Capital Press | FFA Capital Press Sat, 6 Feb 2016 07:42:23 -0500 en Capital Press | FFA FFA members focus on future at career fair Fri, 5 Feb 2016 14:03:29 -0500 Matw Weaver SPOKANE — Hundreds of Washington FFA members got a glimpse at what the future has to offer during the annual Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum career fair.

Regional business representatives spoke with 380 FFA members during the career fair, which was Feb. 4 at the expo.

Kaycie Dailey, a senior from Othello, Wash., is undecided on her career choice, so the fair gave her many options. She was particularly intrigued by the tractors and the possibilities of Walla Walla Community College’s John Deere technical program.

Emily Adams, a junior from Waitsburg, Wash., wanted to find out more about career choices. She plans to become an agriculture teacher.

“Agriculture’s been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember and I want to continue my love for agriculture,” she said.

Matt Vercoe, a high school senior from Sprague, Wash., wanted to learn about advances in the industry. He’s considering a career in engineering.

Participating in FFA gives him experience and the opportunity to compete in contests, he said.

“FFA focuses more on students building personal qualities and abilities that high school math classes and English classes don’t really teach,” Vercoe said.

Tre Schalk, also a senior from Sprague, plans to enter the Army and wanted to see the new equipment at the trade show.

George Wishon, a senior from Colville, Wash., plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a cattle rancher after attending community college in Pendleton, Ore. He wanted to see what the expo had to offer.

“(FFA) has helped me go out and see different ways people do different farming activities,” he said.

“It’s important to let kids know, especially at this age, what kinds of opportunities are in agriculture,” said Leslie Druffel, communications and training coordinator for the McGregor Co.

The equipment needs to be maintained throughout the growing season, she noted.

“Yes, please, go into electronics, computer science and (geographic information systems), because those are directly applicable to agriculture,” she said.

500 FFA blue jackets converge on Idaho Capitol Tue, 26 Jan 2016 09:18:23 -0500 Sean Ellis BOISE — More than 500 FFA students from across Idaho converged on Boise Jan. 25 for a two-day event that allows them to visit with legislators and sharpen their leadership skills.

Idaho lawmakers were surrounded by a sea of blue jackets during the Cenarrusa Day on the Hill luncheon, the official kickoff of the annual event.

The FFA students spent the morning visiting with lawmakers and industry leaders and experiencing first-hand how Idaho government works.

Agriculture is “a great place to be and a great place to raise a family. It’s an honor for me to be here and see all the blue coats today,” said Jack Ingram, president of the Idaho Cooperative Council, which represents agricultural cooperatives and co-sponsors the event.

Idaho State FFA Executive Director Clara-Leigh Evans said the two-day event, which includes a leadership conference, is a great way to help shape the state’s future leaders.

“In the blue jackets, you’re looking at the people that eventually will be wearing (suits) in our Capitol in the future and be the movers and shakers of Idaho,” she said. “This is a really, really special event and it’s an exciting opportunity for them.”

FFA member Robi Salisbury, president of the New Plymouth chapter, said that FFA students truly are the future leaders of Idaho “and I feel it’s really important to get us out there and hear about the important issues that (legislators) are dealing with.”

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, a rancher, proclaimed Jan. 20-27 as FFA week in Idaho and noted that 65 percent of the state’s general fund revenue is dedicated toward education.

“There’s no better way to get a sense of the (benefit of that investment) than to come to Cenarrusa Day on the Hill,” he said.

During the luncheon, Ingram presented Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, and Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, with ICC friends of the industry awards.

Rice, chairman of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee, noted that “modern agriculture feeds ... more people per farmer than at any time in history.”

“I think the world is in good hands when I look out here and see all the blue jackets,” said Troy, who Ingram described as “a farm girl through and through.”

Honorary Idaho FFA degrees were presented to Rep. Mike Moyle, the House majority leader and a farmer and rancher, and Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, for their roles in supporting the 2014 Idaho Ag Education Initiative.

That initiative, which was pushed by FFA, resulted in the Idaho Legislature approving about $2 million in additional support for secondary agricultural education programs.

Idaho FFA presented the Takasugi Family Foundation its distinguished service award.

The family of the late Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Pat Takasugi, who also served in the legislature, founded the foundation in 2012 to support agricultural and educational programs.

“Pat Takasugi loved FFA and he and (wife) Suzanne and their family have supported FFA in many ways over the years,” said Idaho FFA President Riely Geritz. The Takasugi family “are continuing Pat’s legacy through the ... foundation.”

Idaho FFA raffling tractor Mon, 25 Jan 2016 11:43:32 -0500 John O’Connell POCATELLO, Idaho — Students involved in Idaho FFA aim to raise $50,000 by raffling a 1975 Massey-Ferguson 275 tractor.

The tractor, which Freeman displayed outside of Idaho State University’s Holt Arena during the recent 2016 Ag Expo, is fitted with a farm-hand loader on the front and a rear blade. Raffle tickets are $10 each and may be purchased from any Idaho FFA member, or online at

Canyon County farmer Sid Freeman is the founder of the Idaho FFA Foundation’s annual tractor raffle. Freeman said 60 percent of the raffle revenue goes toward scholarships for FFA members. The remainder of the funding supports Idaho FFA Foundation programs, such as the state convention in April, a leadership program for underclassmen in February and career-development competitions hosted in June in Moscow, Idaho.

Freeman said the drawing will take place during the state conference, and he offered to deliver the grand prize to any winner residing within a reasonable proximity to his farm.

