Capital Press | FFA Capital Press Mon, 30 Nov 2015 12:39:08 -0500 en Capital Press | FFA Idaho team places fourth in national FFA contest Wed, 25 Nov 2015 10:04:15 -0500 John O’Connell Capital Press

AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho — To prepare for an FFA competition, a team of American Falls High school students devoted a full year to research — interviewing agricultural producers, a federal judge and others with a stake in their topic.

They also enrolled in a junior-level class with the singular purpose of practicing for Agricultural Issues, which challenges FFA teams to present both sides of a current issue in agriculture, enabling audience members to form their own educated opinions.

The planning paid off, as American Falls won the Idaho state competition in April and took fourth place among 44 teams during the recent national FFA convention in Louisville, Ky.

The team debated the merits of Idaho’s Agricultural Security Act, commonly called the ag-gag law, which was declared unconstitutional in August by Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The statute, signed by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, outlawed undercover investigations into animal welfare, food safety and worker safety within agricultural production facilities.

During a meeting with the high school team, Winmill explained the law violated the Equal Protection clause under the 14th Amendment and free speech under the First Amendment.

But the students also spent time with local agriculture sources who considered the law vital to protecting their businesses, including Greg Andersen, owner of Seagull Bay Dairy, and Marshall Jensen, general manager of Snake River Cattle Feeders.

Students said the business owners emphasized practices that may appear to be inhumane out of context often serve an animal’s best interests.

“Marshall talked about euthanasia. When a cow can’t get up, they usually shoot it in the head with a .22 (rifle) and try to get it out of its misery as soon as possible rather than torture the cow,” said Maddie Wagoner, who supports the former law.

Based on what she’s learned, Wagoner believes Idaho agriculture should reintroduce a more narrowly tailored version of the law to avoid constitutional challenges. She also suggests that food processors open their facilities to more tours to improve public trust.

The team presented the topic in courtroom format, with Kodee Vining filling in for Winmill as judge. Students chose to play characters from the actual court case, choosing sides based on their personal opinions. Dawson Winder played a witness with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. His Facebook updates at each stage of the national competition were widely followed by the community.

“One thing that helped me was our whole town was practically right behind us,” Winder said.

Mercedes Hall was a Center for Food Safety witness. Katie Ward served as president of the Idaho Dairy Association, and Stockton Woodworth was an Idaho senator, supportive of agriculture. Wagoner and Melanie Jennings, a last-moment substitution on the team who had to make due with just a couple of days of practice, were the attorneys.

Marc Beitia, who is in charge of the school’s agriculture program, said the students had to speak about their project to civic groups such as the local Rotary and Lions clubs. He said the next Agricultural Issues class has already started work on next year’s topic, immigration.

Washington FFA teams find success at nationals Thu, 12 Nov 2015 09:41:05 -0500 Matw Weaver Several Washington FFA teams ranked highly at the recent National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, Ky.

Britte Harder, Abigail McGregor and Jason Wigen from LaCrosse, Wash., placed first in the nation for their marketing plan competition team, against 31 teams. Wigen is state reporter for the Washington FFA.

Cassidy Boyd, Kandace Brunner, Jordan O’Donnell and Olivia Abbott of Cashmere, Wash., placed second out of 43 meats evaluations teams at the convention. Boyd placed ninth individually out of 165, winning a $400 scholarship.

Hannah Lynch, Delaney Strutzel, Ellie York and Sami Sykes placed fourth out of 36 food science teams. Lynch placed fourth out of 144 contestants, winning an $800 scholarship.

Harder, a junior at LaCrosse High School, said it was “overwhelming” to come in first.

“We were pretty consistent with our presentation, we had a solid run and the questions they asked us, we answered very well,” she said.

The team put together a marketing plan for Dixon Land and Livestock’s annual club calf sale in Pomeroy, Wash., increasing revenue with advertising and other business propositions. The group began practicing last December, often after school, Harder said.

Harder has been in FFA since the eighth grade.

“I really like being competitive,” she said. “I know if I study hard and put in the time and effort, then I’ll succeed.” She expects to apply the skills she learned in FFA to whatever career she pursues, still to be determined.

Lynch, a senior at Cashmere High School, said her teammates practiced together one or two times a week and studied as much as possible. Adviser Rusty Finch recruited the team, she said.

“It was just something that we decided we were going to put our heads down, do the work and do our best so that we could get to nationals and be able to compete,” she said.

Lynch started in FFA in her sophomore year. She enjoys being able to compete and still participate in sports. She is considering a biotechnology or a pharmacy degree.

LaCrosse FFA adviser Lisa Baser previously took another team to the national FFA marketing plan competition. In 2008, she coached the team from Pomeroy High School, where her husband J.D. was the FFA adviser at the time. She credited her LaCrosse team with being “intelligent and hard-working.”

“Just giving them something that will challenge them and push them, I think is the big key there,” Baser said. “They knew they were going to be successful, but they were going to have to work really hard, and that’s what they did.”

Finch said his teams have placed in the top five in the last three years. Like Lynch, his students often balance FFA with sports, school, church and other activities, he said.

“They’ve been competing athletically and other ways, but one of the neat things about FFA is they get to apply what they’ve learned, usually with real world-type applications,” he said. “It allows them to be employable and apply skills and knowledge they’re going to utilize in the future.”

FFA changes lives one blue jacket at a time Thu, 12 Nov 2015 08:32:15 -0500 Tim Hearden Emily Kraxberger didn’t grow up on a farm. Her family had 2 acres in Canby, Ore., near Portland, where they had a small vegetable garden.

But as a teenager in high school, Kraxberger was drawn to agriculture classes such as floral science and landscaping.

Through those classes, she was introduced to FFA.

It changed her life.

“In my sophomore year, I had an instructor who told me I should come to a leadership camp,” she said. “That’s how I became involved. Then I got some chickens, and on our small piece of property I raised chickens.”

Kraxberger stayed involved after high school, interning in FFA’s state office while earning an agricultural sciences degree at Oregon State University and going to work there full-time after graduation.

Today, she is the Oregon FFA’s associate director of programs, handling career development, membership and awards and helping out at the state fair.

“I felt the need to give back,” she said. “The organization had done so much for me when I was in high school. I really attribute all of my success to FFA. … I really believe in everything FFA does for students.”

As a student who was drawn to FFA by its practical hands-on activities, Kraxberger is a testament to the growth of the 87-year-old national organization formerly known as Future Farmers of America.

FFA’s membership nationwide is at an all-time high, with 629,367 participants in the 2014-15 academic year compared to 490,017 a decade ago, according to Kristy Meyer, the spokeswoman at the national FFA headquarters in Indianapolis.

Participation in FFA has been trending upward throughout the West, too. In California, there were 79,526 members in 2014-15, up from 64,201 a decade earlier. Washington state’s FFA ranks have increased from 5,802 in 2011-12 to 8,024 last year. Membership has also been increasing in Oregon and Idaho.

Started for high school students who wanted to be production farmers, FFA has broadened its focus in recent decades to encourage students who aspire to become teachers, veterinarians, scientists and other professionals who interact with agricultural industries.

In addition to hands-on farming, FFA members learn “soft skills” such as public speaking, marketing and interviewing for jobs, Kraxberger said.

“There’s something for everyone in FFA,” she said. “Something really cool that’s been happening is that for people in the city who don’t have access to farms, maybe they’re doing a science project related to agriculture. … If it relates to the environment or natural resources, it’s very much FFA.”

