FFA and agriscience teach students leadership, hands-on skills.

February 20, 2018

FFA and agriscience teach students leadership, hands-on skills.

#FFA #Agriscience

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP (Mason County) — This week is FFA week, celebrating the National FFA Organization. The organization is the largest student leadership organization in the United States. It was started as the Future Farmers of America but now entails many other areas of agriculture including natural resources and fisheries, according to West Shore Chapter advisor Jorhie Beadle.

The local chapter was chartered three years ago, Beadle said. Originally, the chapter was split between Oceana and Mason counties, but now it meets in one location. The organization is symbiotic with the West Shore Educational Service District Career Technical Education’s high school agriscience program that is based on the campus of West Shore Community College. Beadle is also the agriscience instructor.

Through FFA, members learn leadership skills, participate in public speaking events, and explore topics in agriculture, natural resources, conservation, and fisheries. The chapter meets formally once a month, but the students also meet daily in the agriscience class.

Recently, students in the agriscience program have been working on supervised agricultural experiences (SAE).

“Agriculture and natural resources cover a broad range of career options, which can become overwhelming to students as they begin planning for the future,” Beadle said. “A supervised agricultural experience provides students with the opportunity to design an experience that directly relates to their specific interest within agriculture. Students may choose between conducting a research experiment, an internship placement, or starting their own small business to learn about entrepreneurship.”

Here are some SAE projects that current students are working on:

Entrepreneurship: Brianna Visser, a junior at Mason County Central High School, chose to launch a small business as part of her SAE project.  She began the year with 15 laying hens at home, selling organic eggs. She cares for a diverse range of chicken breeds. Her hope is to examine genetics between breeds by incubating and hatching chicks, which will be added to her expanding flock.

“This project has helped me gain knowledge of how to manage and run a small entrepreneurship with livestock,” said Brianna. She currently has a split flock between the campus facility and her home.

Research: Breanne Mallison, a Mason County Central High School junior, has been exploring water quality as a way to learn more about employment opportunities within the realm of natural resources.

“As part of my SAE, I had the opportunity to shadow Kayla Knoll, former conservation cpecialist, at the Manistee Conservation District,” she said. “With her support, I was able to plan and start a stream monitoring program.  At each site I wade in the water collecting macroinvertebrates with the net.”

She is monitoring four streams in Mason County, which began with one observation in the fall and another planned for the spring.

“With these results I will be able to determine the health of the stream.  My study will addresses the impact agriculture has on stream health. I chose this as my SAE because I get to do hands on work outside of the classroom and enjoy the outdoors.”  

Internships: Alexis Gale, a senior at Hart High School, and Erin Wittlieff, a senior at Mason County Eastern High School, have been working on internships, an option offered to second year agriscience students. They spend three to four days a week at the work site and the remaining days in the classroom.

Erin is currently interning at Veterinary Medical Center, in Pere Marquette Township, where she is observing routine veterinarian procedures.

Lexi is working with CERES Solutions, in Hart, where she is gaining a more in depth understanding of soil science and pest management.

Both students are planning to attend West Shore Community College next year.   

“I love the second year program,” Erin said. “I appreciate the direct industry experience.”

“The second year program has allowed me to learn and explore components within a career I hope to purse one day, Lexi said.

More about agriscience. Instructor Jorhie Beadle wrote the following:

The CTE AgriScience course covers a wide range of topics from soil science to livestock management and forestry. With such a diverse content area, it is important for students to experience first hand the career opportunities within the industry. Embedded within the course are multiple opportunities for students to directly engage with industry professionals and tour various locations.

• Arbre Farm and Country Dairy: Fifty students from both the AgriScience course and the CTE Mechatronics class were able to tour Country Dairy and Arbre Farms to investigate the production and distribution of several popular Western Michigan products. This unique cross curricular field trip was a highlight of the fall semester.

• Farm to Fork: On November 10, 2017 ten students were invited to attend the Farm to Fork dinner, which was sponsored by Mason County Farm Bureau in tandem with several other regional organizations. Topics of the evening included food labeling, GMOs, labor issues, and organic production techniques. Students were able to discuss these topics as they relate to the class and hear about the direct impact to the agriculture community. This event was held the same week as the Food for Thought Conference, which students were also able to attend at West Shore Community College.

• Guest Speakers: Hosting industry professionals is another way for students to gain insight into potential careers. Thus far, students have heard from Mary Harris (CERES), Christina Currell (MSU Extension), David Wright (S&D Orchards), and Seth Earl (Mason County NRCS). Each speaker is able to discuss technical skills involved with their job and also provide advice about college and training.

• Great Lakes Fruit and Veggies Expo: On December 5, twenty students from the FFA Chapter attended the Great Lakes Fruit and Veggie Expo in Grand Rapids. Students attended sessions about various horticultural crops as discussed in class and learned more about current agriculture issues.

Yet on the schedule for tours are Larsen’s Farm, Stakenas Farms, and Briggs Farm.

FFA Experiences: FFA National Convention

From October 25 to 28, 10 CTE Agriscience students traveled to Indianapolis for the  FFA National Convention. West Shore students were among the 67,000 students that attended the convention.  During the trip, FFA members attended the World’s Toughest Rodeo, toured the Indianapolis Speedway and Bluespring Caverns. Students were also able to participate in leadership workshops, listen to several nationally recognized keynote speakers, and watch FFA leadership contests.  

Community Outreach

This year the West Shore FFA Chapter organically raised 25 broiler chickens for donation. The birds were donated in tandem with a 150 canned food items that were collected by students. Together, the canned food items and chickens were donated as Thanksgiving Food Baskets to Communities Overcoming Violent Encounters (COVE), which is a nonprofit that services Mason, Lake and Oceana Counties. Additionally, students hosted Baldwin Schools Project Focus as a way to promote agriculture in western Michigan.

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