Learning lessons from FFA | TheFencePost.com

Learning lessons from FFA

Story by Robyn Scherer, M.Agr. | Courtesy Photos
Paine bottle feeds two dairy calves, as part of her feed research.

Spring is in full swing, with the promise of summer shortly behind it. School is winding down, and seniors are celebrating their last few days of high school, and looking forward to college or going to work. This can be a challenging time. However, those who participated in FFA feel prepared and are eager for the opportunity.

“FFA has built, or further built every aspect of my life. It’s instilled a harder work ethic, a higher standard of morals, the importance of integrity, the value of teamwork, and so many more things. It taught me how to build solid relationships and stand up for what I believe in,” said Jordan Paine, a FFA member from the Southern Valley FFA chapter, and the Star Agriscience winner at this year’s convention.

She continued, “FFA made me believe in myself and showed me that if you are determined, dedicated and passionate about something you can accomplish great things. This organization has allowed me to grow in every aspect possible and has completely changed my life. It gave me a focus, a drive, and brought out my passion for agriculture, as well as my plans for the future.”

Paine spent a lot of time in FFA, and learned life skills through her various supervised agricultural education (SAE) activities. Her SAE’s included Beef Production Entrepreneurship, Agricultural Education, Agriscience, Equine Science and Lawn Care.

“I raise and own quarter horses for my equine SAE and mow lawns for the lawn care SAE. My agricultural education SAE consists of working for my 4-H Club, FFA Chapter, the Furnas County 4-H Council and the Nebraska Youth Curriculum Committee and putting on workshops for local youth. My Beef Production and Agriscience SAEs kind of intermix,” she explained.

She added, “Some of my main successes have been implementing the chapter goat herd and school farm, helping write new Nebraska 4-H Curriculum, and working to improve fairground facilities.”

Her beef herd consists of commercial and Simmental cow and calves, and calves that she also shows at local, state and national shows. She did research with her herd as part of her project as well.

“I did nutritional experiments on bucket-calves, researching to find higher rate of gains. I completed two experiments that were based off number of times fed (using the same amounts) and a grass start verses an off-grass start until after initial growth. These were the two projects that could be claimed by both areas,” she said.

She continued, “In addition, I have also been testing the Nutritional Value of Honey Locust Beans as a feed source for cattle. This summer my plan is to extend the research by doing tests on how the weights of animals fed traditionally match up to those fed the beans.”

Paine’s experience have helped her to develop a drive to educate others. “This summer I am going to Haiti through an Iowa FFA Project called FFA to Haiti where we will be working for 10 days. I plan to show cattle and play softball this summer. Then I will be heading off to Purdue University in West Lafayette this fall to double major in Agricultural Education and Political Science. I want to spend a lot of time overseas implementing basic agricultural practices and programs in third world countries. However, my main goal is to teach agriculture in a high school and be an FFA advisor,” she stated.

Another local high school senior who has benefitted from FFA is Logan Went, of the Leigh FFA chapter, and the Star Production winner.

“I think FFA has taught me to be more responsible and a better leader. With livestock, I realize that if I don’t feed them, they won’t get to eat. I know how much I hate it when I’m hungry. No matter how you feel, you still have to do chores. FFA has made me a better leader by helping me break out of my shell and be more vocal. Being an officer and then the President of the FFA, you learn how to lead by voice and also by example,” said Went.

His SAE projects included breeding beef, breeding sheep, and market ducks. “When I turned 8, my dad gave me my first cow. I would then show the cow’s calf at the local fair in July. As I got older, I acquired more cattle either by purchases or from dad as a payment for summer labor on the farm. As of now, I have 17 head of cows that are bred for show calf sires and calve in the spring,” said Went.

His sheep project was started due to his brothers. “My sheep interest started after my brothers, Taylor and Dylan, started raising sheep. I was too young at the time to be involved, but later Dylan wanted to sell out of his sheep herd to focus solely on cattle, so I bought out his half. Right now I have 45 head of ewes. They lamb from January 1st all the way up till about the middle of April. The lambs are sold as show lambs throughout the state and into other states. We sell a lot of lambs down in Texas and Oklahoma. We also have sold lambs in Indiana,” he said.

Went got into ducks because his family eats them. “My duck project began when dad and I thought we should start doing something new so we thought of ducks because we like to eat them for Thanksgiving. I got started with 25 head of ducks and had 75 at one point in time before they were harvested and sold to neighbors,” he stated.

FFA helped Went to learn to communicate, and meet others. “My favorite thing about FFA has to be just meeting new people. I always find it interesting to talk to someone new about what they are doing with their SAE programs and figure out some new things that maybe will help me out. I also realize that making these connections will help me out later in life for possible jobs or connections in business,” Went explained.

His attributes a lot of his success to his ag adviser, Mr. Tyser. “Not too many members can say that their Ag teacher has been teaching for 42 years, and not a lot can say that their Ag advisor taught their parents. I think that’s pretty cool and not achieved very often.”

Following graduation, Went plans to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he will be majoring in Agri-business. “I would like to obtain a job in the area and still be able to continue my SAE projects and work on the family farm,” he said.

No matter what project(s) FFA members participate in, they all gain valuable life lessons that can be used for the rest of their lives. “My favorite thing about FFA is being able to grow yourself as well as helping others develop into the people they are capable of becoming,” said Paine. ❖