Students and teachers say this emphasis on building career skills is a big reason for the FFA’s burgeoning popularity. The growth of agriculture education in schools, the continued involvement of alumni and youngsters’ desire to avert a future global food shortage are also factors, they say.

“I think FFA is just an amazing program that sets kids up for success,” said Ally Rose McDonald, a senior at Durham, Calif., High School and the California FFA’s Superior Region secretary. “It truly opens doors. It gives you an opportunity to see what kind of agricultural fields you’d like to pursue.

“I think FFA gives you the tools to be confident and successful in talking to other people,” she said. “Those are tools that are going to be necessary throughout your life.”

FFA’s growth has come as participation in other youth programs for high school students has seen a decline.

For instance, Boy Scouts of America membership fell 7 percent last year, continuing a decade-long decline, and the number of Girl Scouts and adult volunteers dropped by 6 percent, The Associated Press reported. There were about 3.4 million Boy Scouts and adult volunteers and about 2.8 million Girl Scouts and volunteers last year.

Youth team sports participation has also declined in the last five years, according to a report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

What makes FFA different is its affiliation with high schools, leaders say. A student might start with an agriculture-related class and become involved in FFA’s extracurricular activities.

“I think we’re just ahead of the curve,” said Katy Teixeira, an Anderson, Calif., high school adviser who was an FFA member. “It gives kids an opportunity to travel and to learn and compete at the state, national and international level.”

Jack Klaiber, a freshman at Anderson, Calif., High School, is in his first year of FFA.

“At first it was just because some of my friends were doing it,” Klaiber said of his reason for joining. “As I started to attend the events, I realized this is something I want to put my time into and it will be a great thing for me.”

While Klaiber isn’t necessarily planning a career in agriculture, “I’d still like it to be a main part of my life,” he said.

Fostering farming careers was the sole purpose when 33 students from 18 states gathered at the American Royal Livestock Show in Kansas City to form Future Farmers of America in 1928. The group elected Leslie Applegate of Freehold, N.J., as its first president and adopted its national emblem.

The national FFA was organized two years after Walter S. Newman, Virginia’s state supervisor of agriculture education, worked with other ag educators to start the Future Farmers of Virginia to address concerns that boys were losing interest and leaving the farm,

FFA adopted its official creed in 1930 and introduced its familiar blue corduroy jackets three years later. In 1965, the FFA merged with a similar organization for young African Americans called New Farmers of America, and girls gained full membership privileges as voting delegates in 1969.

In 1988, Future Farmers of America changed its name to the National FFA Organization to reflect the growing diversity of the agriculture industry, according to the organization’s website.

“One of the reasons for (the change) was that FFA wasn’t strictly about farming, it was about agriculture as a whole,” said Meyer, the organization’s spokeswoman. “It was helping to encompass the idea that agriculture is something we embrace in every facet of our life.”

Today, all 50 states and two U.S. territories are charter members of the national organization, representing 7,757 local chapters.

For each school chapter, there are three components — classroom instruction, hands-on learning outside the classroom and a leadership structure with elected officers, Meyer said.

In some states, FFA’s membership ranks have been helped by a push for more ag education. In Idaho, state FFA executive director Casey Zufelt credits the legislature’s agricultural education initiative, passed in 2014, with getting students involved.

In June, a record number of students — more than 960 — competed in state career development events at the University of Idaho campus in Moscow. Idaho FFA boasted 4,372 members during the last school year, up from 3,965 in 2013-2014.

“In our state, we’ve had a really neat energy going on with the Ag Ed Initiative,” which provides about $2 million more in annual funding for secondary ag education in Idaho, Zufelt said. “It was a grass-roots effort from teachers a couple of years ago who decided to take some action in improving the quality of the programs and bringing more money to the program as well. … That energy translates to the students.”

In California, FFA executive director Jim Aschwanden expects the state’s membership to cross the 80,000 threshold this year. One big reason for the increased interest may be that ag teachers have pushed for recognition of their classes as meeting entrance requirements for University of California and California State University campuses, he said.

“About 45 percent of the classes offered in our ag program meet UC and CSU entrance requirements one way or another,” said Aschwanden, who is also executive director of the California Agricultural Teachers Association. “Our integrated ag biology courses are viewed as the equivalent of regular biology by the UC and CSU systems, so a student can take ag and not have to worry about their access into college.”

Moreover, ag mechanics classes are growing “by leaps and bounds” because teachers of other technical programs are retiring and leaving school shops empty, and ag instructors are teaching welding and other facets of equipment maintenance to take up the slack, Aschwanden said.

“We turn out 75 (ag) teacher candidates every year,” he said. “The rest of the career tech areas combined don’t train that many.”

Additionally, students are captivated by the sheer enthusiasm of instructors, said Abbie DeMeerleer, the Washington state FFA’s executive director.

“I think they appeal to students and thereby FFA membership increases because those teachers really care,” she said. “They became ag teachers because it’s a passion for them. They want to see agriculture succeed, and they want to see the future of our food, fiber and natural resource profession strong and well-positioned. And they share that passion with their students.”

McDonald, the Durham High School student, agrees. She said advisers get youngsters excited about FFA.

“I think FFA is just an amazing program that sets kids up for success,” McDonald said.

Finally, teenagers — particularly ones in urban chapters — are interested in learning about food production, the organization’s leaders say.

“I think, too, that this generation has a desire really to help society, and they know it’s really important to feed the world,” Meyer said.

While FFA has expanded from production agriculture to include other career skills, the organization will “stay true to the farming aspect,” Oregon’s Kraxberger said.

Meyer agrees: “I think we’re going to continue down the path we’re on and really encourage students to understand their key role in the world today.”

Del Norte FFA students learn about cranberry business Fri, 6 Nov 2015 10:55:51 -0500 Taylor JonesDel Norte FFA Chapter Reporter “Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve” — those four lines are the FFA motto.

Recently the Del Norte FFA Chapter in Crescent City, Calif., focused on the second line of the motto and took a trip to learn about the cranberry industry. Our trip led us to Bandon, Ore. There we went to an Ocean Spray receiving facility and Bouncing Berries Farm.

At the Ocean Spray facility we took a tour and learned about what process the cranberries go through from the time they enter the facility until the time they leave.

Then we were on to Bouncing Berries farm where we learned about the process of growing cranberries. We got to tour a dry bog and learn about the anatomy of the plants and then watch cranberries be wet harvested.

Our chapter would like to extend a huge thank you to the Ocean Spray Receiving Facility Staff and the owners of Bouncing Berries for taking the time to help us extend our learning beyond the classroom.

One of the largest parts of the FFA organization are the SAE projects raised by the members. SAE stands for Supervised Agriculture Experience and can range from raising an animal for the fair to growing a garden to working at the feed store.

From Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 the American Rabbit Breeders Association National Convention was held in Portland, Ore. Two of our members were lucky enough to be able to take their rabbit projects and showcase them at the biggest show in the nation.

Taylor Jones exhibited six Satins and K’Marie Magray showed three New Zealands. Both girls had a great showing with their rabbits placing in the top 10 in all of their classes. In addition to this, Taylor’s Californian Satin was No. 1 in its variety, or color.

On Nov. 10 our chapter will be hosting the Humboldt-Del Norte section opening and closing contest at Crescent Elk Middle School. Our chapter officer team will be competing again the other teams in our section in the opening and closing contest as well as the Co-op test.

During opening and closing each of our officers will recite their part just as if we were holding a chapter meeting. They will be judged on how well they say their part, their official dress, as well as how professional they are throughout the ceremony.

We would like to wish all of our officers good luck as they compete against the other teams from our section.

