Farm Horizons, May 2007
FFA is more than a competition
Agricultural education is a complete program at Dassel-Cokato High School, and students who are a part of the program tend to be well-rounded individuals because of it.
The program consists of classroom and laboratory activities, the FFA chapter, and supervised agricultural experience (SAE).
Classroom and laboratory activities include hands-on experience, life-long skills, and practical applications that could lead to a career. Classes in agriculture include horticulture, which is a prerequisite for floriculture, floral design, landscaping, and wildlife which is a prerequisite for taxidermy. Other classes include food technology, animal science, horse/equine, and youth leadership where which is the only class students can learn parliamentary procedure.
Seena Glessing, FFA instructor, says that classes such as these might open the door to something else for the student, possibly a four-year degree. Students may not realize the opportunities out there and available to them.
According to Glessing, 17 percent of the jobs in the nation are agriculture related. “That means 17 percent of students should be taking ag classes,” she said.
When Glessing speaks with eighth graders signing up for high school classes, she tells them to take something different, “something they wouldn’t normally take.”
Students seem to enjoy the ag classes because they make sense and are practical relations to their future. For example, when a person buys a home, they will need to do landscaping. Also, the classes are hands on learning and can be seen as a hobby that could become a job someday, according to Glessing.
FFA takes place outside of the classroom and includes agriculture-associated activities such as leadership camps and conferences, travel, community service projects including adopt-a-highway and food drives, along with state and national conventions.
Its mission statement is, “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.”
Students who participate like competing and being successful, according to Glessing. Students compete with other schools in certain categories and develop relationships with those students.
By competing, students have the opportunity to go to state, national and even international competitions where students can then win scholarships.
The DC FFA has had 13 state winners in the last seven years, one national title and two second place winners at nationals.
The supervised agricultural experience, or SAE is a practical application of classroom concepts designed to provide “real world” experiences and develop skills in agriculturally related career areas, according to Glessing.
Currently, there are 20 to 30 students participating in SAE, which allows students to work outside of the classroom and even earn money.
Through SAE, students improve communication skills in a variety of situations, develop management skills and record keeping, improves analytical and decision making skills, according to Glessing.
SAE also allows students to explore a possible career opportunity, gain experience and learn responsibility.
Some of the students participating even own their own business as young as 10th grade. They run their own operations such as raising elk, selling hay, and landscaping. Others choose to work for agriculture companies doing an array of jobs, such as designing monthly newsletters.
This program also offers students a chance to compete at a state and/or national level with the possibility of earning award money.
Students can apply if the meet the requirements of keeping records since 10th grade and earning and investing $7,500 for the American degree and $2,000 to qualify for the state. They are then judged on an interview, skills and comprehension.
The highest degree for a DC student was the American degree in 2005 with Brad Davis and State Star in 2006 with Paul Nowak. In 2004, DC had its first female, Maggie Hedlund, win the state degree. “This also gives students a sense of accomplishment,” Glessing said.
This year, there are seven candidates for the State degree. Student achievement of FFA degrees is only possible through successful SAE projects and the commitment of each member to set and attain their goals.