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Ag advocacy, literacy is A-W’s FFA goal

By Staff | Feb 22, 2015

OUTLINING CHAPTER activities for the year are Akron-Westfield FFA officers. From left are Kali Kriener, president; Hannah Koele, sentinel; Ryan Foley, vice president; and Cali Westergard, reporter.

AKRON – The atmosphere was one of not only wanting to learn but to serve community as 45 Akron-Westfield’s FFA members, among 14,400 members in 225 Iowa chapters, filtered into their Akron ag classroom last week.

“Agriculture has changed drastically through the years,” Havill said. “It’s no longer just sows, cows and plows.

“I see it as our goal, and our duty, to go out in our community as FFA members and ag students in general to be advocates for agriculture, to give everyone an opportunity to learn what today’s agriculture really is.

“I call it advocating through agricultural literacy, letting others know how agriculture feeds you, clothes you and gives you shelter.

“Our students with the leadership and teamwork skills learned in FFA have an opportunity to do this and to do it effectively.”

Havill, in her first year in the Akron-Westfield School system and preparing for the local chapter’s observance of National FFA week, outlined several of the targeted projects.

Doing projects within the community is a tradition for the local chapter and is among the key components of this year’s planning.

New on this year’s agenda, Havill said, is a cooperative program with the Akron’s local Maynard’s Food Store, a main street grocery store with chapter members on hand to assist customers by carrying the shoppers’ groceries to their cars.

Store manager Jim Bundy said he didn’t hesitate to accept the students’ offer to help out.

“Our FFA students do a lot of good stuff for our town,” Bundy aid. “They help clean up our parks and assist the elderly when needed, and they show the leadership to do these things well.

“It’s good for not only our community, but helping agriculture to survive. If agriculture doesn’t survive we don’t either.”

Instructor Havill points to several on-going school projects including a program with eighth-grade students aimed at increasing advocacy work at this level with her classes meeting with younger students to discuss farming and what it means.

A hands-on project of both FFA members and students in the school’s shop and woodworking curriculum is another of the new programs getting underway – the chicken coop project.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to be engaged in farm activities,” Havill said.

This project starts with building a chicken coop, offering students the opportunity to observe poultry as they grow from chicks to market-ready chickens.

A laying house will be incorporated into the coop design to be initially housed within the woodworking area until warmer weather.

FFA’ers, Havill said, are considering a possible green house at the school, that will include a grant-writing exercise.

In addition, the students are preparing for the traditional district speech and meetings competitions.

Havill said she enjoys seeing her FFA members and ag students accepting their roles as ambassadors of agriculture, even those without a deep farming background.

Netti Mendoza, who formerly lived in an urban community and moved onto on a farm near Akron in 2014 said, “For me it’s a chance to learn more about agriculture and what we have to do to keep our business going.

“I heard about FFA when I arrived here and felt it a way to acquire more knowledge about the industry.”

Mendoza said her agri-businesss management class is an opportunity to learn the ups and downs of grain commodities and insurance.

Chapter member Tristin Golden grew up on a farm within the Akron community.

“I really love what I’ve the opportunity to learn in classes and our projects,” he said. “It gives me a way to gain more understanding in a field of agriculture – trading commodities and working with markets – something that has always interested me.”

Havill said she grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa and decided to become a part of those speaking up for agriculture.

She said job-shadowing a co-op manager, followed by an associate of arts degree in applied science in feed/fertilizer marketing from Muscatine Community College, and an education degree from Missouri State University, made a big difference in her life.

She said she thinks she’s fortunate to be in the Akron community supporting FFA and the ag program.

“It’s my hope that I can now make a similar difference in my students’ lives helping them to develop the skills they need to make their own dynamic impact in what is the global agriculture of today,” Havill said. “These students and FFA members are our future in agriculture.

“They’re the ones who are going to make important decisions for agriculture’s future.”

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