Freeman said FFA students hope to break their current record of selling 3,750 tickets.

“The previous tractors have all been antique tractors,” Freeman said. “The agricultural education advisers said if we had a little newer model type of tractor, maybe we could sell more tickets and we could reach that goal this year.”

Freeman said his organization purchased the tractor for $5,000 from an owner in Marsing, Idaho. The owner gave FFA a good deal and will be allowed to write off on taxes the difference between the sale price and the tractor’s book value of about $6,500. Freeman said the tractor has new tires, and Massey-Ferguson agreed to be a sponsor, providing replacement parts and mechanical work.

Ag-themed California license plates raise funds for education Sun, 17 Jan 2016 17:21:01 -0500 Tim Hearden SACRAMENTO — In less than three years since they were first distributed, more than 25,000 agriculture-themed license plates have been sold, renewed or transferred in California, and their fees have generated nearly $500,000 for education, state officials say.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture this month handed out $249,352 in the second round of grants from the CalAgPlate program. The awards included $212,000 for FFA leadership and development programs, $12,630 for classroom resource kits on crop and plant sciences and $24,722 for student field trips to the farm at the California State Fair.

The grants follow last year’s $237,000 in awards, including $192,547 for FFA leadership and mentorship programs.

Since the Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first plates in April 2013, the proceeds have boosted agricultural education programs that “connect consumers to our farms and ranches” and provide “a greater appreciation for California’s agricultural diversity,” CDFA secretary Karen Ross said in a statement.

“We’re very happy and very pleased at the level of support for agriculture that exists in California to enable the program to meet the threshold that the program can exist,” said Steve Lyle, a CDFA spokesman.

At the urging of FFA members and ag educators, then-food and agriculture secretary A.G. Kawamura started the license plate program at the FFA’s state convention in 2010, announcing the DMV would need at least 7,500 paid orders before the plates would be manufactured and distributed.

“The FFA was a major proponent, and members of FFA helped us get up and over that threshold,” Lyle said. “It was something that drew interest from across the agriculture educational spectrum, and Secretary Ross was keenly interested in bringing it into fruition.”

The distinctive plates, which can be personalized, show the sun rising or setting over a farm field and tout the state’s food, fiber, fuel and flora. The initial cost for a plate is $50 with an annual renewal fee of $40, in addition to the vehicle’s regular registration fee.

This year’s grant to the FFA will fund the organization’s statewide Leadership Continuum workshops, the state FFA Leadership Conference and outreach activities, according to a summary of recipients. In all, more than 11,000 students participate in the workshops and conferences.

The resource-kit grant, which was requested by the Stanley W. Strew Education Fund, will provide materials and training to 35 high school instructors with a goal of exposing more students to crop and plant sciences through contests and other projects.

The grant to the California Exposition and State Fair will fund field trips for 117,000 elementary-school students to the Sacramento fairgrounds’ 3-acre demonstration farm, which has showcased the industry to millions of visitors since 1974.


For information on the special plates, visit .

FFA chapter hosts precision ag demonstration Tue, 12 Jan 2016 17:08:36 -0500 Nathan Hampton Mackay FFA Chapter Reporter

The Mackay, Idaho, FFA hosted Travis Pehrson from Valley Agronomics to discuss drones in precision agriculture with the student body at Mackay High School.

Pehrson began by teaching students what precision agriculture is and the importance of fertilizers and how they affect plants. He then demonstrated the drone and how it is used to identify what kind of fertilizer the plants need to grow. Using this revolutionary technology people can identify problems in fields, from vole damage to nutrient deficiency.

The morning was a memorable one for students that clearly shows the benefits of technology in various applications.

“Drones are being used for counting wildlife, farm applications and rangeland monitoring. There are many other possible applications and today’s students will be finding these applications,” said Trent Van Leuven, Mackay FFA advisor.

Mackay FFA chapter announces Breeding Livestock Project participants Tue, 12 Jan 2016 16:43:19 -0500 Nathan HamptonMackay FFA Chapter Reporter Every year the Mackay, Idaho, FFA chapter has selected students to participate in the Breeding Livestock Program via an interview process with community leaders.

This year’s recipients of the breeding livestock assistance program were Libby Moorman, Aspyn Wasylow, Nolan Moorman, Marissa Nelson and Kristen Hardy, who were selected to receive beef cows, and Tia Carlson, who was selected to receive a ewe.

Students work with experts in the field to select a quality animal that is pregnant and will give birth before spring. Students learn about delivery, newborn animal care, husbandry and sire selection.

“I am excited about this project because I want to be a vet when I grow up. This will help me get into a good college,” student Aspyn Wasylow says. “I also plan to start a herd that will help with getting money to be able to go to college.”

Students sign a contract with the FFA chapter to use scientific practices to care for their breeding dams and offspring. They continue to be active in the FFA, show their animals in various classes at the Custer County Fair, pay 60 percent of the loan back in the first year, and must retain possession of the dam for the duration of two years.

Students can receive their first animal at the beginning of the ninth grade year and receive an animal each year until graduation. Over the years many students have built small herds and sold their herds to pay for most of their higher education.

This program has been instrumental in helping students learn about finances as they apply what they learn in the agriculture classroom. Since its creation years ago by former agriculture educator Vernon Roche, the program has provided 299 cows, 53 ewes and 5 sows to Mackay FFA members.