If you would like to keep up to date of the happenings of our chapter, like us on Facebook, or add us on Snapchat @del_norteffa and Instagram @del_norte_ffa.

Next Crop Project raises $2,000 for Meridian FFA Thu, 5 Nov 2015 14:15:31 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter The Larry H. Miller dealership in Boise, Idaho, held the Next Crop Project from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17.

This fundraising opportunity was held across the country in celebration of the future of agriculture. For every test drive that was completed by a community member at the dealership, Dodge Ram donated $20 to Meridian, Idaho, FFA, up to $2,000. One hundred percent of the donation went directly to helping our chapter. This fundraiser helped reduce the cost of traveling to and participating in different state competitions and conferences for students.

During this fundraiser we achieved our goal of raising $2,000 for the Meridian FFA, thanks to 106 people who were willing to take a test drive.

Ram’s relationship with the National FFA Organization spans more than 60 years. With the premiere of its “Farmer” video during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVII, the Ram Truck brand declared 2013 the “Year of the Farmer” and launched a year-long initiative to bring national attention to the significance of the American farmer.

Ram donated $1 million to the National FFA Organization after the “Farmer” video on the Ram Truck website reached a 10 million-view milestone in less than one week.

The Next Crop Project, launched in 2014, is Ram Truck brand’s way of turning the focus even more directly on the future leaders of agriculture. It is a celebration of, and investment in, tomorrow’s biologists, chemists, veterinarians, business leaders, entrepreneurs and farmers. During its inaugural year, The Next Crop Project raised more than $100,000 in a single day for the National FFA Organization in support of chapter leadership programs.

The Meridian FFA Chapter would like to give a huge thank you to Tom Greene, general manager at Larry H. Miller, for supporting us and making this event happen. We would also like to thank all those who came out and test drove a truck during this event.

Lastly we want to express gratitude to Dodge Ram for its continued support of the National FFA Organization.

FFA chapters help in aftermath of Chelan wildfire Wed, 4 Nov 2015 09:52:11 -0500 Dan Wheat KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Kennewick High School FFA chapter had a $2,000 grant from the National FFA Foundation for an alfalfa research project.

“Then everything broke loose up there and I asked the foundation if we could switch it to an environmental emergency grant,” Kennewick FFA advisor Dan White said of the August Chelan wildfire.

“So now we’re taking 52 kids for the day on Nov. 14 to help with cleanup and rebuilding in Chelan,” he said.

The 52 FFA students from Kennewick, Kamiakin, Columbia Burbank, Pasco and New Horizons high schools will join about 50 Lake Chelan High School FFA members.

Among the jobs they’ll do is repairing FFA livestock pens at Chelan FFA advisor Rod Cool’s house, which was destroyed in the fire. There’s also landscape and brush work to be done there and at Jan Pierson’s house and orchard. Her late husband, Walt, was Lake Chelan High School FFA advisor before Cool.

Cascadia Conservation District is also helping at her property.

Another project for the day will be helping Tom Ryan, a longtime FFA supporter, rebuild corrals and deer fence around his orchard in Antoine Creek north of Chelan.

Cool is trying to line up more projects. The owner of a vineyard in Royal City is donating trellis posts for deer fencing. RDO Equipment Co. of Pasco is donating use of a tractor.

Half the $2,000 grant will be used to bus the students from the Tri-Cities to Chelan and back. The other half, White said, will buy fencing supplies.

“This is the best kind of learning,” White said. “These kids see something in their own back yard and learn each and every one of us can make a difference.”

The FFA state officers will also participate, as they did recently in a FFA service day in Louiville, Ky., just before the Oct. 28-31 national FFA convention, said Abbie DeMeerteer, executive director of the Washington FFA in Pullman.

LaCrosse FFA marketing team wins national competition Tue, 3 Nov 2015 16:19:37 -0500 LACROSSE, Wash. — A team of three LaCrosse High School students has been named national champions at the 88th National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky.

The FFA Marketing Plan Competition team was comprised of juniors Britte Harder and Abigail McGregor and 2015 graduate Jason Wigen.

The rural Whitman County school has about 30 students.

After winning their district competition last year, the trio of students defeated 22 other Washington high school teams at last spring’s state convention in Pullman.

Following the win at WSU, the team spent the summer and fall polishing its plan and presentation skills in preparation for the national convention, which annually draws over 60,000 attendees.

The team prepared and presented a plan designed for Dixon Land and Livestock JV to improve and grow its annual Club Calf Sale in Pomeroy, Wash. They were able to apply this real world experience in conjunction with direction from their FFA chapter advisor and teacher, Lisa Baser, to garner the national award. 

In Louisville, the LaCrosse team competed against 31 other state champions. Each round of the competition included a team presentation followed by a question-and-answer session with a panel of expert judges.

Following the initial round, the pool was narrowed to 18 state teams. Representing Washington state FFA, LaCrosse advanced to the final round against teams from Georgia, Michigan and Nebraska.

Although McGregor, Harder and Wigen presented at 5:30 a.m. local time on Oct. 30, they didn’t find out until the awards banquet later that night they had won the competition.

As national champions, each student was awarded a $1,000 cash prize from Bunge North America; a St. Louis-based agricultural commodities marketing company.

Following the completion of her high school studies, Britte Harder plans to become a commercial airline pilot, and Abby McGregor plans to study architecture. Jason Wigen is currently serving as state FFA reporter and will attend Washington State University in the fall to study crop sciences.

This is the second team that Baser has taken to the National FFA Marketing Plan Competition. In 2008, she coached the team from Pomeroy High School, where her husband was the FFA advisor at the time.

New officers take helm of national FFA Mon, 2 Nov 2015 11:49:20 -0500 LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Students from Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia and Utah have been elected by delegates from throughout the United States to serve on the 2015-16 National FFA Officer team:

• Taylor McNeel of Arkansas, an agricultural business major at Southern Arkansas University, was elected president.

• Nick Baker of Tennessee, an agricultural communications major at the University of Tennessee, will serve as secretary.

• Sydney Snider of Ohio, an agricultural communications major at The Ohio State University, was elected eastern region vice president.

• Abrah Meyer of Iowa, an agricultural business major at Iowa State University, will serve as central region vice president.

• Abbey Gretsch of Georgia, an agricultural communications major at the University of Georgia, was elected southern region vice president.

• Sarah Draper of Utah, an agricultural education major at Utah State University, will serve as western region vice president.

The new team was elected Oct. 31 at Freedom Hall during the 88th National FFA Convention & Expo.

Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, six students are elected by delegates to represent the organization as National FFA officers, according to a press release. Delegates elect a president, secretary and vice presidents representing the central, southern, eastern and western regions of the country.

National officers commit to a year of service to the National FFA Organization. Each travels more than 100,000 national and international miles to interact with business and industry leaders, thousands of FFA members and teachers, corporate sponsors, government and education officials, state FFA leaders, the general public and more.

The team will lead personal growth and leadership training conferences for FFA members throughout the country and help set policies that will guide the future of FFA and promote agricultural literacy.

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 629,367 student members who belong to one of 7,757 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

3,434 American FFA degrees awarded Mon, 2 Nov 2015 12:01:18 -0500 Melanie Jackson LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A total of 3,434 American FFA Degrees were awarded during the eighth general session of the 88th National FFA Convention & Expo.

The American FFA Degree is awarded to members who have achieved a high level of success in their SAEs and exemplify a high-commitment level to FFA.

Receiving the American FFA Degree is the highest honor a FFA member can achieve, with less than one-half of one percent of members receiving the degree.

