“More than just farming”
FFA chapter returns to BCLUW after 24 year absence
CONRAD – The beginning of a new school year often brings new things and changes. For the students at BCLUW High School in Conrad , the fall of 2017 brought with it the opportunity to see a rebirth of a new chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and to experience all of the leadership opportunities that come along with it.
Not to mention having their own blue FFA jackets with BCLUW sewn on them in gold lettering.
According to agriculture instructor at BCLUW, Tara Leytham, BCLUW had a chapter in 1994 (the Heartland Chapter) but that died out two years later. Since then, all BCLUW students who wanted to be in an FFA chapter or to take agriculture courses had to go to the neighboring Grundy Center School district.
In the fall of 2016, Leythan was hired as a half-time agriculture teacher for BCLUW, while continuing to work for the Farm Bureau as an “Ag in the Classroom” teacher for second and third grade students in the four school districts in Grundy County.
“I began to see that the BCLUW High School Students wanted to have an FFA chapter of their own,” Leytham said, “So we began to put things in motion, seeking the school board’s permission and the community’s support.”
The rest is history.
This is the first official year for the BCLUW chapter with 33 current members – up from the 11 that expressed the first interest. The chapter is a member of the North Central District of FFA in Iowa. And Leytham said that at a recent freshman orientation session held at the school, 12 eighth grade students signed letters of intent to become FFA members in the fall of 2018.
Chapter President, Alexa Callaway is very excited about the chapter’s future at BCLUW.
“We have worked so hard to get this started. It has been a dream of mine since my eighth grade year in school,” she said. “The community support for our chapter has been impeccable – we couldn’t have done it without them and the staff has been so helpful and supportive of us”.
“It is so heartwarming to know that we (the members) were not the only ones that wanted to see an FFA chapter at BCLUW,” Callaway continued. “Things such as the Farmers Harvest Breakfast, packaging 20,000 Meals from the Heartland with the elementary students and doing AG Olympics at the middle school during National FFA Week have been the highlights of the year for me so far.”
She concluded by saying that it is great to share with other students the fact that it is not mandatory one lives on a farm or shows at a county fair to be in FFA, as there are so many leadership opportunities to be learned through the organization.
Commenting on a ton of community support, Leytham said that Monsanto has recently given the chapter funds to build a greenhouse next to the wrestling room at the local school, and Farm Credit Services has made a gift that will help the chapter get into Aquaponics. This is a process where the greenhouse has a fish tank and the fertilizer created by the fish is used to help grow the plants.
Leytham said the students has attended leadership conferences and that one of her members , Abby Feldspauch was recently elected to be the new North Central District Reporter, and is going on to compete at the state level in ag broadcasting.
Vice President Elizabeth Emley said, “FFA is special to me since we started this chapter from the ground up. It is nice to be with other students that share the passion that I have for agriculture.”
She added, “It is really important for students that are not comfortable in sports or other activities that FFA can be a place for them to find a home and be a special part of the school community. FFA is great for a small school such as ours as it gives students the chance to grow as leaders and share the spirit of agriculture”
One of the new chapter’s officers Deidra Green commented, “The old BCLUW chapter disbanded the year my sister graduated, so my brother had to go to Grundy Center. But they both had great stories about FFA to share. I am so glad that we can have our own chapter here at BCLUW. I am looking forward to other activities and am going to try to become an officer at a higher level in the future.”
“I am a Future Farmer of America, so FFA means so much to me,” stated member Mark Patten. “I am excited to see more trips that we as a chapter will take and more fundraisers to participate in, as well as the completion of our new greenhouse and public gardens. I plan to help influence others to join our chapter by sharing pictures and by just being a leader”.
March 7 was a day for the local chapter to have a visit from two state officers, Ally Babcock of Gilbert (State Vice President) and Anne Wollin (State Reporter) of Clarinda, for a time of team building.
“Seeing new chapters such as this one at BCLUW makes us really excited. We just completed a banner membership year, with more than 15,000 FFA members in Iowa – and growing,” Babcock said.
“Our job is to meet with new chapters and keep spreading the word that agriculture and FFA is much more than farming,” Wollin said. “There are so many leadership opportunities in agriculture that touch everyone and that is why we are helping to train chapter members as leaders.’