Yamhill-Carlton FFA wins state Ag Sales competition Fri, 8 Jan 2016 17:37:31 -0500 The Yamhill-Carlton High School FFA chapter traveled to Ontario, Ore., High School Friday, Dec. 4, to compete in the Oregon state Agricultural Sales CDE (Career Development Event) competition. This CDE is a four-part competition.

The first part consists of a 50-question multiple choice knowledge test on the complexities of the sales process. The second is a 15-minute sales presentation where the student sells a product of their choosing to a judge or judges.

The third is a practicum component that proves their comprehension of prospecting for new customers, handling customer relations/complaints, print advertising creation and telephone order-taking skills. The fourth component is a team activity where the team is given a new product to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy and present to a panel of judges in just under one hour.

The team consisted of Elsie Duyn, Hayley DeHaan, Liberty Greenlund and Abbey Berhorst.

The team also recently took second place at the Lower Willamette District Ag Sales event, held at Dayton High School on Nov. 19, which qualified them to compete at the state level. Their months of practice and dedication were validated when they achieved first place out of 19 teams from across the state Dec. 5 at Ontario High School.

The team will go on to compete as Oregon’s representative at the National FFA Agriculture Sales Competition held in Indianapolis, Ind., in the fall of 2016.

Sutherlin FFA creates ‘thank you’ for food drive sponsor Wed, 6 Jan 2016 16:40:27 -0500 CRAIG REED SUTHERLIN, Ore. — The work of eight Sutherlin High School FFA students will soon grace the walls of every Les Schwab tire store in Oregon.

Those students, with guidance from teacher and FFA adviser Wes Crawford, designed, hand crafted and assembled 115 plaques. The wood, metal and vinyl finished signs recognize Schwab’s support of FFA. They are also a “thank you” from the Oregon FFA Foundation to the Oregon-based tire company for its sponsorship of FFA’s statewide food drive in October.

Sutherlin High senior Geruen Erandio said at some time in the future, when he happens to walk into a Schwab store and he sees the plaque, he’ll take pride in it.

“When I see it, I’m sure I’ll reminisce on the memories of staining and assembling it,” he said. “I’ll feel proud. Our hands touched every single one of them. That’ll be just awesome to see them sometime in the future.”

The actual plaque is 16 inches wide and 24 inches tall. At the top is the FFA emblem and below that bold, black vinyl letters on gold stained, buffed metal proclaim Schwab as a supporter of FFA. A spot in the middle of the plaque is for a photo of either the members of the local FFA chapter for whichever area the Schwab store is in or for a photo of Oregon’s state FFA officers.

The Oregon FFA Foundation put the project out for bid last summer. The Sutherlin FFA chapter turned in a bid and a prototype of its plaque idea. The chapter was selected to produce the plaques in August.

Sutherlin 2015 graduates Kimi Gerstner, Sandra Cox and Jessie Campbell, seniors Bryson Price, Lukas Roman, Colby Hobgood and Erandio, and junior Emma Matteo have been working on the project since. The plaques will be delivered to the Oregon FFA Foundation office in Corvallis in the next week or two and then they’ll be distributed to the Schwab stores around the state by FFA members.

Crawford said the Sutherlin FFA chapter made $3,500 from this project. He explained getting wood from Roseburg Forest Products and metal from Great Northern Trailers in Sutherlin at discounted prices helped greatly in lowering the cost for the chapter.

“There were two reasons we bid for the project,” Crawford said. “One was to use it as a fundraiser for those kids competing at nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, and the other was the opportunity to show the abilities and capabilities of our high school students.”

The eight students made use of four different computer numerical controlled processes (wood router, plasma table, vinyl and laser) to construct every part used in assembling the plaques.

“It has been a win-win situation, as the FFA Foundation chose to support a chapter to make these instead of just ordering them from other parts of the world, and it worked as a good fundraiser for us as well,” Crawford said.

“Some of the students had experience, but they still had a lot to learn to complete all the processes in order to build the plaque,” he added. “Other students were really pushed outside of their comfort zones.”

A wood router cut out the main board, a laser cut out the FFA emblem, a plasma cutter produced the metal frames and plates, and a vinyl computer program cut out the lettering. The students then had to bevel and sand edges, stain the wood and metal, assemble the pieces and apply the lettering.

“It’s been a really good learning experience,” Matteo said. “We learned how to use the equipment, we learned about the building process.

“I’m glad we were involved in this project,” she added. “To see the final plaque, it’s like ‘Wow, I helped with that.’”

“We are excited to put our branded creations into every Les Schwab store across the state,” Crawford said.

Middleton FFA wins big at district event Tue, 5 Jan 2016 10:35:57 -0500 Heidi FulwilerMiddleton FFA Reporter At Vallivue on Dec. 2, the Middleton, Idaho, FFA Chapter participated in several district Career Development Events (CDEs). The members who competed were Wil Jansen Van Beek, Braydon Mitchell, Brendan Shelman, David Pecht, Emily Oldham, Katie Reed, Breezy Arte and Cooper Miraz. The Middleton chapter competed against teams from many schools, including Meridian, Nampa, Vallivue, Homedale, Melba, Notus, Rimrock, Marsing and Kuna.

The Greenhand test is an exam for freshmen only and entails general FFA knowledge, including history, along with current state and national officers. The members that competed in this competition were Emily Oldham, Katie Reed, Breezy Arte and Cooper Miraz. As a team, they placed third.