Here is a look at the statistics behind the American FFA Degree ceremony:

Time it takes to award 3,434 degrees: 112 minutes or 3 hours and 22 minutes.

State with the most recipients in 2015: Missouri, 463.

Top Five American Degree Producing States since 1928:

Missouri: 7,679

California: 6,530

Ohio: 6,203

Texas: 5,165

Wisconsin: 4,383

Most American Degrees Produced in a Single Year: 481, Missouri, 2011.

Melanie Jackson is a senior at Oklahoma State University studying agricultural communications. An alumnus of the Delaware FFA Association, she was a member of the National FFA Convention & Expo Newsroom Crew.

Genesee, Idaho, FFA chapter has big turnout at fair Mon, 26 Oct 2015 11:13:49 -0500 Brianna MurrayGenesee FFA Reporter The Genesee, Idaho, FFA Chapter had 20 members participate in the Latah County Fair this year.

The 17 members that showed swine were: Brandon Stout, Brianna and Kendra Murray, Molly Young, Garrett Borth, Zach Anderson, Cierra and Brooklyn Mayer, Hayden and Cassidy Woods, Cassie Waisenan, Makenna Bruck, Lane Funke, Kyle Spence, Austin Pope, Cole Allen, and Kaylee Flodin.

The two members that showed steers were Coy Stout and Alysha O’Connell.

Virginia Monk showed sheep.

On Wednesday, the animals were weighed in, Thursday the exhibitors showed their animals in a market quality class, Friday was fitting and showing, and Saturday was the auction.

Brandon Stout received Reserve Grand Champion quality and Grand Champion showmen with his pig. Coy Stout received Reserve Grand Champion with his steer in quality also. Monk got Grand Champion quality market sheep and O’Connell got Grand Champion quality with her steer.

On Sunday, Troy got first place for livestock judging, with Potlatch and Genesee following shortly after. The top three Genesee individuals for livestock judging were: Alysha O’Connell, Coy Stout and Brianna Murray. Alysha O’Connell also received top individual overall as well.

The district soils FFA career development event took place at Craigmont on Oct. 6, where Genesee, Craigmont, Kendrick, Troy, Prairie and Nez Perce members competed. Nez Perce received third place, Troy in second, and Genesee took first place. Emily Trees, of Genesee, won overall high individual.

Emily and Sara Trees, Sidney Fountain, Kylie Ketcheson, and Kyle Spence went to Burley, Idaho, to compete at state soils. They took fourth place overall and were 20 points away from going to Nationals.

Emily was sixth individual overall. Grace Turpin, Jon Kopf, John Nelson, Kelsey Jensen, and Winston Durham also went as the 4-H team and took first place, with Kopf taking first high individual out of the 4-H members competing.

Some 19 members gathered on Oct. 23 for a Halloween meeting, which consisted of caramel apples and a costume and pumpkin-carving contest.

They were reminded to get all of their produce orders in and to sign up for the upcoming Career Development Events, which are: Ag Sales, Creed, Greenhand Knowledge, and Extemporaneous Speaking. They all take place in November.

Emily and Sara Trees, Brianna Murray, Kade Best, Ben Kopf and Kjersti Clawson will be leaving on Tuesday morning to FFA national convention, which will take place in Louisville, Kentucky.

Idaho students continue FFA bus trip tradition Fri, 23 Oct 2015 11:32:51 -0500 John O’Connell For the Mackay Junior-Senior High School students who make an annual bus trip to the national FFA convention, the journey is as memorable as the event itself.

On Oct. 22, 21 of the Custer County, Idaho, school’s 35 students loaded into an Eagle commuter bus with nearly a million miles on the odometer for a 12-day trip, highlighted by the national FFA convention in Louisville, Ky., and stops in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee.

It marked Mackay’s 29th consecutive bus trip to FFA’s crowning event. As usual, Mackay students offered seats to FFA members from other chapters, picking up 18 students from Challis, Aberdeen and Shelley.

Normally, Mackay students are charged $600. Many opt to work off part of the total in a school-run scrap metal recycling operation, which helped the FFA chapter raise money to buy its bus several years ago.

This year, however, the cost was just $100, thanks to Mackay senior Hailey Hampton. She won $10,000 toward the trip through an agricultural-themed essay contest sponsored by Culver’s restaurants.

“I talked about how we need to have empathy for the American farmer,” said Hampton, who addressed the abundance of misinformation about agriculture and the importance of setting the record straight.

Hampton was recently surprised to find her entire family in attendance at a school assembly — and to learn it was in her honor, so Culver’s could properly announce her achievement. Culver’s offered an extra $4,000 to fix the bus’s air conditioning when the school’s agricultural teacher, Trent Van Leuven, expressed concern about driving through the Texas heat.

Jessie Corning, a senior marketing manager with the Wisconsin-based chain, said there were 450 contest entries.

“It was an amazing thing to discover such an awesome essay had come from this. It’s a very unique story and something we just stumbled upon,” Corning said.

During 80 hours of driving, the students will stop for the Louisiana State Fair, the Grand Ole Opry, dinner and a Jake Owen concert on Culver’s, a Denver hockey game, two national parks and the site of the Kennedy assassination.

About 150 Wichita Falls, Texas, FFA students have organized a joint social and barbecue for the Mackay group. The students have also scheduled agricultural tours, including the Randal County Feed Yard in Amarillo, Texas, the last Mississippi farm with a working cotton gin, a catfish farm, a horse rehabilitation hospital near Lexington, Ky., and a tour of the University of Missouri’s agricultural programs.

As usual, Van Leuven said they’ve packed 300 pounds of fresh potatoes, to offer their tour hosts. Many students who have never left the West will experience 15 states.

“I love that we take the bus,” Hampton said. “Other chapters that fly probably have more sleep than us, but we get to see so many incredible things.”

Van Leuven has his fingers crossed that the bus won’t experience mechanical trouble — a fairly common occurrence in past years. But, he said, changing the tradition is not an option.

“This is kind of a rite of passage. The school board members, nearly all of them have been on the trip or driven the bus coming back,” Van Leuven said. “If I said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to take the bus to the national convention this year,’ I’d probably get quartered.”

N. California FFA members hone skills at competition Mon, 19 Oct 2015 09:45:33 -0500 Tim Hearden REDDING, Calif. — A new member of FFA, Jack Klaiber, plans to begin raising two meat goats in February, so he wanted to learn what livestock judges look for.

He entered a judging competition at the annual FFA field day and career fair Oct. 15 at Shasta College in Redding, where he and other students made their observations on paper.

“I just want to get some experience with animals,” Klaiber, a freshman at Anderson, Calif., High School, said before the contest. “I want to learn how to judge other animals so I can determine how my animals will come out.”

Klaiber was one of about 850 FFA members from Northern and Central California at the Shasta College meet, which is one of the first of the school year and helps students hone their skills for later events.

In addition to livestock judging, the students competed on contests relating to soils, horticulture, small engines, welding and agricultural mechanics. Some veterinary students took a written test to show their knowledge, while other youngsters took part in timed contests cutting through a log with a saw and moving a tractor through an obstacle course.

Awards were given to winning individuals and teams in about 20 contests, and a small college club information fair was held in the Shasta College farm pavilion so that students could explore future options.

“This is the first contest of the year for FFA students,” said B.J. MacFarlane, Shasta College’s farm manager. “For years, the contest has been getting freshman and sophomore students involved to see what activities they want to participate in throughout the rest of the year.”

For some students, the meet is a chance to practice before big statewide and national contests. Ally Rose McDonald, a Durham, Calif., high school senior and the FFA’s Superior Region secretary, normally competes at job interview during bigger contests but participated in the veterinary science event at Shasta College.

