TRAWLing the lake
By KAREN SCHWALLER
MILFORD – The 2012 Tractor Ride Around West Lake, held July 29, is only one of many events with which the Okoboji FFA students plan and help.
As an FFA advisor, Rich Martin said his goal is to get his students involved, giving them a taste, so to speak, of a broad-based agricultural knowledge.
“I want the kids to be prepared for life,” Martin said, “whether they go into the field of agriculture or not.
“Not everyone who takes ag classes goes into ag (careers), but I think it’s important for them to know where their food comes from, to be good citizens and leaders, and to improve their communications skills for life. FFA provides all of that.”
Martin said part of being in FFA is letting students learn how to communicate with adults, and learning the ropes of public speaking.
Chapter President Dakota Kraninger, 17, an incoming senior and four-year-member of the chapter, said he’s long been a young admirer of the FFA organization.
“I remember going with my sister to the banquet and thinking that I couldn’t wait to be in FFA,” he said. “I’ve always been around the farm and I like the ag side of things. I’m also in 4-H, and you can’t be in 4-H without being in FFA.”
Kraninger said he feels more qualified to be a leader after being involved in FFA. He didn’t run for any officer positions as a freshman or sophomore, but was the chapter’s sentinel last year. He said he feels comfortable fulfilling the president’s role.
“FFA leads to a lot of opportunities in life with jobs, or with anything you do in life,” he said, adding that over the years, he has helped to recruit other kids to join FFA. But it hasn’t always been easy.
“A lot of kids don’t realize that ag has to do with everything, and a lot of them think that you can’t be in FFA if you live in town,” he said. “I’ve told kids to just try an ag class, and one guy I helped recruit, who was a hard sell, is now an officer, and he’s out recruiting other kids to be in it.”
Martin said community involvement underscores what he does with his students. The FFA chapter has a pumpkin patch, which it also uses as a fundraiser every fall.
Though the underlying agriculture-based commonality of the FFA program has not changed over the years, the broad scope of the FFA organization has changed. Martin said more girls are getting involved in ag and FFA, as well as more students who live in town.
Because of the changing demographics of families today, the FFA organization as a whole has changed its focus as well, while still remaining a group that promotes agriculture in all forms.
“So many people think FFA is all cows, plows, tractors and farming,”Martin said, “but we need to change that farm stereotype to be more than that.
“There are a lot of ag-related jobs out there where people can make tremendous money, because everything is related to agriculture – researchers, sales people, chemical reps, technology-based careers, artificial insemination specialists, veterinarians – FFA is meant to open the kids’ eyes to the world around them and the opportunities that are there for them.”
While the OHS FFA chapter lands around 25 students each year, membership in the FFA organization nationally is as high as it’s ever been at 540,000 members.
The Iowa chapter was chartered in 1929, and boasts more than 12,000 members statewide.
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