ANNA — Shelby County Farm Bureau partners with FFA Chapters across the county each year. Conducting food drives, promoting agricultural awareness and furthering agriculture education efforts. So, when the Anna FFA Chapter was awarded top in the nation, the Farm Bureau thought it would share the Chapter’s success with Congressman Jim Jordan.
Jordan, a fiscal conservative raised in Champaign County, was willing to learn how the Anna FFA and the agricultural industry impact a community within his district.
During his visit on March 11, Jordan learned that there are 144 students enrolled in the Agricultural Education (Ag. Ed.) courses at the Anna High School, with 100 percent of those students as dues paying members of the FFA Chapter. Nine classes are taught each day by two agricultural teachers, Sarah Heilers and Tim Zimpfer. Class offerings include Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Plant and Horticultural Science, Animal Science and Technology, Agribusiness Management, Communications and Leadership and Structural Engineering.
The program at Anna is also strengthened by two adult support and education organizations, The Anna Young Farmers and the Anna FFA Alumni. Support from these adult organizations provides additional opportunities to students by awarding annual scholarships to seniors. In 2013, $9,500 in scholarship money was awarded to students in the program.
Through agricultural education, students are provided opportunities for leadership development, personal growth and career success. Agricultural education instruction is delivered through three major components; classroom/laboratory instruction, supervised agricultural experience programs (SAE), and participation in the FFA organization.
During hisvisit to Anna, Jordan discovered that 100 percent of the 2013 Anna FFA graduates are currently enrolled in post-secondary education, 64 percent of which are furthering their education in ag-related fields such as Agricultural Engineering, Welding Technology, Food Science, Agribusiness and Applied Economics or Landscape Horticulture. These students are pursuing advanced technical training and upper level degrees at institutions across the state.
Heilers, shared with Jordan that 100 percent of students in the program participate in an experiential learning project (SAE) to gain career readiness skills.
“Our students have gained skills necessary to start their own small businesses or gain employment at local businesses in the area,” said Heilers.
Anna FFA Treasurer Mary Buehler presented her SAE project, “Buehler Sweet Corn” to Jordan. Her improvements in marketing strategies as well as trial and error troubleshooting were lessons Buehler described in helping her to profit $7,000 per year with her project.
Shaun Wenrick, who started LNS Landscaping, LLC with his brother and former FFA member, explained that learning how to repair equipment on his own helped to reduce expenses and has enabled him to double the profits of his two-year business. Jordan revealed his own childhood stories of mowing lawns with his brother and the work ethic he learned from the experience.
The economic impact of the SAE projects in the Anna Agriculture Education Program in 2013 is impressive. With a gross income of $241,155 this equates to a total community economic impact of $472,664 to the local economy.
Jordan was also introduced to the rest of the facility including the 3,500 square foot shop that houses welding booths, woodworking areas, and horticultural and tool storage. Zimpfer explained the real-world experiences and opportunities that students are able to capture in the shop-related courses. Incorporating up-to-date industry tools and enabling students to embrace using their hands were topics discussed.
Anna FFA President Dominic Becker, led the discussion about the FFA Chapter. He described the leadership development, personal growth and career success opportunities that he and fellow members have experienced in the program. His personal story includes public speaking, job interview contests and leadership roles in officer positions that have propelled him to a path to Yale University in the coming fall.
Service to the community is another point of pride for this program. In 2013, students put in more than 5,000 hours of community service through food bank drives, donation centers, ag. literacy programs and much more. They have also donated more than $3,700 to charity already in 2014.
Shelby County Farm Bureau is proud to have the Anna FFA program as part of their community. The food and agriculture sectors are the largest industries in the state of Ohio, contributing 11.7 percent of the state’s total economic output and employing 1 in 7 Ohioans. Shelby County is rich in agricultural industries and three rise to the top in value of sales; grain and oilseed production, swine production and dairy production.
“The Farm Bureau believes that by empowering the next generation of agriculturalists we are insuring a more prosperous future,” explains Jill Smith, organization director for Ohio Farm Bureau serving Shelby County. “Whether that is through leadership development or through ag skills, FFA helps young people move forward, which is why our organization is such a supporter of what they do.”