At the Shasta event, a student can “get your first competition under your belt” and learn what he or she did right and wrong, McDonald said.

“It’s the first chance for kids to get hands-on practice and it relates back to what we’re doing in the classroom,” said Janice Lohse, an ag teacher and FFA advisor at Hamilton High School in Hamilton City, Calif.

For Anderson High, Klaiber was one of 33 freshmen brought by advisor Katy Teixeira, herself a former FFA member. For her urban students, the trip to Shasta College is their first to a working farm, Teixeira said.

“A lot of the students live right there in the city of Anderson, and I would say about 60 percent of them walk to school,” she said. “When a lot of them come here, their experience with agriculture is what they eat on their table.

Klaiber, who lives in a semi-rural area between Redding and Anderson, was attracted to FFA by friends, he said.

“As I started to attend the events, I realized that this is something I want to put my time into and it will be a great thing for me,” he said.

FFA, Les Schwab, Capital Press team up to fight hunger Wed, 14 Oct 2015 09:45:37 -0500 Emily KraxbergerOregon FFA Oregon FFA and Les Schwab stores of Oregon have teamed up in October to drive away hunger.

The 103 high school FFA chapters and 112 Les Schwab stores are working together to collect 250,000 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank and local food pantries around the state. Collection bags will be distributed in the Oct. 23 edition of Capital Press.

Community members are encouraged to drop off food donations at any Les Schwab store or FFA chapter in Oregon. In addition to food donations, monetary donations may be made to the local FFA chapters or the Oregon Food Bank. For every dollar donated the Oregon Food Bank is able to purchase four pounds of food.

Food collected will be donated back to local communities through the help of the Oregon Food Bank network. The Oregon Food Bank has several regional distribution centers throughout Oregon to make sure the food gets to those who need it.

The Oregon Food Bank distributed more than 1 million food boxes in 2014. The food boxes consist of enough food to feed a family of four for approximately three to four days.

“That is the equivalent of more than 12 million meals,” said Amy Gillette, food resource developer for the Oregon Food Bank. To feed a family of four one meal it would take just over 5 pounds of food, or just over $1. If you donate $10, it equals 40 pounds of food that would make 30 meals, which would feed a family of four for more than a week.

FFA chapters are stepping up and thinking outside the box in order to find donations. Gleaning efforts by Adrian FFA members and the Adrian student body have proven to be successful so far. To date, 1,900 pounds of onions have been collected from local fields belonging to WBH Farms and Petersen Farms. Some 38,790 pounds of potatoes have been gathered and redistributed thanks to the generosity of WBH farms and Giant Produce, a processor in Parma, Idaho. Giant Produce also donated a semi-truck load (36,688 pounds) of red and yellow potatoes to the chapter to give to the Oregon Food Bank. This puts the 2015 Adrian FFA totals at over 77,378 pounds.

So far, this year’s produce has gone to the school districts and communities in North Powder, Wallowa, Baker City, Prairie City, John Day, Burns, Vale, Ontario, Crane, Jordan Valley and Harper.

Other FFA chapters are also being creative in their efforts. In addition to raising food at school events, and having a chapter collection contest among members, the Yamhill Carlton FFA Chapter has a student, Liberty Greenlund, who raised fryer chickens. The first batch of fryers was recently processed and donated to the Yamhill Share and Care as well as Joseph Store House (Carlton).

In Southern Oregon, the Phoenix FFA Chapter is planning a dinner where people attending are doing more than just buying their meal, they are also helping fund families in need, with all the proceeds from the event being donated to the local food bank.

To find out what is happening in your area, contact your local FFA Chapter.

The FFA’s official motto is Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live and Living to Serve. This Drive to End Hunger is engaging students in a Living to Serve initiative.

“Having Les Schwab as a partner in this initiative is fitting as they are a company that has been setting the example of serving their communities since their inception,” said Kevin White, executive director of the Oregon FFA Foundation.

“Capital Press is the leader in Pacific Northwest agriculture reporting. Our partnership allows us to reach out to some of FFA’s primary supporters, Capital Press readers.”

White also shared, “This kind of initiative provides students the opportunity to showcase the leadership skills gained in the FFA by being able to organize the varying food drive activities that ultimately serve their communities, and set an example that is often counter to how people may view our youth today.”

The Oregon FFA is part of the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, and is a national youth organization of 610,245 student members — all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business and technology of agriculture. There are 7,358 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Oregon FFA has nearly 6,000 members in 103 chapters throughout the state. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

To follow the food drive efforts, visit the Oregon FFA Facebook page and the #TIREdofhunger hashtag. To learn more about FFA visit or for more information.

First-graders learn about agriculture at 10th annual expo Mon, 12 Oct 2015 10:35:44 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter The Elementary Agricultural Exposition has been run by the Meridian Agriculture Program at the Meridian, Idaho, High School Professional Technical Center for a decade.

This event is a mandatory field trip for every first-grader in the West Ada School District. The Ag Expo serves as a valuable educational tool to teach younger generations about basic agricultural topics. First-grade classes are toured around various displays by high school agriculture students — tour guides — and are educated by Meridian FFA members — speakers — on the following areas: ag commodities, dairy products, trout, animal feeds, dairy cattle, beef cattle, horses, goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, rabbits, quail, alpacas, farm equipment, farm tools, bees, wildlife species, camping, natural resource management and fertilizer.

This year’s Ag Expo was held at the Meridian PTC building from Sept. 22-24. Approximately 125 first-grade classes attended over these three days, meaning that about 2,900 children and 600 adults — teachers and parent chaperones — now have an increased knowledge of agriculture.

The annual Community Night, a free viewing of the expo for the public, hosted approximately 100 people on Wednesday night.

This huge event would be impossible to host without the help of our agriculture students who are FFA members. Approximately 150 students helped as tour guides and speakers over the three school days of this event. Every year this event provides high school students with a chance to pass on knowledge they’ve learned in their own ag classes to a population with decreasing connections to agriculture.

The Ag Expo is also made possible each year by a long list of community agricultural supporters. A sincere thank you from Meridian FFA goes to the College of Southern Idaho Aquaculture Department, Food Producers, Hamilton Honey Co., Idaho Apple & Onion Commission, Idaho Aquaculture Association, Idaho Beef Council, Idaho Pork Producers, Idaho Preferred, Idaho Sugar Beet Growers, Idaho Wheat Association, Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, Idaho Wool Growers, Western Idaho Fair, Burks Tractor Co., CAT Western States–Meridian Branch, Mountain View Equipment, Ada County Farm Bureau, Ada County Weed Control, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-USDA, Idaho Fish & Game, Idaho Forest Products, Safari Club International-Treasure Valley Chapter, Idaho Power, Dynamite Feed Mill, United Dairymen of Idaho, Sorrento/Lactalis and Idaho Wheat Commission for continuing to support this valuable activity over the years.

Hamilton City FFA thinks pink Thu, 8 Oct 2015 16:17:05 -0500 Mori LeveroniChapter Reporter With 1 in 8 women being diagnosed in their lifetime, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Hamilton City, Calif., FFA is using the awareness month of October as another opportunity to stick by this year’s motto, “Living to Serve.”

On Oct. 7, members of the chapter came together and assembled over 350 carnation wraps in order to reach out to the community through education and support. The wraps were composed of a pink carnation and an informational brochure with facts and symptoms about this tragic disease.

The members then set out and gave away the flowers free of charge at local coffee shops, grocery stores and even to teachers in the district.