Agricultural Mechanics team member and placing were as follows: Jansen Van Beek participating in arc welding and electricity, Shelman in small engines and plastic pipe, Mitchell in oxyacetylene welding and Pecht in tool identification. Jansen Van Beek, Shelman and Pecht all finished as first high individuals in their assigned events.

After all the scores were added together the Middleton chapter finished first out of the nine schools. This is the fifth year in a row that Middleton FFA has won the Boise Valley FFA Agriculture Mechanics CDE. Middleton FFA has also won this event eight of the last nine years.

Middleton FFA advisor Nick Davis said, “The team is really smart and focused. If they keep the same focus this spring, they have a great chance to win State Ag Mechanics in Moscow, Idaho.”

Middleton won the state FFA Ag Mechanics contest in 2009 and 2014.

Jansen Van Beek also participated in the Job Interview CDE, where he collected papers such as a cover letter, resume and reference letters and finished it off with an interviewing process. Jansen Van Beek had some very talented competition, but all his hard work earned him first place in the competition.

Harley Wilson, who is also an advisor for Middleton, said, “Wil has really gone the extra mile, and today it showed. I couldn’t be prouder of him and he will have a chance to interview for the State FFA Job Interview CDE in Twin Falls this coming April.”

Some upcoming events for Middleton FFA include: lunch with legislators, a national FFA leadership workshop, public speaking CDEs, State FFA Degree sifting, and the chapter FFA banquet at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, in the high school.

Meridian FFA competes at Boise Valley District CDEs Mon, 4 Jan 2016 17:19:25 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter On Dec. 2, Vallivue High School hosted three Boise Valley District (BVD) Career Development Events (CDEs).

The following CDEs were held: Greenhand Knowledge, Agricultural Mechanics and Job Interview. The Meridian FFA Chapter had representatives for each of these CDEs.

The Job Interview CDE consists of the participant submitting a resume, cover letter and letters of recommendation, as well as completing a job application and taking part in a mock job interview with a panel of possible employers.

The Agricultural Mechanics CDE helps students develop their technical skills and ability to solve complex problems. Some of the different areas in this CDE are arc welding, oxy-acetylene welding, tool identification, small gas engines, electricity and plumbing. Greenhand Knowledge is a CDE for first year members that tests them on basic FFA knowledge and history.

Meridian FFA’s results from these CDEs are as follows:

Greenhand Knowledge CDE – 7th place team:

• Maddy Stroebel (Mountain View High School)

• Anna Jackson (Mountain View High School)

• Jordan Alba Reed (Mountain View High School)

• Riann Madery (Mountain View High School)

Agricultural Mechanics CDE – 4th place team:

• Ashlyn Schiers – 2nd high individual in arc and mig welding (Meridian High School)

• Kyle Inek – 5th high individual in oxy-acetylene and tig welding (Meridian High School)

• Zach Phillips –6th high individual in tool identification (Meridian High School)

• Joseph Wieting – 5th high individual in small gas engines (Meridian High School)

• Cody Aden – 4th high individual in electricity (Eagle High School)

• Majel Coxe – 8th high individual in pvc pipe plumbing (Centennial High School)

Job Interview CDE…

• Mallie Miller – 2nd High Individual (Meridian High School)

FFA students collect 130 tons of food Fri, 18 Dec 2015 13:29:42 -0500 Geoff Parks The Lower Willamette FFA District’s Food For All program headed into its stretch run with the finish line — Dec. 23 — in sight and a goal of 130 tons of food for needy Oregon families nearly all collected, distributed or ready for distribution.

Food For All is a joint project of the district’s high school FFA chapters at Perrydale, Willamina, Dayton, Amity, Sheridan and Yamhill-Carlton. It was created in 1997 by Kirk Hutchinson, the now-retired Perrydale FFA chapter adviser.

At the end of each year, the Perrydale K-12 education complex resembles a beehive of activity. Students from kindergarten through high school age work furiously to collect, sort, package and distribute potatoes, rutabagas, onions, squash, cabbage, dried and fresh fruits, beets and other vegetables and produce over the course of the first three weeks of December, said Perrydale’s first-year FFA adviser, Christina Lorenz.

That food is delivered by the Perrydale students and teachers to various areas around the state identified as economically depressed and in need of food services, with the goal of providing 40-pound bags of farm-fresh food to at-risk families.

Lorenz said a new wrinkle was added this year to the structure of the program that assures it hews to one of its missions as “a service learning project to teach students a variety of skills while putting food on the table for needy families.”

Hutchinson, who still works long hours alongside the kids each December helping organize the work, introduced a new designation for six of this year’s FFA chapter members, making them Food For All Ambassadors.

“We wanted to start a program so we could get some of the leaders from within our school” to perform outreach, public relations and cold-call contact functions, Lorenz said.

The ambassadors line up partners, donors and volunteers for Food For All, which begins gearing up in October.

For example, ambassadors Maddy Ford and Michelle Sekafetz, both 14, contacted “possible partners” — donors, farmers and transport services — via letter.

“We then set up appointments with them to go and talk about the program,” Sekafetz said.

“All the schools work together on this project,” Sekafetz said, adding that the ambassadors and other students have traveled as far away as Union in northeast Oregon and Ontario in the southeast corner of the state to make their pitches. Food For All donations have been going to the economically depressed Coos Bay area for 14 years, she said.

“By coincidence one year, we were talking to someone in Coos Bay who said he got a real good deal on potatoes — $1 a bag,” Hutchinson said. “I told him I could get him all the bags of potatoes he wanted for free, and that started the partnership with Coos Bay.

