Riverton, Wyo., FFA embodies membership mission | TheFencePost.com

Riverton, Wyo., FFA embodies membership mission

In an era where the numbers of farms and ranches is on the decline, the average age of producers is steadily climbing, and the politics surrounding the timeless lifestyle and business is slowly crippling what's left, there is still passion; and it is starting from the ground up with FFA. In 2016, FFA membership hit an all-time high with 649,355 members in 7,859 chapters.

One of those chapters, in Riverton, Wyo., has taken the FFA mission to heart — growing leaders, building communities and strengthening agriculture.

After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Riverton FFA Chapter's advisor, Taylor Haley, asked her officer team to organize a fundraiser. The school district climbed on, along with a number of other community organizations and businesses. The fundraiser took root, and grew, and would eventually include a truck and trailer, with a "Wyoming Building Hope" logo.

By early October, the group had collected enough donations to fill a semi-trailer, 3/4 full, according to Haley, including household items, food, water, school supplies, and 8 tons of hay cubes.

"We watched as victims who received the goods were thankful, stressed, crying and praying when they picked up the help being given to them," Haley said.

Haley and other volunteers first delivered items to East Chambers High School in Winnie, Texas, where members of the local FFA chapter told Haley about their involvement in rescue efforts following the flood.

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The group then made their way to Orange, Texas, where a group of women had organized a distribution hub. "As soon as we pulled up, there was a line of cars with their trunks and doors open to receive items from their drop point. There were more than 200 people in line. All were needing something. They were given a box, crate of water and a couple boxes of rice per family. They ended up running out of items to give," Haley wrote in a post.

"The distribution center organizers told us that because they didn't evacuate, they aren't receiving organized help from national organizations. Their resilience is amazing. They were organizing to help their neighbors and themselves. All the while laughing and facing the devastation all around them. It was a very humbling experience," Haley wrote. "The generosity of the people of Riverton and the energy and commitment of Riverton chapter members who worked intensely to help people they didn't know is amazing. Riverton should be proud!"

But building communities is not the only highlight of the Riverton FFA 2017 year.

OUTDOOR CLASSROOM

In October, Bob and Nelda Sedlacek, donated 44.6 acres of land to the chapter. While the acreage will benefit the entire school, as an agricultural outdoor classroom, the value to the FFA program, is huge.

The donation came with a couple of caveats, according to Haley — one, the FFA chapter has to make money, and two, that money has to be given out as scholarships.

Under the final donation agreement, the land will be used as part of FFA's curriculum for 15 years. If at the end of the 15 year term the committee deems the project a success, FFA will continue using the property.

"This land will be used to teach students about farming and ranching and the profits will go to a scholarship fund," Haley said. A committee of five has been created to recommend the best uses for the land.

Haley, who just came on staff as the FFA instructor last summer, has plans in the works for the land. In September, the school board approved the purchase of a mini-pivot sprinkler, and Haley is expecting a Perkins grant to help with the cost. She's also planning to look for grant money to build a barn.

And along with strengthening agriculture, the Riverton FFA chapter is raising leaders.

At the Northern International Livestock Expo, in Billings, Mont., two of Haley's students showed that dedication and hard work pays off. Mady Docater was the champion senior swine showman and had the reserve champion market hog and Chase Taylor had the champion goat.

"Chase is a sophomore and Mady is a senior," Haley shared. "They are the showman that the younger exhibitors look to."

Hats off to Haley, and her FFA team and community.

— Eatherton is a freelance writer from Beaulah, Wyo. When she's not writing, she's riding her horse or playing with her grandson. She can be reached at teatherton@msn.com.