is to support," she said.