“Now, we always go to Coos Bay because they make a donation to our program to buy string and bags and pay for some meals for these kids while they’re on the road or whatever we need to keep our program going.”

The more pro-active efforts of the Ambassador team seem to have paid off, as the original goal for this year of 253,000 pounds of food collected jumped to 260,000 pounds with a week to go.

“We are just overwhelmed with the amount of things to do (in December),” Hutchinson said.

Meridian FFA Alumni Scholarship Auction raises over $26,000 Thu, 17 Dec 2015 10:10:12 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter On Nov. 9 from 6 to 9 p.m., the Meridian, Idaho, FFA Chapter held the 7th Annual Alumni Scholarship Auction in the Meridian Professional Technical Center shop.

This event serves as our main fundraiser to raise money for senior FFA member scholarships and to lower the cost of state and national trips for the members of the chapter. Our event had both live and silent auctions, with a tri tip dinner donated by Agri Beef Co. and prepared by Cross Country Catering & Events. Our auction was open to the community.

About 212 items were donated to both the live and silent auction. Approximately 340 people attended to support us this year. Our chapter made a profit of $26,433.58 on this night, an 18 percent increase from last year’s auction. The money raised from this auction will be able to provide $6,500 in scholarships to our senior members, $5,000 to students attending the Washington Leadership Conference, $3,500 to students competing at the National FFA Convention and $4,200 to State Leadership Conference attendees and State Career Development Event (CDEs) competitors.

The profits from this event have increased 50 percent since the first auction seven years ago, and we have many people to thank for that increase. Meridian FFA would like to thank those who supported the chapter by attending this year, as well as the businesses and families who donated items to our live and silent auctions.

Agri Beef Co. has our gratitude for donating the main course of our auction dinner, as do Jessie Miller and Becky Miller-Tester of Cross Country Catering for preparing our meal. Jessie and Becky also generously donated half of their tips and income from the Alumni back to our chapter. Last, we owe a huge thank you to our Alumni Chapter for helping us put on this fundraiser and making it a great success.

Del Norte FFA hosts Drive-Thru Christmas Light fundraiser Thu, 17 Dec 2015 10:06:56 -0500 Taylor JonesDel Norte FFA Reporter This December Del Norte FFA in Crescent City, Calif., is hosting a Drive-Thru Christmas Light fundraiser.

Our officer team contacted local businesses to decorate small areas along the route. On the last night of the fundraiser the displays will be judged and prizes will be awarded to the best Christmas displays.

Then our members filled in the rest of the areas with different lights and decorations.

The goal of our fundraiser is to earn money for our chapter’s activities throughout the year, while spreading Christmas cheer.

FFA members will be working along the route every night to provide free hot cocoa to each car that drives through.

This will be a great way for everyone to get in the holiday spirit while staying in the warmth and comfort of their cars. We hope that everyone gets as much joy from this experience as we do. A special thanks to the businesses who have donated their time to make our fundraiser great.

Instructor helps rescue ag program Sun, 13 Dec 2015 15:15:06 -0500 Tim Hearden REDDING, Calif. — When Shasta College’s agriculture program was on the verge of shutting down because of a budget crisis in 2009, Trena Kimler-Richards got busy.

A former high school and California State University-Chico instructor, Kimler-Richards had been hired part-time at the community college a year earlier. She knew a few people, and she picked up the phone.

“I started calling anybody I could,” she said.

Kimler-Richards helped rally local growers, county Farm Bureaus and alumni around the 60-year-old program, bringing overflow crowds to board meetings and persuading trustees to keep the college farm open.

Today the 90-acre farm — which includes a dormitory program that immerses students in the operation — is a money-maker for its community college district.

“Now we produce show-quality goats, pigs and cattle and we’re able to sell them at a premium,” said Kimler-Richards, 55, who’s now a full-time instructor and program coordinator and advises a student leadership club. “The products off of the farm are actually generating revenue.”

Kimler-Richards is quick to credit others — including the farm manager, B.J. Macfarlane, and former Dean Eva Jimenez — for the farm’s success. But Kimler-Richards brought her experience in helping rebuild the ag program at Red Bluff High School in the late 1980s, which ballooned from 80 students to 580 in three years.

“I was familiar with this program,” she said. “I knew what it should be.”

Kimler-Richards’ enthusiasm about ag shines through, said Kari Dodd, who took over as the Tehama County Farm Bureau’s manager just before the college’s 2009 budget crisis.

“She is very passionate about agriculture in general,” Dodd said, “but also she really wants to educate our youth and the students at Shasta College and provide them with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to further their education at a university, or give them the tools to go out and start their career.”

Growing up on a ranch in Grass Valley, Calif., Kimler-Richards developed that passion for agriculture at an early age. Her parents grew up on farms during the Depression, and the family hayed and raised hogs and cattle while operating an ag brokerage firm and later a feed store.

Kimler-Richards was in the FFA at Nevada Union High School in Grass Valley, and her livestock judging team was national champion in 1977. She later earned an agricultural business degree from CSU-Chico, where she returned as an ag education instructor and outreach coordinator for 11 years before leaving to be a stay-at-home mother in 2002.

Today she and her husband, Laird Richards, raise horses on a small farm in eastern Tehama County, and she and her mother, Jeannie Gallagher, market gourmet cooking sauces and dressings under the Antelope Creek Farm label.

“We named it that because Antelope Creek runs through” the farm, she said.

