Rocky Mountain Oysters are on Poudre High FFA’s menu
January 5, 2018
Poudre High School's FFA chapter, led by advisers Sadie Nelson and Mackenzie Crooks, is in its fourth year and growing by leaps and bounds. Nelson has served in a leadership capacity overall for seven years, but is in her first at Poudre. This is Crooks' second year as an adviser.
Out of approximately 1,800 students, 218 are FFA members, Nelson said. She said that everyone who takes an ag class is automatically enrolled. Some of those qualifying classes include Ag 1; Ag 2 (aka Ag Sciences); Plant and Soil Science; Animal Science; Natural Resources.
Nelson said that the acronym, which originally stood for Future Farmers of America, was changed in 1988 by the national organization to FFA to encourage more inclusivity. Everyone is welcome, regardless of ag involvement or interest.
The group's main purpose is to promote leadership and career skills in both ag and non-ag fields. This goal is accomplished through FFA activities and voluntary attendance at conferences (in Colorado and out-of-state). Additionally, several community service and other opportunities are offered monthly to further the something for everyone objective.
Nelson mentioned several methods by which FFA members gain valuable experience. For example, career development events are competitions highlighting specific occupational skills. Such an upcoming state contest will be held at Colorado State University April 29-30, 2018. Five Poudre FFA teams are preparing for this challenge in classifications such as animal science (divided into horse or livestock evaluations); a range or crop evaluation contest; horticulture; etc.
Not every FFA activity involves competition, however. Practical activities focus on what Nelson called "supervised agriculture experiences." Students hone career skills by serving internships in fields of interest to them. Some might show horses or work at a stable cleaning stalls. Others raise hogs or other animals, or participate in some non-ag business. This preparation for the next step — college or industry — shifts the FFA member's mindset to real life.
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One Poudre student knows well the merits of membership. Senior Lexi Miller has been in FFA since she was a freshman. In fact, she was one of the original members since the fledgling program began at her school. Besides currently serving as FFA president, Miller has been a chapter officer throughout the previous three years as well.
"It's been a really good learning experience because none of us initially knew what FFA was like," she said. "That first year adviser was not only fresh out of college but it was his first year an adviser."
Miller said that FFA has specific guidelines that must be followed at both state and national levels. The original adviser created unique chapter events, however, from his experience as a former FFA member. Based on what worked and what didn't, Poudre FFA has retained some, discarded some, and added others.
Adviser Nelson was herself a member in Bennett, Colo., as well as a state officer (an elected but unpaid position) from 2007-2008. She added a caveat that, because of continuous travel and acivities, officers must devote the whole year, June to June, to the endeavor. They visit all chapters, plan and run the annual FFA convention, and manage booths at both the National Western Stock Show in Denver and the Greeley Farm Show in Greeley, Colo. Plus, each officer travels internationally to promote FFA. Nelson went to New Zealand.
FFA bestows self-confidence and a sense of belonging to members. Poudre High is an "overwhelmingly large school," Miller said. She credits FFA's welcoming family atmosphere with teaching her how to navigate interpersonal situations in such a vast sea of new faces.
Some close contacts she made in the organization have since graduated but remain her friends. Miller said with certainty that friendships with some of them and with current co-members will last a lifetime.
Although not every FFA participant has ag interests, Miller will pursue a career as an animal nutritionist. She plans to attend Colorado State University to work towards a double major in ag business and animal science.
Miller has been involved in livestock production for most of her life. She presently raises Red Angus cattle and French Lop rabbits. While she shows her bovines primarily at the Larimer County Fair each year, Miller and her rabbits also take longer road trips to compete across the country. The young woman is so adept at what she does that she's ranked second in the entire nation for the French Lop breed; that's not by age group but in open classes.
Nelson said that the number of hours FFA members devote to their organization vary. Since Poudre's chapter is still relatively new, more options for events and activities are added as its program progresses.
One fundraiser that's been part of Poudre's schedule since the chapter's inception four years ago is its annual Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry. The 2018 event will be held Feb. 16 at the Poudre High School gym in Fort Collins, Colo.; $10 tickets are available at the door.
Dinner will be served from 5-7 p.m. In addition to the Colorado-famous main dish, the meal (prepared by the CSU Meat Science Department) will include chicken, side dishes and dessert.
The pace will quicken as interesting objects and services go up for bid from 5-6:30 p.m. Smaller-size, solicited and donated items will be sold in a silent auction. Larger pieces, such as was last year's lawnmower, will be added to the member auction. By live bidding that commences at 6:30 p.m., buyers will vie for eight-hours of work donated by individual FFA members. That valuable labor can be anything from office tasks, to painting a barn, to field work and more (as long as it's safe, Nelson said).
Many of the skills learned through FFA training come into play at the annual oyster fry. Nelson said that the past three years dinners have each generated $25,000-$30,000. The multi-faceted event requires teamwork from 75-100 members.
Anyone desiring additional information about the Poudre High School FFA or its Annual Oyster Fry can contact Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mackenzie Crooks at email@example.com. The FFA chapter also has a Facebook page.
— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.