February 17, 2017
Enthusiasm rates high on the agenda for National FFA week Feb. 18-25 in North Central Kansas. Members of the local high school chapter Republic County FFA are ramped-up about the week's special activities. Not only are there events geared around the entire community, and a highly anticipated opportunity to mingle with state FFA officers, but exciting, unique events are also planned.
"This year during FFA week, we are starting a new tradition and the officers have selected Wednesday, Feb. 22. as Drive Your Tractor To School Day," said Elly Dahl, vice president of the Republic County FFA chapter and member of the Class of 2017 at Republic County High School in Belleville, Kan. "I live 30 minutes from school so I probably won't be driving a tractor, since it would take so long, but I'm excited to see what tractors show up." said the senior, whose father is a farmer and has cow-calf pairs and runs a small feedlot.
Another chapter member, Christian Tipton, president of Republic County FFA, is also revved-up about the tractor drive this year. "I'll probably drive a big John Deere on the back roads. I thought about driving an antique, but this time of year — you never know what the weather will be like," he said. "This is something new that we haven't done before and it'll be interesting to see what kind of turnout we have. It sure will take some monotony out of the school week." Tipton has been an FFA member for five years. Many farmers and others around the county and region became acquainted with Tipton during annual community Wheat Plot Tours, which he has hosted for the past nine years while working with FFA.
All total, Tipton's family has hosted plots for 14 years, and the high school senior says he thrives on these events. "It's great seeing how many producers can come out and see what varieties have grown in the field, and what the wheat looks like in the growth stage," Tipton said.
Dahl has great enthusiasm for everything that the Future Farmers of America organization offers. "I've been involved in FFA since my freshman year of high school and have enjoyed every minute of it. I have competed in land judging, food science, dairy foods, par law and ritual, but my favorite competitions are horse judging and veterinary science. When I was a junior, I got to travel to Louisville, Ky., for the National FFA Convention and that following summer I traveled to Washington D.C., for the Washington Leadership Conference," she added.
Also, during FFA week, "We'll be asking FFA history trivia on the radio, as well as doing public service announcements that'll be aired during the week," Dahl said.
The Republic County FFA chapter, under the award-winning supervision of advisors Merle Hadachek and David Graham, will serve a community appreciation breakfast on Feb. 24. Afterward, chapter members say they're thrilled about the opportunity to attend chapter workshops held by two state officers and a district officer.
Increasing the organization's pride, all FFA members will wear official FFA dress during the day.
Other local activities on the Republic County FFA chapter agenda this week include: attending church as a group Feb. 19, and participating in a service project at The Blair Theatre in Belleville by working at the concession stand during the movies Feb 24-26.
It's been a busy year for the chapter. Several members are now working on their State and American Degrees, and District Proficiency Award applications.
The school year in FFA began on a high note, as members again earned the Grand Champion title for their work on the State Fair County Collective Booth, for the chapter's fifth year in a row. The booth displays the many agriculture products grown throughout the county.
In addition to the State Fair, many of the FFA members also entered projects at the county fair in August. The chapter, with the help of another high school chapter in Republic County (Pike Valley FFA,) sponsored the Kiddy Barn at the fair. Chapter members also sold ice cream at the fair.
Two national highlights were attending the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington D.C., and the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Ky.
Chapter members also attended the North Central District Greenhand Conference held at Chapman High School in Chapman, Kan. Many also participated in the categories of: Land, Horse, Range, Leadership, Dairy Cattle, Food Science and judging at the Kansas Beef Expo in Hutchinson last fall.
Also during their year in FFA, members were immersed in public service events, including Pawnee Conservation Days, and as greeters at the majestic Rocky Pond Christmas holiday lights drive-a-long display, and helping serve the meal at the popular Soil Conservation Banquet in Cuba, Kan. The annual banquet attracts a massive crowd from across the county and region.
As Tipton reflects on the theory of sowing and reaping, and all that FFA has melded into his life, he highly recommends FFA for anyone.
"What I've learned from the organization as a whole … even if there's one event that sounds interesting to you, it pushes you to do so many things. The biggest thing that's helped me is networking for the future, and meeting people from the state and across the country, and to grow myself. It's really built me — as a person, and I've gained some leadership skills. For someone kind of on the edge about it, just try it, you may find something that you never knew you were good at," Tipton said.
Tipton has mixed emotions about being in his senior year of high school, but looks forward to handing over the FFA presidency in a few months.
"It's been a good experience for me. I'll be ready to give it up and give someone else the reign, so they can grow as much as I have."
As part of FFA's goal-setting, Tipton and Dahl have lined-up the next chapter of their lives.
"I will be attending Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, Neb,. to study animal science," Dahl said. "I'm in a transfer program, which means, I start my degree at NCTA for two years and then transfer to a university to finish my degree. While at Curtis, I will be a member of the Ranch Horse Team, which I am very excited to be able to keep showing horses through college."
After graduation, Tipton will attend Kansas State Polytechnic Institute in Salina, and major in mechanical engineering.
"I'd like to get involved in an agriculture company and help produce new testing products and build them; to test out new inventions," Tipton said. "I do know … I want to come back to the ag sector. ❖
— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org