Kimler-Richards worked for a computer data firm right after college, but soon discovered “I couldn’t do the high heels and three-piece suits every day,” she said. “It wasn’t me.”

She earned her high school teaching credential and took the position at Red Bluff High School in 1985, teaching there until moving to Chico State in 1992.

She developed her desire to teach while in high school, she said.

“I had really good ag teachers who took an interest in me and helped me grow and be successful,” Kimler-Richards said. “In college I was a 4-H adviser. I just really enjoy helping the kids, helping them grow and develop their interpersonal skills. The whole FFA component was a big factor in my decision to go back and get my teaching credential.”

Kimler-Richards returned to teaching in 2008 at Shasta College, where she was recruited to take over for an ag science instructor who decided not to come back. The campus’ budget issues came to light soon afterward, as the board was looking for places to cut and ag classes were only drawing about 15 students per class.

While the administration allowed the college’s ag instruction to continue, the program was tasked with raising some of its own funds, which it started doing with an annual fall harvest festival that featured farm tours, locally produced food and beverages, and entertainment.

“Eva Jimenez was the new dean, and she said, ‘Let’s do a harvest festival,’” Kimler-Richards said. “She also hired B.J. Macfarlane as farm manager. Those two key factors really helped position the program.”

The college suspended the festival this year, partly because the program’s new dean, Michael Sloane, had just started, Kimler-Richards said.

Another event is an annual Country Christmas Fair, which raises funds for the student leadership team that Kimler-Richards advises. The fair, which includes Christmas tree sales as well as craft booths and kids’ attractions, gives the students marketing, customer service and event-planning skills and teaches them how to work as a team, she said.

“It is a teaching tool,” she said. “I just kind of oversee and coordinate. … It’s an incredible learning experience for the class.”

The farm has also made a sustainability push, dusting off and refurbishing old farm equipment and growing all of its hay and grain to avoid having to purchase feed. Today the farm is on solid financial footing, partly because it generates some of its own revenue.

The administration is also supportive, having purchased hay for the farm last summer when the drought diminished the farm’s own yields, Kimler-Richards said.

For Kimler-Richards, the students and her colleagues are like family, she said.

“This is where it’s at,” she said. “Our farm dorm program builds high-quality students who have good skills when they leave here. We definitely have a family atmosphere.

“We take care of our students,” she said, “and they take care of us.”

Trena Kimler-Richards

Occupation: Agricultural instructor, program coordinator

Age: 55

Residence: Dairyville, Calif.

Family: Husband Laird Richards, son Kegan Richards


Chelan wins state FFA apple competition Fri, 11 Dec 2015 15:43:49 -0500 The Chelan FFA Apple Team are state champions.

They earned that honor at the 2015 Washington State Apple Career Development Event held in conjunction with the Washington State Horticultural Meetings in Yakima on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

The team was made up of Erick Straub, Dane Schwartz, Sarah Goyne, Michael Tutino and Stephanie Olivera and outpaced the 26-team field representing 19 FFA chapters from Central and North Central Washington.

Team members competed in individual practicum areas.

Entomology requires members to identify 20 different beneficial and harmful insects and arachnids important to the tree fruit industry.

Variety Identification requires students to identify 25 samples determining if they are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Winter Banana, Gala, Bosc, Bartlett or Anjou.

Grading involves evaluating 25 Red and 25 Golden Apples based on WSDA industry standards as to whether the sample is Washington Extra Fancy, Washington Fancy, or Culls.

Blemish Identification requires members to determine the defect in 50 samples as to whether the damage was caused by Codling Moth, Pandemis Leaf Roller, San Jose Scale, Sunburn, Limb Rub, Chewing Damage, Stink Bug, Lygus Bug, Bitter Pit, Growth Crack, or Indenture.

Tray Judging has competitors look at four trays of Goldens and four trays of Reds and place them in order based on Quality, Uniformity, Color and Defect.

Fruit Maturity involves performing an internal pressure test of an apple on three sites and determining the average internal pressure in pounds per square inch and determining harvest date based on the full bloom date for Reds, Goldens and Fuji apples.

And finally, a restricted use pesticide test based on the WSDA Private Pesticide Applicators handbook.

Erick Straub was the overall individual champion, scoring a 247 out of a possible 260 and also earning a $1,000 scholarship from the Washington Apple Education Foundation.

Dane Schwartz earned third-place individual honors.

The second team from Chelan was led by Diana Sanchez and included Ashley Oswald, Henry Suarez, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Carlos Vargas. They placed 12th in the CDE.

Meridian FFA awards degree recipients and creed speaking winner Fri, 11 Dec 2015 16:14:25 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter Meridian FFA’s annual creed speaking competition and degree awards night was Nov. 16. This meeting was held at Mountain View High School in the auditorium.

FFA members are able to earn degrees (levels of achievement) throughout their FFA career by leadership, academic and career skills development.

The requirements to receive the Greenhand Degree (awarded to first year members) are to have learned and explained the FFA creed, FFA motto, and FFA salute. The recipient is also required to be enrolled in an agriculture class and take part in FFA chapter activities.

The requirements to receive the Chapter Degree (awarded to second year members) are to have invested $150 or worked 45 unpaid hours outside class in their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). They must also have effectively led a group discussion for 15 minutes and have performed 10 hours of non-FFA community service. The chapter had a total of 54 Greenhand Degree recipients and 21 Chapter Degree recipients.

