During the week of Feb. 18, Future Farmers of America week was celebrated nationally. Originally formed by a group of young farmers, FFA looks to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. The scope of FFA has grown through the years and the student-led organization’s membership includes students participating in agriculture-based classes ranging from small animal care and vet science, to horticulture and floriculture, all the way up to advanced power systems.
The agriculture education and FFA membership pulse remains strong in Culpeper County with a growing number of students participating in the now 10 ag-based technical education classes available to Culpeper’s high school and middle school students. Membership cost for Future Farmers of America Schools at Eastern View High School is paid by the school to ensure equal access for all students. Participation in the organization allows students to compete in local, state, and national competitions designed by industry leaders.
“I love animals, and I love that FFA gives me an opportunity to participate in the Veterinary Science Career Development Event,” said Chapter Sentinel Hannah McDermott. “Through my vet science class and team preparation, I am gaining hands-on skills to use as I pursue a career in the veterinary field.”
Many of the competitions are team-based, allowing students to learn about leadership, working on a team, and necessary communication and compromising skills, as well as time management. EV Agriculture Educator Melessa Suder shared that an average 25-30 students participate in competitions each year, with several students participating in more than one competition. Culpeper students regularly advance to the State FFA Convention held at Virginia Tech each summer.
“Being an FFA Officer has allowed me to learn and experience various leadership roles that will help me in my future career,” said EV’s Chapter President Cassidy Wolfcale.
In addition to participation in FFA and competitions, agriculture students are provided with opportunities to share what they’ve learned and connect with the community through NEXUS events sponsored by Culpeper non-profit Career Partners and hosted at the Culpeper Technical Education Center.
“I enjoy FFA and agriculture classes as it provides me with experiences I wouldn’t have in other classes,” said EV sophomore Brett Howell.
Hosting three NEXUS events this year, students showed visitors how to create Christmas table toppers, a Valentine’s Day floral arrangement, and coming this spring, will demonstrate container gardening.
Out in the recently constructed greenhouse at EVHS, students are tasked with labeling pots, filling pots with soil, and planting seeds. Students are also taught about taking cuttings from plants and splitting plants.
Their year-long labor of love culminates in the spring plant sale available to the public. A major success the past two years, profits from the plant sale assist students in costs associated with travel to state and national FFA competitions.
The greenhouse is currently utilized by 3 horticulture classes and is equipped with automated watering and a fertilizer injector. Features such as these simulate commercial greenhouses and allow students to gain knowledge that is transferable to entry level jobs available within Culpeper County.
“I like ag classes because I can get my hands dirty,” said EV freshman Tyler Wray. “I enjoy plants and animals, but I am interested in the landscape industry and am excited to learn more about growing plants.”