FFA members teach young students about agriculture so they can grow up to be informed consumers
February 16, 2018
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a group of FFA members with a desire to make a difference for the youngest students, to do so.
Platte Valley (Colorado) FFA member Ashlyn Ochsner, a junior, saw the divide between producers and consumers and thought a good way to bridge that divide was to teach young students about agriculture. After attending the Washington Leadership Conference and being involved in the Living to Serve project, Ochsner saw an opportunity.
"As a young person in agriculture, I see issues with consumer trust and people not knowing where their food comes from," she said.
As she and her adviser, Desirae Weber, began planning, she designed hands-on learning activities for elementary students that would allow the opportunity for FFA members to be involved in the planning and implementation of the program and would allow elementary students to benefit. The activities are designed to be fun and to teach about each segment of agriculture in a way that introduces young children to community members involved in production, FFA members to learn with, and honest conversations about food production. The end goal, Ochsner said, is to create kids who grow up to be educated consumers.
Ochsner and the 15 chapter members who are also involved in the program expected about 30 elementary students, kindergarten through fifth grade. The first Wednesday afternoon program saw 100 young students come through the doors, ready to learn. The after-school program has grown into an excellent opportunity for the chapter members to participate in a unique community service project.
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The first weekly program concentrated on the wool industry and a community member brought a ewe in, sheared it, and the students were able to learn about husbandry and complete activities with the wool. The students were able to see the entire process from shearing to the finished product of a garment. The second session concentrated on seeds, the greenhouse, and vegetable crops. Later programs will feature aquaculture, soil science, animal byproducts, dairy and forestry.
"While it was certainly an amazing dream that came out of my experience at the Washington Leadership Conference, it has taken numerous talented FFA members and both of my ag teachers to make this dream come true," Ochsner said.
Weber, one of two teachers in the Platte Valley Agriculture Education program, has been there for 14 years. She didn't come through an agriculture education program but upon learning at Colorado State University about the possibility of teaching agriculture, she was sold. She completed her student teaching at Platte Valley High School and remains a vital part of the active program. The second teacher in the program is Jimmy Lotspeich, who has also been instrumental in the after-school program.
The chapter will celebrate National FFA Week with a Tuesday visit from Ed McCaffrey, a Teacher Appreciation lunch and a Community Open House and Pancake Breakfast from 7-9 a.m. Visitors will be able to eat, visit with members, and tour the chapter's new greenhouse. ❖
— Spencer Gabel is a freelance writer from Wiggins, Colo., where she and her family raise cattle and show goats. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Facebook at Rachel Spencer Media.