In addition to awarding degrees, we also held our chapter Creed Speaking Career Development Event (CDE). The FFA Creed is a five paragraph speech that explains different values and beliefs in agriculture. The creed was written by E.M. Tiffany and adopted at the third National FFA Convention in 1930. Those who compete in this CDE must recite it from memory and are asked a question about the creed from a judge. A total of 12 freshman creed speakers participated. The winner will be representing Meridian FFA at the district level in February.

Participants in this CDE included:

- Cassidey Plum – 1st place, receiving a $30 cash prize

- Kayla Shubert – 2nd place, receiving a $20 cash prize

- Anna Jackson – 3rd place, receiving a $10 cash prize

- Sydney Plum – 4th place

- Jordan Alba Reed – 5th place

- Maddy Stroebel

- Ashley Kerby

- Riann Madery

- Kaylee Lindsey

- Levi Brunty

- Riley Anderson

- Bethany Haney

Meridian FFA would like to thank Erika Cowman and Ed Harper for donating their time and expertise to be our Creed Speaking judges. Good luck to Cassidey at districts!

Washington FFA teams earn high marks at nationals Mon, 7 Dec 2015 09:51:20 -0500 Washington FFA members and teams placed high in career development events during nationals Oct. 28-31 in Louisville, Ky.

Agricultural Communications: 6th place-gold: Elma FFA chapter

Agricultural Issues: Bronze-Reardan FFA chapter

Agricultural Sales: 5th place-gold: Stanwood FFA chapter

Agricultural Technology and Mechanics: 5th place-gold: Garfield-Palouse FFA chapter

Agronomy: Gold: Lind-Ritzville FFA chapter

Creed: Silver: Collin Pittmann of Rosalia, Wash.

Dairy Cattle Evaluation: Silver: Elma FFA chapter

Environmental and Natural Resources: 3rd place-gold: Stanwood FFA chapter

Extemporaneous Speaking: Bronze-Savannah Chadwick of Colton FFA chapter

Farm Business Management: 4th place-gold: Lynden Christian FFA chapter

Floriculture: Gold: Sedro Woolley FFA chapter

Food Science and Technology: 4th place-gold: Cashmere FFA chapter

Forestry: 5th place-gold: Mount Baker FFA chapter

Horse Evaluation: Silver: Tonasket FFA chapter

Job Interview: Silver: Cameron Church of Longview FFA chapter

Livestock Evaluation: Silver: Lynden FFA chapter

Marketing Plan: First place-gold: LaCrosse FFA chapter

Meats Technology and Evaluation: 2nd place-gold: Cashmere FFA chapter

Milk Quality and Products: 5th place-gold: Lynden Christian FFA chapter

Novice Parliamentary Procedure: 3rd place-gold: Garfield-Palouse FFA chapter

Nursery/Landscape: Silver: Sedro Woolley FFA chapter

Parliamentary Procedure: Gold: Asotin FFA chapter

Poultry Evaluation: 9th Place-gold: Elma FFA chapter

Prepared Public Speaking: Silver: Corrina Davis of Ferndale FFA chapter

Veterinary Science: 4th place-gold: Ferndale FFA chapter

Meridian, Idaho, FFA Places in Top 10 with four teams at Nationals Tue, 1 Dec 2015 10:22:07 -0500 Alexa PhillipsMeridian FFA Chapter Reporter Louisville, Kentucky, hosted over 64,000 FFA members from across the nation at the 88th National FFA Convention from Oct. 26 to 31.

Meridian, Idaho, FFA competed at the national level with the following teams:

• Parliamentary Procedure.

• Horse Evaluation.

• Food Science and Technology.

• Veterinary Science.

To qualify to compete at this level, the team must win at the state level.

We also had four members — Mitch Jackson, Matt Stokes, Justin Nesbitt and Jamie Short — earn their American Degrees. The requirements for this award are to have earned at least $10,000 and invested $7,500 in a Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE), or to have invested $2,000 and worked 2,250 hours in a SAE. This is awarded to less than 1 percent of the national membership each year. These individuals have demonstrated the highest level of commitment and accomplishments in the FFA.

While on our trip to Louisville, we were able to tour KESMARC (Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center), the Louisville Slugger Museum and Churchill Downs. At KESMARC we were able to see different methods of equine recovery from injuries. In the Louisville Slugger Museum the group was able to see how bats are made and learn more about the game of baseball. At Churchill Downs, we were able to see the race track the Kentucky Derby is run on and see the paddocks, grandstands and the museum.

Throughout the convention, members attended a career fair, filled with different agriculture colleges and companies, and shopped in the FFA mall. In addition, several keynote speakers spoke in sessions throughout the week. Our chapter was able to listen to Dr. Rick Rigsby, a motivational speaker and corporate coach, and Brad Montague, the maker of “Kid President.”

Meridian FFA had four teams compete at Nationals, all placing in the Top 10 overall. The following is the placings of the teams and individuals:

Horse Evaluation: Ninth place team with gold ranking, team members:

• Lauren Anderson — Eighth high individual and third high performance judging, receiving $400 cash scholarship, gold ranking

• Taylor Johnson — Gold ranking

• Alexa Phillips — Silver ranking.

• Chloe Varley — Bronze ranking.

Food Science & Technology: Eighth place team with gold ranking, team members:

• Kirsten Forster — Seventh high individual, receiving $400 cash scholarship, gold ranking.

• Clayton Christenson — Ninth high individual, receiving $400 cash scholarship, gold ranking.

• Zach Putzier — Silver ranking.

• Madison Boyd — Silver ranking.

