FFA steers youth into farming and land stewardship

ADDISON COUNTY — The FFA (formally known as Future Farmers of America) is a national organization founded by a group of young farmers back in 1928. The FFA helps young people develop career, leadership and life skills through agricultural education.
Today agriculture is more than planting and harvesting — it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.
Cheryl Werner is an advisor with the Middlebury FFA chapter. She has taught agriculture classes here in Addison County for more than 30 years. She has had a positive experience with the FFA program and the young people who take part in it.
“The FFA continues to impress me,” Werner said. “I see young people learn how to conduct meetings, speak publicly, organized themselves and others to accomplish their goals. I meet people in our community running businesses, organizations and their towns who are FFA alumni. The FFA seems to bring out the skills and talents in our agriculture students that allows them to shine.”
FFA members from Addison County are students enrolled in agricultural courses such as the Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources, Diesel Power Technology, Mechanical Science or Plant/Animal Science programs at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center or Vergennes Union High School. The Career Center offers classes to students at Middlebury, Vergennes and Mount Abraham union high schools. Some of the career center students are also members of FFA chapters in Middlebury and Vergennes.
Students have the opportunity to compete in Career Development Events (CDEs) with other FFA members from around the state. FFA teams that win these events are eligible to travel to the National FFA Conference in Indiana representing Vermont to compete against teams from the other states.
This school year the Hannaford Career Center Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry/Natural Resources class attended the Vermont Farm Show in late January. The Middlebury FFA forestry team placed first out of a field of 12 competing schools and will travel to nationals in the fall.
Competing against 150 FFA students from around the state, the Middlebury FFA also received first place in soil judging. The team had six of the top 10 placing students. Competing against seven schools with 75 students participating in the Dairy Foods CDE, the Middlebury FFA team placed third.
Students are currently preparing for competitions to be held at the FFA State Convention on May 4 at Shelburne Farms. They will compete in the areas of Dairy and Horse Judging, Farm Business Management, Tractor Trouble Shooting, Spring Forestry and Mechanics CDE’s.
STUDENTS FROM THE Natural Resource Management program, above right, at the Hannaford Career Center built and installed duck boxes at Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison. Shawn Richards, left, Kyle Kingsley and Dustin Whitcomb also learned wildlife management practices, animal tracking skills and GIS mapping techniques while enrolled in the program.

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