Capital Press | FFA Capital Press Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:16:24 -0400 en Capital Press | FFA Grant allows Nyssa ag program to build greenhouse Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:28:44 -0400 Sean Ellis NYSSA, Ore. — Nyssa High School will use a $25,000 grant from Monsanto Corp. to build a modern greenhouse that will allow ag education students to perform advanced science-based experiments.

The grant was awarded by Monsanto through the company’s regional Seminis vegetable seeds division. A ceremonial check was presented to school district officials Aug. 25 at the farm of Paul Skeen.

The money will cover the cost of purchasing advanced testing equipment, such as probes and sensors, as well as specialized data collection and analysis software.

Nyssa ag education students currently grow tomatoes and hanging baskets and raise tilapia in two old greenhouses and a fish lab.

The much larger, modern greenhouse will allow the school’s ag education program to move to the next level and do science-based research, including experimenting with different rates of fertilizer and conducting water, temperature, oxygen and soil pH testing.

“It will be a lot of hands-on, science-based experiments,” said Nyssa ag education teacher Chad Cruickshank. “This grant is going to give us the technology that will allow these kids to go out and actually apply what we’re teaching them in a real-life situation.”

The new greenhouse will also allow students to use fish bio-waste to grow produce and learn about pest management and other skills they will need if they move on to a career in agriculture, Cruickshank said.

“Kids like hands-on learning so it’s going to add more opportunities for student learning,” he said. “By adding more opportunities, we’ll spark more interest and may be able to hold more kids within the agricultural industry.”

The project will include adding raised garden beds in the greenhouse, which will allow the program to grow more crops and possibly do some research on onions and other major crops grown in the area, Cruickshank said.

The new equipment will allow students to apply the scientific process to what they’re learning in the classroom, said Tiffany Cruickshank, who wrote the grant application and is Chad Cruickshank’s wife.

“Science is so integrated with agriculture now and it’s very important for these kids to have access to this type of technology to prepare them for the future,” she said. “There are so many jobs available in agriculture and these FFA kids will be the ones to fill them. Any advantage we can give them to prepare them for that will be really beneficial.”

About 120 students a year go through the ag education program in Nyssa, a small community in Eastern Oregon that is heavily dependent on farming activities.

Skeen, a member of the Nyssa ag education program’s advisory board, said one of the main goals of the project is to keep local kids interested in and involved with agriculture.

“It’s important to get these local kids familiar with this type of research and technology and get them excited about a possible career in agriculture,” he said. “It’s a big deal and I think it’s going to go a long way.”

Amid footing concerns, FFA cancels horse show Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:30:41 -0400 CASEY MINTER Citing poor footing in the horse stadium, officials cut short the final day of the state 4-H horse show on Tuesday, prompting the Oregon FFA to cancel its planned horse show at the Oregon State Fair, too.

Both 4-H and FFA representatives cited bad footing in the horse stadium as the reason for canceling the shows. The FFA canceled after the four-day State 4H Horse Fair showings were plagued by slipping horses and one horse exhibitor flipped her horse in the arena at a collected lope.

“A lot of times this is a culminating effort, this kind of ends our summer season before we go into the fall,” said Lance Hill, a FFA representative. “But this is just one of those things that those of us in ag have to absorb. When it rains you’re not making hay.

“We may have lost out on the experience of the moment, but we always come back to the fact that the most important thing is the safety of our students,” Hill said.

According to Footing Solutions USA, a company that specializes in preparing arenas for equestrian events, the perfect surface has to be compact, rebounding sand that still gives enough to prevent high impact on the horses’ muscles and bones. If footing is too hard or too loose, the performance of the animal and the safety of the event can be compromised, according to the company’s website.

“If you get too much compact dirt below, it tends to be rougher when starting, stopping and turning the animals,” Hill said. “These are performance-based animals, and we try and do everything to ensure they can perform properly.”

Fair organizers are working on a solution, said Amber Lindsey, a spokeswoman for the Oregon State Fair.

“As of yesterday, the event was going to be canceled at the request of the FFA,” Lindsey said. “But the ground crews have been working on the arena for 24 hours straight to try and get it ready.”

Competitors come from around the state for the FFA event, and it won’t be rescheduled, Hill said.

“When we made the decision to follow suit, we were not going to change our minds,” Hill said. “We have people come from around the state, so it wouldn’t be fair to reschedule and only local competitors be able to join.”

Other horse events are scheduled throughout the fair, which ends Sept. 1.

The change “does not affect open class. It is still scheduled to go. We had a volunteer come in last night and do some additional work. She has experience in arena rescue. We’re going to continue to work on it for the next few days,” said M.G. Devereux, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department. Some 400 competitors are registered for the open class events.

Washington FFA gets new executive director Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:42:27 -0400 Matw Weaver The Washington State FFA Association has hired Abbie DeMeerleer as the organization’s new executive director.

“The fall is a busy time for FFA and there’s a lot of work to be done,” DeMeerleer told the Capital Press. “I’m looking forward to helping grow the organization.”

DeMeerleer said she has a long history with the organization. When the opportunity became available, it was a good match, she said.

According to the Washington FFA, DeMeerleer was Washington state FFA vice president in 1999-2000 and vice president of the Western Region National FFA in 2001-2002.

DeMeerleer was a member in the Colfax, Wash., FFA chapter and is a member and former board member of the National FFA Alumni Association.

“It meant the world to me,” DeMeerleer recalled. “I was not a God-gifted athlete, so my outlet really was FFA. I grew up around and among agriculture, and FFA allowed me to do that in a really productive and academically supported way.”