Our annual pink campaign could not have been achieved if it wasn’t for the help of our 200 members. Hamilton High School is a small school located in Northern California. We have a small town feel and pride ourselves on having two-thirds of our school participate in FFA. As a chapter we pride ourselves in being active in our community, which can be seen with our pink carnation event. We hope that by spreading awareness locally, we can inspire others to take the first step and get checked.

New FFA chapter, ag classes a hit in Idaho county Wed, 30 Sep 2015 09:25:30 -0500 John O’Connell Capital Press

IDAHO FALLS — Prior to the start of his senior year, Ty Barnard figured it was time to do something about the lack of agricultural curriculum and an FFA chapter within Bonneville County.

Barnard approached the principal of Technical Careers High School, who shared his sentiments, and together, they made an appeal to the school board and the school district’s superintendent.

It appears they were onto something.

In the school’s first semester of offering agricultural classes, several students have enrolled from nearby Bonneville and Hillcrest high schools, and there’s talk of adding a second instructor.

The new FFA chapter fielded the winning livestock judging team at the Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot within a few days of its formation. More recently, a team of agricultural students from the school won second place out of 45 teams in livestock judging at University of Idaho’s Ag Days in Moscow.

Barnard, raised on a small farm and ranch, plans to study agriculture in college and to make a career of ranching.

“We have a lot of farmers and ranchers getting up there in age, and there’s not a lot of their kids who want to take over, so we need to push our schools to try to get more people wanting to run farms and ranches so Idaho can still be a top producer,” Barnard said.

Prior to this year, he attended Bonneville High School and took automotive, welding and metallurgy classes at the technical school. Now, he’s a full-time Technical Careers student, as well as its student body president.

Technical Careers, in its fourth year as a standalone, accredited high school, has also added emergency medical and computer information systems curriculum this school year, said principal Craig Miller. Miller had planned to wait on availability of a facility before pursuing agricultural classes but said Barnard made him realize delaying was at current students’ expense. Miller outlined the financial numbers for the school board and superintendent and let Barnard address the need.

“I knew I needed that passion to make it work,” Miller said.

Miller hired Chris Ball, who was raised on a dairy in upstate New York, as his agricultural teacher. Ball developed curriculum with guidance from the Professional Technical Educators website, emphasizing livestock, and teaches classes in animal science, botany and introduction to agriculture, with plans to expand into equine science, agricultural mechanics and agricultural welding.

“Where this school is all technologically applied and trying to get kids ready for a career path, it was a no-brainer to bring in agriculture,” Ball said.

He estimates 80 percent of his students have an agricultural background.

Bone rancher Lane Elkington serves on an advisory council assisting Ball and has offered to speak or lend his ranch as a field trip destination.

“I was going to send my son to Rigby or Ririe so he could be part of an FFA program, and then they came up with this deal,” Elkington said. “I always wanted an FFA program because I felt the ag community was footing the bill for the high schools, and we needed that program to give back to the ag community.”

Kuna’s Liberty Ranch Dairy hosts Boise Valley District FFA event Tue, 29 Sep 2015 17:22:31 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Reporter On Sept. 16, Kuna High School hosted two Dairy Career Development Events for all Boise Valley District FFA chapters.

The Dairy Foods CDE was held in the morning at Kuna High School. Those who competed in this CDE tasted and identified different dairy products and took a test on dairy food knowledge. The Meridian FFA Dairy Foods team placed fourth, with members Kaitlyn Steppe as 6th high individual, Trinity Martin, Cayden Strim, Zach Kerby and Maddie Bennett.

Kuna also hosted the Dairy Cattle Judging CDE at Liberty Ranch LLC Wednesday afternoon. This CDE had six classes of dairy cows and heifers that were evaluated. The contestants also answered questions on a set of dairy cow records called DHIA, or Dairy Herd Improvement Association. As a team, Meridian FFA placed 1st overall in this CDE with the following team members: Alexa Phillips as 1st high individual, Ashlyn Schiers as 3rd high individual, Zach Phillips and Maddie Bennett.

The Meridian FFA members who competed would like to thank John Wind and the Liberty Ranch Dairy for hosting this year’s BVD Dairy Cattle Judging CDE and providing the cows to evaluate. They would also like to thank the BVD advisors who helped set up, run and host these CDEs.

National FFA membership increases by 3 percent Mon, 28 Sep 2015 14:54:56 -0500 MITCH LIES The National FFA Foundation announced Sept. 28 that national FFA membership has reached record numbers and is up more than 20 percent from 2009-10.

The foundation announced membership in the national FFA organization now stands at 629,367, a 3 percent increase from last year.

The number of chapters also increased, from 7,665 in 2014 to 7,757 in 2015, according to the announcement.

“FFA, through agricultural education, is preparing our youth to ensure the security of our country’s food, fiber and natural resources for years to come,” said National FFA Organization CEO Dwight Armstrong in a prepared statement. “Through real-world experiences, the nation’s agricultural educators are helping students develop the technical knowledge, skills and problem-solving capabilities to be the industry’s leaders of tomorrow.

“FFA continues to grow leaders, build communities and strengthen agriculture,” he said.

The top five states by membership are Texas, California, Georgia, Oklahoma and Missouri, according to the announcement.

Oregon membership numbers also are up, said Kevin White, executive director of the Oregon FFA Foundation, increasing from 5,323 in 2013-14 to 5,588 in 2014-15. Going back five years, the state membership has increased more than 17 percent, White said.

Asked why he believed membership has grown in recent years, White echoed much of what Armstrong said.

“In addition to the trade skills we are teaching, with ag mechanics, animal science and some of the science and technology classes that our teachers are providing these students, we are teaching the life skills that are necessary to be able to cope and compete in that career world,” White said.

“The ability to set a goal and achieve it. The ability to speak your opinions in a way that is going to help establish a conversation; to defend your argument; to be able to interview for a job. The ability to be able to speak coherently. The ability to handle yourself politely. These are the skills we are teaching,” White said.

“I think we are more relevant than we’ve ever been,” he said.

The national foundation announced that National FFA Alumni membership also grew, going from 57,832 members in 2014 to 62,705 members this year.

Chelan FFA places well at Adams County Fair Fri, 25 Sep 2015 13:45:30 -0500 The Chelan, Wash., FFA built on their earlier success at the fall fairs as they traveled to the Adams County Fair in Othello to compete in the Washington State FFA Horse CDE, Livestock Evaluation CDE and Dairy Evaluation CDE.

The Chelan FFA Horse Team evaluated 4 halter classes of Quarter Horse Mares, Quarter Horse Geldings, Paint Geldings, Paint Mares, Western Pleasure and English Pleasure. They then had to give a set of oral reasons defending their placing of the Quarter Horse Mare class. They then completed a saddle part identification test and as a team had 10 minutes to prepare and give a 10 minute Equine Marketing Scenario presentation. When the points had been tallied, Katie Gleasman had earned 339 points out of a possible 370, just one point behind the two judges who tied at 340, earning her a third place individual finish and a spot among the best horse judges in the state of Washington.

Josie Gallup, Emily Mudd, and Sarah Goyne rounded out the Chelan team which earned a fifth place plaque for their efforts finishing just 12 points out of first place in a contest worth over 1400 pts.

In the Dairy Evaluation CDE, Chelan members were led by Owen Oules, who earned a 242 score out of a possible 250 to place first overall, Wyatt Habich followed in fifth place with a 229. Dane Schwartz, Dianna Sanchez and Kenny Reeves rounded out the team which earned a second place banner for their efforts.

