Colorado FFA chapters prepare for National FFA week with education, food and fun
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For more information on these FFA events, call the Montrose School District at (970) 249-6636, the Hotchkiss District at (970) 872-3882, or the Cedaredge District at (970) 856-6882.
Coley Wondra, an FFA teacher in Hotchkiss, Colo., has a lot of special things planned to celebrate National FFA week during Feb. 18–25.
Although festivities will be delayed slightly in Hotchkiss due to winter break, “we always take part in agricultural-based challenges,” Wondra said. “There will be a hay bale relay race, a roping competition and a Knowledge Bowl, where kids must correctly answer FFA-based questions.”
The school also has what Wandra calls “junkyard wars, where I pick a project and they have half an hour to rummage through a junkpile and put it together.”
Born in Wyoming, Wandra grew up in FFA and joined the Hotchkiss district four years ago. The chapter was formed in 1983.
Students will dress in their blue and gold uniforms mid-week for Teacher Appreciation Day.
At the National FFA organization, the motto is “We believe in the future of agriculture.” For over 90 years now it has been teaching teens what it takes to feed a rapidly growing population.
Future Farmers of America began taking shape in April, 1926. According to the official website, it was formed “at a time when boys were losing interest, and leaving the family farms.”
Walter S. Newman, along with two other faculty members of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute’s Agricultural Education department, proposed “Forming an organization that offered farm boys (and later, girls) a greater opportunity for self-expression and for the development of leadership. In this way, they will develop confidence in their own ability, and pride in the fact they are farm boys.”
By 1928, FFA had gone national, and in 1929 members adopted the striking colors that continue to represent the organization. Today there are nearly 8,000 chapters from all 50 states, with over 650,000 members. Besides learning about the challenges and advances in basic agriculture, students are also learning what goes along with it, from engineering to chemistry to biology.
For Brett Saunders, a 22-year FFA teacher in the Montrose, Colo., school district, mechanics are a strong part of his instruction. In 2016, his chapter members rebuilt a 1946 Allis-Chalmer tractor. This year they are working on restoring a 1947 International Farmall H tractor.
From Feb. 22 through March 3, he and his staff have planned a variety of events in observance of National FFA Week. “We only have three days of school during that first week,” he said. What he teaches is “very diverse,” so the celebrations will include everything from Western Wednesday to Camo/Hunting Day to Community Appreciation Day.
Katie Greenwood of the Cedaredge, Colo., chapter said, “We have always made FFA week a special time of celebration while focusing on our foundation of education, support and involvement.”
With 80 members, Cedaredge has one of the largest chapters in Colorado’s Delta County. Greenwood, who grew up in FFA on the front range, is currently in her ninth year of teaching.
National FFA week for them means “sharing in the pride of our organization. This year, following a BBQ, our members and their families will take the opportunity to give back to the community through a day of service. We’ll donate our time to clean up local yards.”
On Monday, Feb. 20, FFA students will prepare hamburgers, beans, chips and cake for the entire high school. Tuesday, to inspire elementary kids to join, they’ll give lessons on such things as apple-growing cycles, honey production and equine care.
But the highlight of the week comes Wednesday, which is the Annual Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry and Member Auction. (By oysters, we aren’t talking fish, but beef testicles fried in batter.) The oyster fry is prepared entirely by the FFA members and it’s all-you-can-eat. For the squeamish of heart, a second choice will be chicken, and there are always plenty of side-dishes. The dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. and the auction at 7.
“We invite everyone to a delicious meal followed by great entertainment,” Greenwood said. For the 400-plus spectators that come each year, the student auction is always a favorite. Bidders can “rent” a teen to help with spring clean-up or other odd jobs.
As for the county’s highlight of National FFA week, Wondra added, “There will be a gathering of the Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Delta, Crawford, and Olathe districts held in Cedaredge on March 3. It will include, of all things, a competitive dodge ball game.”
Who says farming isn’t fun?
— White lives on the Western slope of Colorado. She can be reached at email@example.com