FFA allowed DeMeerleer to develop leadership and communication skills, and offered her opportunities.

“I’ve been able to travel all over the world, literally, with FFA,” she said, citing trips to Europe, Japan and around the United States. “I probably wouldn’t have had those opportunities had I not been part of this organization, and I want to make sure those opportunities are still available to students. There’s the world and life knowledge that can be gained.”

DeMeerleer is a clinical assistant professor in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. She expects to continue at the university through December, teaching a class for the semester and support a leadership project she helped develop.

DeMeerleer hopes to further develop the partnership between WSU and FFA.

She plans to remain on the Palouse as executive director for the organization.

“Abbie is an asset to the Washington State Association; she leads by example and lives by character,” said Rebecca Wallace, state FFA adviser, in a press release. “I am excited to work with Abbie to advance leadership opportunities for students, strengthen relationships with the agricultural industry and advance agricultural education and FFA in the state.”

DeMeerleer replaces Jodi Monroe, who had re-applied for the position after her contract was up July 31. Wallace called replacing Monroe “a human resources decision.”

Melba lands $8,000 grant for ag program Tue, 5 Aug 2014 09:40:35 -0400 Sean Ellis MELBA, Idaho — Melba School District officials say an $8,000 grant from Monsanto Corp. will help instructors provide students a more realistic learning experience about agriculture.

The grant will be used to build a greenhouse that will provide high school students in the district’s ag education program a hands-on learning experience, said superintendent Andy Grover.

“It creates an opportunity for us to give them real-life, hands-on experience with agriculture,” said Grover, who grew up on a large grain farm in East Idaho. “Being able to do that is huge. It gets past just theory in the classroom to allowing them to actually grow things.”

About 100-120 students go through the district’s ag program each year, Grover said.

Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, a former farmer, helped the district apply for the grant.

The greenhouse will allow the district’s ag program “to give these students practical, hands-on experience in everything from irrigation to soil amendment to marketing and business skills — skills that are going to help develop them into employable, productive citizens in the agricultural industry,” she said.

Grover said the district has been trying to build a greenhouse for at least three years, but lacked the finances to pull the trigger on the project until now.

The district will start building the greenhouse this month.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without this grant,” he said. “This is what pushed us over the top so we could finally do this project.”

The grant was awarded through Monsanto’s vegetable seed division in Nampa. Brett Lolley, Monsanto’s Idaho production manager, said the division was looking for a project closely tied to farmers who grow Monsanto seed.

He said at least 15 percent of the company’s sweet corn seed is grown in this area and a lot of the division’s employees have children who have gone through or are going through the Melba school system.

“They have a really well-put-together plan of how they are going to use (the money) to teach kids about agriculture,” Lolley said.

Trent Clark, Monsanto’s public and government affairs director for this region, said Monsanto grants have already helped other school districts in Idaho such as Bancroft, Grace, Preston and Soda Springs build greenhouses.

“The day is going to come when every school district in Idaho has a Monsanto-built greenhouse,” he said.

Grover said district officials hope to set up a partnership with Monsanto that will enable the company’s employees to help teach Melba students about things like fertilizer, irrigation and genetics.

Lolley and Clark both said Monsanto would be happy to partner with the district to provide ag program students more specialized knowledge about agriculture.

Livestock camps prepare kids for fair time Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:33:54 -0400 John O’Connell DOWNEY, Idaho — Riley Kofford has attended the same summer day camp every year since he was 5 years old, when he’d tag along with his big sisters.

At Bannock County’s livestock day camp — a three-hour crash course in animal agriculture hosted by a team of University of Idaho Extension educators — Kofford explained presentations have prepared him for showing 4H animal projects during the annual county fair.

Livestock day camps have been organized for the past 18 years to prepare students within southern UI Extension district counties for fair competition.

“During the show, the judge will ask us a question, and you never know what it is going to be,” said Kofford, a junior at Marsh Valley High School in Arimo. “Knowing all about the animal you’re doing definitely helps you so you can answer the question correctly.”

Kofford, who shows market lambs, said he always learns something new at the day camp.

More than 50 students and several parents and siblings attended the Bannock County day camp on July 10. It was the last of eight southern district day camps, which started during the final week of June and were also hosted in Power, Bingham, Caribou, Bear Lake, Oneida, Bonneville and Teton counties. Organizers estimate 500-600 students attended the district’s day camps, which are offered free and include a meal.

Experts from each county present at every day camp to provide students a broad range of information. Southern district educators have partnered on camps in the past with other districts in Idaho, and even Wyoming and Utah extension educators to diversify the subject matter.

Ashley Tolman, Bannock County’s 4-H program assistant and organizer of the county’s day camp, said the turnout was encouraging, recalling past years when just three or four children participated.

Tolman’s presentation emphasized biosecurity, which she said is an especially important topic this summer as 4-H fairs seek to teach children steps to prevent outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus on their own farms and in fairgrounds. The highly contagious disease has caused significant losses in the swine industry since first surfacing in the U.S. last May.

During his presentation on animal breeds, Power County Extension educator Reed Findlay engaged students in an interactive trivia card game. He explained day camps are open to any student with a 4-H project, but they tend to draw younger children, as the older kids are often busy with other summer activities.

Bingham County Extension educator Scott Nash offered students beef samples after discussing the different meat quality grades and preparation methods. He informed students that the most tender cuts come from supporting muscles, such as loins, while muscles used in movement, such as the rump, are tougher.

Children also heard Caribou County Extension educator Steve Harrison present on marketing fair animals and ultrasound use in animal agriculture and Oneida County Extension educator Meranda Hazelbaker discuss animal reproduction.