The Tractor Driving team earned a third place banner just one point behind the teams that tied for first and second. All three drivers from Chelan placed in the top ten with Ken Housely placing fourth and Michael Tutino and Jake Horlebien placing eighth and ninth respectively.

Chelan FFA members will travel to the University of Idaho in Moscow this weekend to participate in the U of I Ag Days celebration. Members will compete in the Livestock CDE which they won last year, the Dairy CDE and then tour the campus.

Meridian FFA prepares for school year at Western Idaho Fair Fri, 25 Sep 2015 09:09:44 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter The Ada County Fair, more commonly known as the Western Idaho Fair, has traditionally been Meridian FFA’s main opportunity for members to show and sell their animals.

This year’s fair was held Aug. 19-28 at the Boise fairgrounds. Meridian FFA had a total of 33 members compete at the fair this year. Despite the new school year overlapping with the 4-H/FFA show schedule, our chapter still had showmen for every large animal species. The following members represented Meridian FFA at this event:

Sheep Showmen from the Meridian FFA included William Stokes, Mollie Hiscox, Cole Manda, Kaitlin Muniz, Katelyn Putzier, Killian Rasmussen, Dino Vinci, Trinity Martin, Kyle Schmit, Hannah Smith, Dani Turnbough, Hayden Turnbough, Vivienne Blom, Caydan Stirm, Ashton Shaul, Alyssa Hernandez, Tyson Hernandez, Zach Putzier and Alexa Phillips.

Dairy Cattle Showmen from Meridian FFA were Madison Boyd, William Stokes, Ryan Bennett, Maddie Bennett, Hannah Smith, Kristen Nesbitt, Zach Phillips, Brandon Walton and Steffanie Eilers. Zach Putizer showed his beef steer through Meridian FFA this year.

Maddie Bennett, Ryan Bennett, and Jared Murphy were the market goat showmen of the chapter, and Maddie also showed dairy goat.

Pygmy goat showmen were Kiara Wetzel and Caydan Stirm, and swine showmen consisted of Zach Kerby, Jonathon Murphy, Ashlee Bowen, Zack Davis, Ryan Bennett, Maddie Bennett and Cara Gonzales.

Horse showmen from the Meridian FFA were Loretta Lacy, Alexa Phillips, Lauren Barker, Mallie Miller, Ashlyn Schiers and Danielle Vanderford.

Alexa Phillips represented the Meridian FFA by showing her alpacas.

Meridian FFA had the following members qualify to compete in the FFA large animal round robin competition: Steffanie Eilers, Dani Turnbough, Dino Vinci, Zack Davis, Ashlee Bowen, Maddie Bennett, Jared Murphy, Ashlyn Schiers and Alexa Phillips.

Members sold their market and dairy animals at the Western Idaho Fair 4-H/FFA Dairy & Market Livestock Sales at the end of the fair. Money earned from these sales goes to these students’ future, whether that be college tuition or purchasing another future animal project. As a chapter, we’d like to genuinely thank every buyer who financially supported these members’ Supervised Agricultural Experiences.

Chelan FFA advisor loses home to wildfire Tue, 18 Aug 2015 09:48:34 -0500 Matw Weaver FFA advisor Rod Cool and his family are among the dozens of people who lost their homes to the massive wildfire that burned through the Chelan, Wash., area.

Cool lost his home and outbuildings Aug. 14. He’s not sure about the cost to replace it all, but said he has good insurance. He planned to begin the rebuilding process this week.

Cool and his family were evacuating when the fire hit.

“I drove by the driveway and the trees were on fire in the yard, that’s how close it was,” Cool said. “The fire really came fast.”

Fire surrounded the home, but wasn’t moving, Cool said.

He got some FFA pigs he was keeping for students loaded, but ran out of time and three were lost to the fire, he said. The remaining animals have been moved to other locations in the school district, he said.

Cool says that as an agriculture teacher he teaches about “defensible space” around houses to guard against wildfires.

“Sometimes, fire behavior, especially in a year like this, you almost have to double what you think is safe,” he said. “I had 100 feet of bare ground all around my house, and it still burned down.”

Several of Cool’s neighbors also lost their homes, but others were untouched.

“It’s just a weird deal, hit and miss, on how houses started on fire and which ones started first,” he said.

Cool and his family are living in town with his mother. He hopes his insurance will provide a rental place until they can get back into their home. Daughter Sammi Jo Sims said she is in the process of moving to Moscow, Idaho, for college but was storing gifts from her July wedding at her parents’ home.

“Those are all material things that can be replaced, I am just so grateful my family is safe,” Sims said.

The fires — caused by lighting — were still burning in the area, Cool said, with more firefighters coming in from the National Guard and the U.S. Army.

“Virtually all of northeastern Washington is on fire right now,” Cool said. “This fire jumped the Columbia River like it wasn’t even there.”

Cool was touched to see the agriculture community north of Chelan reach out to raise money for the FFA student who owned the pigs to recoup his costs. Last year his chapter banded together after the Carlton Complex fire — the largest wildfire in state history — to put together 58 tons of hay and 12 to 15 tons of feed for ranchers there.

“To have them turn around one year shy of their devastation, with fires going on all around them, to go together and raise money to pay some money for that young man” was remarkable, Cool said.

Cool said he appreciated the people helping others, which he said demonstrates the FFA motto: “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.”

“I told my kids, what goes around comes around,” Cool said. “If you do things to help out other people, they’ll come back and help you out.”

Meridian FFA members compete at Canyon County Fair Tue, 4 Aug 2015 17:32:45 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA student reporter This year’s Canyon County Fair was held on July 23-26. Meridian FFA had members enter 40 animals to compete in the following areas: swine, sheep, beef, dairy, meat goat and dairy goat.

Sheep competitors that represented Meridian FFA were: Breanna Ball, Chelsie Ball, Kody Burch, Elise Cambell, Kirsten Forster, Alyssa Hernandez , Tyson Hernandez, Shelby Peugh, Alexa Phillips, Zach Putzier, Killian Rassumen, Karlyn Roberts, Ashton Shaul, Hannah Smith, Caydan Stirm, Dalton Turnbough, Dani Turnbough, Hayden Turnbough and Dino Vinci.

Meridian FFA meat goat showmen were: Maddie Bennett, Ryan Bennett, Maddie Boyd, Zoie Pagel, Kaitlyn Steppe, Jared Murphy, Stephanie Eliers and Katelyn Flake.

Ashton Shaul showed her beef heifer through Meridian FFA.

Dairy cattle FFA showmen included: Maddie Boyd, Kristin Nesbitt, William Stokes, Brandon Walton and Stephanie Eilers.

Cara Gonzales, Tanner Wilder, Zack Davis and Ashlee Bowen showed swine through Meridian FFA.

Kaitlyn Steppe showed her dairy goats through Meridian FFA.

The following four showmen, Cara Gonzales, Hannah Smith, Kristin Nesbitt and Breanna Ball, competed in this year’s large animal round robin. Round robin is a competition between all of the Grand and Reserve Champions of every species. Thank you to all buyers of Meridian FFA livestock at the 4-H/FFA Market Livestock Sale of the Canyon County Fair.

Young rancher sets her sights high Tue, 14 Jul 2015 10:03:51 -0500 CRAIG REED CHRISTMAS VALLEY, Ore. — Mariam Horton has not only learned in the classroom over the past several years, but also on her family’s ranch.

She’s earned her education and degree at North Lake High School, but has managed her time well enough to also educate herself on the animal science of sheep and cattle. The 2015 North Lake graduate has expanded her livestock numbers from three Suffolk ewes when she was a fourth-grader to about 380 ewes and ewe lambs, and from two bred black Angus heifers when she was an eighth-grader to 35 registered Angus mother cows.