Parliamentary Procedure: Sixth place team with gold ranking, team members:

• Taylor Nelson — Gold ranking.

• Kristin Nesbitt — Gold ranking.

• Maddie Bennett — Gold ranking.

• Amber Wong — Gold ranking.

• Kyle Schmit — Gold ranking.

• Megan Deim — Gold ranking.

Veterinary Science: Sixth place team with gold ranking, team members:

• Madison Bloom — Second high individual, receiving $1,000 cash scholarship, gold ranking.

• Abby Talbott — Gold ranking.

• Jaime Ellis — Silver ranking.

• Kennedy Kirk — Silver ranking.

Meridian FFA would like to thank the Meridian FFA Alumni Chapter for lowering the huge cost of this trip for each attendee. We would also like to thank the National Career Development Event (CDE) sponsors. The Food Science & Technology CDE was sponsored by Kraft Heinz Co., the Horse Evaluation CDE was sponsored by Ram Trucks, Tractor Supply Co. and Wahl Clipper Corporation, the Parliamentary Procedure CDE was sponsored by TransCanada and the Veterinary Science CDE was sponsored by Zoetis.

Chelan FFA team wins Apple Cup Tue, 1 Dec 2015 10:51:38 -0500 The Manson Grange was the site of the District VII Apple Career Development Event on Tuesday, Nov. 24. FFA members from all over North Central Washington came to town to apply their knowledge of the fruit industry. Manson, Chelan, Okanogan, Tonasket, Mansfield, Cascade, Cashmere, Wenatchee and Eastmont FFA chapters were represented by 72 members who competed in 10 different practicum areas.

Members first took a restricted-use pesticide test based on the Washington State Department of Agriculture private pesticide applicators handbook. Then they moved into the individual practicum areas.

Entomology requires members to identify 20 different beneficial and harmful insects and arachnids important to the tree fruit industry.

Variety Identification requires students to identify 25 samples determining if they are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Fuji, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Winter Banana, Gala, Bosc, Bartlett or Anjou.

Grading involves evaluating 25 Red and 25 Golden Apples based on WSDA industry standards as to whether the sample is Washington Extra Fancy, Washington Fancy, or Culls.

Blemish Identification requires members to determine the defect in 50 samples as to whether the damage was caused by Codling Moth, Pandemis Leaf Roller, San Jose Scale, Sunburn, Limb Rub, Chewing Damage, Stink Bug, Lygus Bug, Bitter Pit, Growth Crack or Indenture.

Tray Judging has competitors look at four trays of Goldens and 4 trays of Reds and place them in order based on quality, uniformity, color and defect.

Fruit Maturity involves performing an internal pressure test of an apple on three sites and determining the average internal pressure in pounds per square inch and determining harvest date based on the full bloom date for Reds, Goldens, and Fuji.

When all the answer sheets had been tallied, the Chelan No. 1 team stood at the top of the page after a consistent performance, with only 3.5 points separating all four team members who made up the team score.

Dane Schwartz finished as the second place individual with a score of 243.5 out of a possible 260. Sarah Goyne was third with 240.5, Erick Straub was fourth, also with a 240.5, and Stephanie Olivera was fifth with a score of 240. Michael Tutino was the fifth member of the team.

They earned the Apple Cup Traveling Trophy and the first place district banner, marking the 12th time in the last 14 years that a team from Chelan has done so.

The Chelan No. 2 team of Diana Sanchez, Henry Suarez, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ashley Oswald and Neil Carleton placed sixth.

The Chelan No. 3 team of Aislinn Davis, Antonio Cazarez, Carlos Vargas and Kenny Reeves placed 11th in the 16-team field.

The teams will prep for one more week and then travel to Yakima for the Washington State Apple CDE on Wednesday, Dec. 9, held at the Washington State Horticultural Association meetings.

Grant Union FFA members collect 3,260 pounds of food Tue, 1 Dec 2015 10:28:28 -0500 Carl Sampson JOHN DAY, Ore. — After joining a statewide effort to feed Oregon’s less fortunate residents and collecting more than 1 1/2 tons of food, the 31 members of the Grant Union Junior-Senior High School FFA chapter are looking for more work.

On Oct. 28, during their annual “Trick or Treat So Someone Else Can Eat” activity, the students gave out cards good for an hour of work to anyone who contributed food.

The card is good for one hour of work on chores such as raking leaves, said Grant Union FFA adviser Adam Ineck.

“We want to give back,” Ineck said, emphasizing how generous community members have been. He said anyone with a card should contact him at the school.

The students collected 3,260 pounds of food, most of which went to the local food bank and area senior centers and church groups, he said.

The food was collected through the Halloween food-raiser, a donation of 2,400 pounds of potatoes and onions that came from the Adrian FFA gleaning effort and other efforts such as a Civil War contest that pitted Oregon State University and University of Oregon fans against one another in donating canned food. The Beaver believers overwhelmed Duck supporters.

“The best part was seeing how willing the people were to give food — their generosity,” said Jessica Carter, vice president of the Grant Union FFA chapter.

The connection with the Adrian FFA came through Anna-Marie Chamberlain, the adviser there, who contacted Ineck with the offer of potatoes and onions. He drove to Adrian to pick up the food on his way from an in-service meeting in Ontario.

The Grant Union efforts were in concert with FFA chapters statewide and with Les Schwab Tire Centers, which served as a collect point and helped with transporting the food, and the Capital Press agricultural newspaper, which distributed bags for food donations.

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.