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Tuesday February 20, 2018 Edition
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Addison County FFA

Cheese making.
photo by provided
Cheese making.
Vermont Farm Show.
photo by provided
Vermont Farm Show.
Cider making.
photo by provided
Cider making.

Tuesday February 20, 2018

The FFA is a national organization founded by a group of young farmers in 1928. To this day, Vermont’s agricultural traditions are both preserved and modernized thanks to the dedication of today’s generations of stewards of the land, livestock, production, as well as  their associated research and management practices.
    At the Career Center, students are part of one of two mini-chapters of the FFA, one based in Middlebury at the Center under the guidance of instructor-advisors Cheryl Wener (Plant and Animal Sciences and Mechanical Sciences), Janice Bosworth (Sustainable Agriculture), Aaron Townshend (Natural Resources Management), and Gretchen Cotell (Diesel Power Technology). Werner, who teaches the pre-technical programs for freshmen and sophomores, has taught agriculture in Addison County for more than 30 years. Sustainable Agriculture instructor Bill VanDeWeert advises the Vergennes mini-chapter. Both chapters frequently meet and participate in state and national events as one team.
    Students have the opportunity to compete in Career Development Events against teams from Vermont and around the country and this has been a banner year for the chapter.
    Teams travel to FFA events and activities like the Eastern States Exposition (affectionately known as “The Big E”) in Springfield, Mass., and competitions around Vermont to keep their skills sharp. The Big E, held in September, saw the Middlebury FFA Chapter Dairy Judging Team participating in the Eastern Regional Dairy Cattle Management Career Development Event. The Middlebury team consisted of Ashlynn Foster, Emily Lowell, Carrie Tracy, and Maria Welch. The competition involves three phases. Initially, each team member takes a general dairy industry test, then places various classes of dairy cattle in the judging segment. In the final phase, the team must diagnose a dairy production problem to test their ability to collaborate as a team to recommend management changes. With over 50 accomplished FFA judging competitors from 12 states, Middlebury FFA team member Ashlynn Foster was recognized as delivering the top individual score overall.
    The Vermont FFA Soils and Land Judging competition, held at Vermont Technical College and also in the fall, pitted students from 10 schools against each other in soil judging, which involved descending into pits to examine topsoil and subsoil. Looking at moisture levels, bedrock, and overall quality, students assessed the arability of the land and its viability for homesteading. In addition to determining whether or not land would be suitable for a homestead, the students judged how well it could be farmed and which crops are best suited to the land. The Career Center’s FFA team took second place, scoring 762 out of a possible 864 points. The winner overall was Natural Resources Management student Lucas Livingston. Lucas scored 201 out of 216. Also at the top were NRM students Jonathan Alger, Kevin Pearsall, Jonathan Jennings, and Bayly LaRock.
    Two Vergennes FFA had teams participated at the FFA National Competition in Indianapolis, Ind., in October 2017. The Parliamentary Procedure team was comprised of Andrew Woods (captain), Emily Jackson, Tianna Rivait, Howie Vander Wey, Brianna VanderWey and Robert Verburg. They gave an impressive 11-minute, on-demand demonstration of their skills, earning them a bronze in category. The Agricultural Mechanics and Technology Team, including Jacob Barnes, Cody De Vries, Mitch Clark and Michael Davis, completed a variety of technical tasks and tests including assembling and programming an irrigation system. The team earned the bronze category, with Cody earning the gold category individually.
    At the 2018 Vermont Farm Show, held at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction this past January, both teams competed in various events, including sampling and identifying dairy product origins, authenticity, types, and defects. The Dairy Products events required students to take a somatic cell count, which indicates sanitization levels as well as the California Mastitis Test. Both of these taste tests indicate off flavors in milk due to disease, poor sanitization, or other factors. The Career Center’s FFA team earned first place overall. Individual results included a first place finish for Emily Lowell, second place for McKenna Phillips, and a fourth place overall finish for Kira Kemp. In the Winter Forestry competition, Natural Resources Management student Lucas Livingston earned a first place individual prize. Several other students earned honors in poster presentations and category competitions.
    The experiences these events provide are invaluable to students. Following are testimonials from Sustainable Agriculture students:
    “FFA has given me opportunities I would have never had before. I’ve gotten to show my knowledge in agriculture by competing in dairy evaluation, soils, and dairy foods. I also experienced my first plane ride on my way to my first National Convention. I’ve become the Middlebury Chapter Secretary and learned skills on how to run a proper meeting which can help me along with life.” (Emily Lowell, senior, Mount Abraham UHS)
    “When I became involved with FFA, I didn't know much about it. I started off with dairy competitions and they got me interested in wanting to do more. Being the president of the chapter taught me leadership and to be comfortable talking in front of people. Going to nationals and all the state competitions gives you the opportunity to meet new people and experience new things. Choosing to be in the FFA was one of the best things I ever did.” (Carrie Tracy, senior, Middlebury UHS)
    “I was told at my Parliamentary Procedure banquet to ‘seek the teachable moments,’ and in FFA I am doing just that. This organization has given me opportunities and experiences that I would not receive from any other. Since joining the Vergennes chapter in freshman year, I have competed at National Convention in Indianapolis twice, attended a leadership conference in Washington D.C.,competed in many career and leadership events,  and have gone to multiple conventions and workshops. In these places, I’ve met some of the most inspiring people, ones who have a passion to help heal the world on a global mission to spread agriculture advocacy. Everytime I go to an FFA event, I continue to learn how to be a stronger leader as a woman in agriculture. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given by the organization. I hope to also inspire other students and adults to back the future of agriculture, and to be a part of the foundation of all life.” (Emily Jackson, junior, Vergennes UHS)
    Students are also eager to dispel myths and rumors about their beloved organization. In an article for the Career Center’s biweekly newsletter The Trade, chapter leaders created a brief FAQ to educate the community and help increase interest and awareness of the opportunities FFA provides:
Q: FFA is just for farmers... and hicks, right?
A: FFA used to be focused on farmers only, but recently, the organization changed its name from Future Farmers of America to just FFA to symbolize all aspects of agriculture, not just farming. As for the typical FFA member, looks can be deceiving! Many students participate in FFA to explore their interest in agriculture, including raising animals, community service, mechanics, and leadership. Everyone, whether they’re from the city or a rural county like Addison, can get involved in this organization to find and fuel a new passion.
Q: Why should someone join FFA?
A: So many reasons! Many members compete locally and nationally in career development events, like agricultural mechanics, dairy judging and handling, horse judging, and farm business. FFA gives participants the chance to meet people through competitions and chapter, regional, state, and national events and competitions. Workshops, conventions, competitions, and meetings unite FFA members on a shared value of making global change in agriculture. Membership and leadership are a great way to directly influence the future of agriculture, learn responsibility, and serve something bigger than themselves. They learn to be leaders. Says chapter President Carrie Tracy, "[FFA] has taught me so much. It has taught me to be comfortable speaking in front of others as well as [how to be] a respectful leader."   
    Currently, students are preparing for the Vermont FFA State Convention, which takes place this spring. This competition will address the areas of Dairy and Horse Judging, Spring Forestry, and Mechanics.

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