The 17-year-old and her father, LeeRoy Horton, are partners in the livestock operation.

Although Mariam Horton has already established quite a flock of Suffolk, Targhee and Rambouillet sheep and a herd of cows at such a young age, she has bigger dreams.

“I have big goals, definitely,” she said. “After college I hope to buy a ranch and have lots of animals, hopefully here in Oregon. I plan to get up to 500 to 1,000 Angus cows.

“And I want to be able to win one of the national shows,” she added.

Horton is off to a good start on all of her goals. In January, she attended her second National Western Stock Show in Denver and showed five heifers in the junior competition (for producers age 21 and younger). One heifer took first in its Early Summer Heifer Division (animals born during the previous months of May, June or July). She then showed the heifer in the Open Division that included entries from producers of all ages and the pair finished second in the judging.

Chad Waldron, the ag science teacher and FFA advisor at North Lake High School for the past 20 years, said he has not had a previous student own and manage as many sheep and cattle as does Horton.

“What she is doing is very unique for a student,” he said. “But she is very responsible, very motivated. She also gets a tremendous amount of support and encouragement from her parents. She does have a love for agriculture that motivates and drives her.”

LeeRoy Horton is a hay grower, and now a livestock partner, on the family’s Christmas Valley ranch.

“I’m an animal person myself,” LeeRoy Horton said. “Mariam is just kind of following right in behind me. We work real close together on everything.”

The daughter called her father her inspiration.

“He knows a lot and I try to listen to everything he has to say,” she said. “I look up to him a lot.”

LeeRoy managed and owned sheep flocks in the Willamette Valley and in Idaho in his younger years before moving to Christmas Valley in 1992 and concentrating on hay production.

Mariam Horton most enjoys the lambing and calving. And she doesn’t mind helping during the birthing process when needed. She first helped pull a lamb from a ewe at age 10 and has become the go-to person when an animal is having trouble giving birth.

The fun of showing her ewes and lambs at county and state fairs and jackpot events led Horton to want to have more opportunities to show animals. So she purchased the two Angus heifers. They had their calves, one a heifer and one a bull. She kept the heifer calf and eventually had her bred. The bull calf was sold at auction. It looked impressive, helping her establish a market and she’s had no trouble selling her bull calves since.

Horton also attended a weekend class at Oregon State University in Corvallis and learned how to artificially inseminate cows. She’s been involved in that process with her Angus cows for a few years.

At North Lake, Horton’s experiences in the FFA program helped her gain confidence in addition to knowledge in marketing and selling her animals. She’s been a two-year chapter president for North Lake FFA and a two-year district FFA secretary for Central Oregon. She considered running for a state office, but then decided not to because it would have meant time away from her animals.

She will attend Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, this fall. She plans to major in animal science and is eager to study sustainable agriculture so she can apply it in managing her own animals.

LeeRoy Horton will manage the cattle and sheep while his daughter is at school. And when she finishes her college career, she intends to return to Oregon to make ranching a full-time profession.

FFA students build hog loading ramp for Shasta fair Mon, 22 Jun 2015 14:32:03 -0500 Tim Hearden ANDERSON, Calif. — With their local fair needing a new ramp to load hogs sold at auction onto trucks, Dalton Giles and his friends in FFA came to the rescue.

Giles volunteered when supporters of the Shasta District Fair approached his club at West Valley High School near Cottonwood, Calif.

“Their older one didn’t work,” said Giles, 18, explaining that its wide surface enticed hogs to turn around and made it difficult to load them onto semis.

With some help from other FFA members, Giles spent about two months in his ag mechanics class working on the new ramp, whose materials were donated by the Friends of the Shasta District Fair.

“I think it’s cool,” he said of the project. “It’s cool for me as a way of leaving my mark here … It’s something to be proud of.”

The ramp project isn’t the first time that 4-H and FFA students have chipped in to help the fair, which has had to get creative in raising money since most state funds for local fairs were cut several years ago.

For a couple of years, Bella Vista, Calif., 4-H member Lane Simmons donated the proceeds from one of his hog projects to the fair, raising more than $10,000 in the first year in 2011.

The nonprofit Friends group has raffled preferred parking at the fair, ride packages for kids and preferred seating at the auto races in an effort to raise money.

The group proposed the ramp project to Ron Hardin, who teaches several agriculture classes at West Valley. The high school has three ag teachers and 320 kids in its FFA program, excelling in competitions for everything from welding to public speaking.

“It’s nice that they have faith in us to do this kind of product,” Hardin said of the hog ramp. “These guys do good work.”

The ramp was on display at this year’s fair, where it was used to load some 350 hogs after the June 20 auction. Nearby, other FFA students’ creations, such as tables and work benches, were sold in a silent auction during the livestock sale.

“It’s a great way for them to make a little extra money,” Hardin said. “Plus they’re doing them in class.”

Giles is wrapping up his eighth year in FFA. He’s raised and sold five lambs, a replacement heifer and two market hogs.

“It’s kind of what my family is into,” he said. “My dad did it growing up, and his sisters did it. All my cousins show. When it’s show day, all my family is here.”

Giles’ family has a small-scale hay operation. He said he’d like to continue in ag as a career.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “Ag’s kind of what I do.”

No sleeping in for teen preparing livestock for county fair Thu, 11 Jun 2015 09:18:33 -0500 MARY KECKThe Herald-Times BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Every day, rain or shine, Lizbeth Funkhouser gets up early, pulls on rubber boots, hops a fence and dodges cow droppings as she walks across a grassy field to feed her cattle and pig.

Before she starts her freshman year at Bloomington High School South, Lizbeth will spend the summer working on 4-H projects. Caring for one pig, a mother cow and calf and six other cattle isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Lizbeth sees her animals from the moment they are born, feeds them, walks them, bathes them and says goodbye at the end of their lives.

“It’s a lot of commitment,” she said. “At the end, with my steers that I’ve raised, they go to butcher. So, it’s really hard letting go of what I raised.”

This year, Lizbeth helped with the birth of a special calf named “Left Behind.” When he was born, his feet were turned under, and he couldn’t stand for a couple of weeks. Lizbeth had to help hold him up to his mother when he nursed. Even though he wasn’t perfect, Lizbeth insisted on showing him at the fair.

Lizbeth’s been working with animals to prepare them for 4-H since the third grade.

“I like it because it gives me responsibility. In order to have these (animals), I have to be able to take care of them, because they live and breathe just like us,” she said.

From Lizbeth’s point of view, cows and pigs are good company. Her pig has a taste for marshmallows, but she also likes to nibble at feet. Whether she’s muddy or not, she’ll come snorting over to rub up against your leg. The pig doesn’t have a name yet, because Lizbeth’s waiting to see what she’ll respond to.

“My pig has a lot of personality. They’re really lovable creatures,” she said.

There’s a lot that goes into preparing her animals for the Monroe County Fair at the end of July. When Lizbeth feeds her heifers, she’s got to make sure they don’t get too fat. She has to practice with her steers to be certain when she walks them before the judges, they’ll behave themselves.

“We work really hard all summer to make these projects happen. It’s not just the fair that we take care of them. We have to work with them all year,” Lizbeth said.

Lizbeth has also turned other hobbies into 4-H projects. She’s a photographer, and she cooks, too. Some years she’ll win and others she won’t, but winning isn’t what the fair and 4-H projects are all about.

“Everyone wants to win, but what I like about it is that I take pride in knowing that all my cows I show at the fair come from my farm and the cattle that I’ve raised,” she said.