Last Friday evening (May 12), members of the Big Walnut/DACC FFA held their annual banquet at Big Walnut High School. Following light refreshments in the high school atrium, FFA members, staff, and family members retired to the auditorium for the 2016-17 Big Walnut/DACC officer’s final meeting of the year.
The meeting opened with remarks by DACC Career Tech Supervisor of Satellite Programs Mary Lykens, and included videos of the chapter’s activities throughout the school year and graduating seniors.
FFA Alumni President Brenda Piper awarded FFA Alumni Scholarships to seniors Meghann Hale and Ali Carter, and Amy Hill presented the Ned Foreman Memorial Scholarship to Meghann Hale.
This year’s Star Freshman award went to Rachel Sherman, the Star Sophomore award went to Faye Dean, the Star Junior award went to Lex Marvin, and the Star Senior award went to Ali Carter.
The 2016-17 Star Greenhand award went to freshman Madi Withrow, the Star in AgriScience award recipient was Ben Kessler, and the Star Chapter Member was Gabby Adair.
The highlight of the evening was the installation of the 2017-18 Big Walnut/DACC FFA officer team: President Gabby Adair, Vice-President Austin Cheadle, Secretary Faye Dean, Treasurer Lex Marvin, Student Advisor Ben Kessler, Sentinel Kyle Disbennett, Reporter Madi Withrow, Parliamentarian Liz Ansel, Historian Rachel Sherman, and Chaplain Troy Herrel.
Big Walnut High School Ag Science teacher and DACC Satellite Instructor Jeff Stimmell said the 2016-17 year has been exceptional.
“One of the most encouraging aspects is that we have a lot of young students who are still coming back,” Stimmell said. “We had an exceptional group of officers this year. Any time I asked them to do anything they were right there to get it done, no questions asked.”
Stimmell said the Ag Science/FFA students set their own Career Development Event goals at the beginning of each school year.
FFA creates CDEs that demonstrate meaningful connections between classroom instruction and real-life scenarios to help prepare students for careers in agriculture.
“This year their goals were to have four banner teams, state top five earns a banner, advance at least one person or team to the national level, and have at least 50 percent of students participate in at least one CDE,” Stimmell said. “As a result of their hard work, they had five banner teams, one advanced to nationals, and almost 75 percent participation.
“Another unique aspect about the program is the number of different students who make up our top five teams,” Stimmell continued. “There were fifteen different students making up the five banner teams. Many schools that earn that many awards do so with the same group of students, but we have so many different students involved and competing at a high level.”
Stimmell said the Big Walnut/DACC Ag Science and FFA program are also rapidly growing.
“At the end of my first year at Big Walnut I had just 41 students,” Stimmell said. “Going into next year, my fourth, we have 115 students who have requested my classes. Naturally, some of those students will shake out in the scheduling process due to conflicts, but it’s encouraging to see the interest be so high.”
Stimmell said when he started teaching at Big Walnut four years ago some folks told him the Ag Science and FFA program was dying and he might be looking for another job in one or two years.
“They always would say that this isn’t a farming community anymore as the reason,” Stimmell said. “With the help of the DACC, we’ve diversified programming. Not only do we talk about traditional agricultural concepts, but now we have entire courses on Business Management, Food Science, Greenhouse Management, and Veterinary Science.”
Stimmell said it has been encouraging to see the Delaware Area Career Center and the Big Walnut Local School District promote the growth of the high school’s Ag Science program.
“We’re facing a real issue in agriculture today,” Stimmell added. “Each year, there are more jobs requiring college degrees opening up in agriculture than we are producing graduates to fill them. There’s a particular need in the areas of food science, plant pathology, and agricultural education.”
FFA stands for Future Farmers of America, but ask any of the students involved in the high school’s Ag Science program, and they will tell you that FFA is more than just a program for those who want to pursue a career in farming.
FFA participants go on to careers not only in farming, but also into a whole host of agricultural related careers that fall under the FFA umbrella, including veterinary services, biological research, and food processing, delivery, and marketing. FFA students also go into forestry, land management, and the environmental sciences.
There are almost 24,000 FFA members statewide in 305 chapters. FFA is the largest high school youth organization in America, with a national membership roster exceeding half a million students. For more information about FFA in Ohio, go to ohioffa.org.
The National FFA Organization is composed of 649,335 members belonging to of 7,757 chapters throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
For more information about the national FFA organization and its activities, go to ffa.org.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.