Supporters donate restored tractors, modern equipment
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Idaho farmers and ag-related businesses are rallying around a tractor raffle program that is financing scholarships and other programs for FFA members.
The tractor raffle raised $23,000 for FFA scholarships last year but supporters hope to raise $50,000 this year, which would be enough money to offer about 30 $1,000 scholarships.
Last year's raffle raised enough money for 14 scholarships, which will be presented during the FFA State Leadership Conference April 13 in Twin Falls.
Fourteen scholarships is an outstanding number to be able to offer tomorrow's leaders, but 30 is an incredible number, said Laura Wilder, the Idaho FFA Foundation's executive director.
"We've never been able to offer that many scholarships in Idaho," she said.
Sixty percent of the money is being used to fund scholarships, 25 percent will fund other Idaho FFA Foundation programs, 5 percent goes to the chapter that sells the winning ticket and the rest is used to cover the raffle program's costs.
The program was started last year by Middleton farmer Sid Freeman, a former FFA member, and his wife, Pam.
"Where we're farmers and our boys have been through the FFA program, we couldn't think of a better program to support," Freeman said. "You definitely get a big bang for your buck when you support the FFA."
All FFA chapters in the state are selling $10 raffle tickets for a professionally restored tractor. The first tractor, a 1940 International Farmall H, was donated by the Freemans and people from across the state have since donated enough tractors to get the program through at least three more years.
This year's tractor is a 1952 John Deere B with a three-point sprayer and a 55-gallon tank.
G&R Ag Products of Caldwell is donating the sprayers, which are important so the tractors are more than parade tractors, Freeman said.
With the sprayers, "it's got a practical application for anybody," he said.
Curt Ruehl, owner of the company, said FFA members are the company's next customers.
"If it helps keep them in the industry," he said, "it's a great deal for us."
Freeman said the raffle is expected to bring in more money this year because it was started six months earlier and he's been able to do a more thorough job of explaining to farmers and other the benefits of supporting the FFA's scholarship fund.
Idaho was recently ranked 47th in the nation in sending high school graduates to postsecondary education, but the FFA's professional technical education curriculum has a 60 percent success rate in that category, Freeman points out.
"So for only $10, you have a chance to win a tractor, plus you're supporting a program that has a long history of sending kids to postsecondary education and bringing them back into our communities," Freeman said. "When people hear those statistics, it's an easy sell."
To order tickets, call 208-861-2467 or e-mail Laura Wilder at firstname.lastname@example.org