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HLWW’s FFA agricultural communications team places first at state competition
March 28, 2011

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSYED, MN – The Howard Lake- Waverly- Winsted FFA’s agricultural communications team will be joining the HLWW FFA’s food science team at the national convention next fall.

“It’s really exciting to have two teams going to nationals this year,” said Rebecca Groos, member of the FFA agricultural communications team.

Groos, along with teammates Sabrina Kieser, Rebecca Zander, and Emily Mages placed first at the state contest, which took place March 17 at the University of Minnesota - St. Paul campus.

In the individual portions of the competition, Kieser placed second, Groos placed sixth, Zander placed eighth, and Mages placed 13th.

It was only about a month ago that the team decided to compete and began preparing its proposal for the competition, using an hour of class time each day, as well as some time after school and on weekends.

“I think it’s safe to say we spent 50 hours preparing for this,” Kieser said.

For the agricultural communications contest, a topic is chosen each year for teams to build a proposal around. This year’s topic was FFA recruitment and educational activities.

After some brainstorming, the HLWW FFA agricultural communications team decided to build its presentation around the Farm to School program, which is being implemented at HLWW this year.

The Farm to School program was already getting started this year at HLWW after the school received a grant from the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC), which was pursued by Jim Weninger and Seena Glessing, HLWW’s ag teachers and FFA advisors.

“After receiving the grant, they took off with the planning,” Weninger said. “They did a nice job of presenting the proposal, both to the school board and at the state competition.”

“We were able to incorporate a nationwide program into our proposal, and how to implement that program at our school,” Groos said.

“Our school will have a program growing food in a garden and serving the food in the school,” Kieser said.

The team’s proposal had to meet the following objectives: explain why the program is needed, develop a budget for the program, plan publicity of the program, explain the overall goals of the program and how it will be evaluated, and explain how the program will aid in FFA member recruitment.

“We started our presentation with alarming statistics we found on the Farm to School website as an attention grabber and to show the judges we had found a great solution to the issue at hand,” Groos said.

As part of the proposal, the team had to present a budget listing the income and expenditures to show the program was fiscally feasible.

The income for the program includes the grant, money allocated by HLWW School Board, and money donated by HLWW FFA alumni, for a total of $6,700.

Estimated expenses for the first year, which include one-time expenses for equipment, and yearly expenses for advertising, seeds, and plants, total $5,675.

“According to our budget, we should come out ahead by about $1,000, to put right beck into the program for next year,” Mages said.

“Showing the program will be able to be continued,” Zander added.

The group proposed how it would advertise the program, including posting flyers, setting up table tents and place mats, and presenting the program to other agricultural and home economics classes, and local civic groups, such as the Lions and the Knights of Columbus.

The proposed goals of the program are to get elementary students and families involved in the school garden, to increase student enrollment in agricultural classes, and to provide more students an opportunity to be involved in a supervised agricultural experience.

The evaluation of the program proposed by the team would be by surveys given to food service staff and students next fall, after the garden has been harvested.

The team also plans to survey community members who participate in educational days at the garden.

Along with the presentation, there were two other parts of the competition; an agricultural communications knowledge quiz, and an editing quiz.

For the editing quiz, the team participated in a 20-minute press briefing, and then each had to create a different media presentation of the event.

Kieser was a radio broadcaster and had to come up with and record a two-minute radio piece.

Groos was a press release writer and had to write a press release specific to a certain group of people, such as college students.

Zander was a news writer, and had to write a news story for the general public about the press briefing.

Mages was a graphic designer and had to develop a photo, cutline, and headline for a two-page magazine spread.

The team will have to add a web designer before the national competition in October, since that is part of the editing quiz, as well, Zander said.

“With our program, there is room to expand and get bigger and better,” Kieser said.

“We are excited, pumped for nationals,” Groos said.

Kieser noted the team would practice at least once a week over the summer, and on weekends when school starts in the fall.

“We are definitely going to work really hard,” added Zander.

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