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75 years and counting

By Staff | Feb 20, 2016

BRETT OETKEN, left, and Jacob Holck, of Le Mars, look over FFA chapter records. Holck is compiling an overview of the chapter’s 75-year history.

LE MARS – Happy birthday Le Mars FFA.

Brett Oetken, Le Mars’ FFA advisor, said efforts to compile the chapter’s 75-year history is both challenging and interesting as anniversary-year projects and activities are set in motion.

While some Iowa FFA chapters are enjoying their inaugural year, other chapters, like Le Mars, are celebrating long-term milestones of achievements.

It’s especially busy for Jacob Holck, treasurer of the Le Mars chapter, who has taken on the challenge of compiling the history of the 75-year old chapter working alongside Oetken.

Holck said he welcomes extra responsibility because it’s a payback of sorts for the opportunity to be actively involved in activities he thinks will open new doors to a future career.

A third-year chapter member, Holck, with no farming background, said he came into the chapter as the result of a welding class.

“It was a matter of going out on a limb on something entirely new to me,” he said. “And when you go into something unknown, it can open your eyes to a lot of things.”

Taking that first step, has in Holck’s case, started him down the road toward a degree in ag law.

“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer,” Holck said, “and at this time there hasn’t been that many in northwest Iowa.

“I see this changing as I watch proceedings such as those recently in the Des Moines Water Works actions that have increased my interest even more.”

He said his current FFA farm business/farm management projects aid in establishing a foundation for future enrollment at the University of Northern Iowa in political science with emphasis on pre-law and to later move forward with post-degree law work at Drake University.

In the meantime, however, he said his sight is set on completing the 75-year FFA chapter history interspersed with such things as practicing for March 6’s district competition, plus sub-district and state FFA competitions, as well as his vo-ag class work.

“It’s been interesting to discover the number of our FFA graduates who have distinguished careers – Bob Knipp, a presidential speech writer; and Jack and Robert Nicholson, within in the national Republican party.

“Others are Dave Hawkins, known throughout the area for his community involvement; John Schneider, of Le Mars, active locally in efforts with the pork industry; and Rich Degner, recently stepping down from his executive position with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

“There’s still others we learn about as the history is completed.”

Oetken said Le Mars’ FFA members have created a number of events in what has been the year-long anniversary observance to conclude in April with a casual get-together in April symbolizing the chapter’s chartering month 75 years ago.

The now 70-member chapter conducts a variety of community projects, the majority of which are associated with the Plymouth County Fair.

“This has perhaps been one of our biggest areas of community involvement,” Oetken said, noting that 15 years ago they started building park tables and chairs for fair-goers.

Oetken, in his 26th year of teaching vo-ag and serving as FFA advisor in Le Mars, said FFA members’ fair work includes sponsoring the fair’s livestock judging contests and clean-up work during the fair.

More recent activities include assisting with Pioneer Village’s Christmas project, building the fairground’s Round Barn entry way, and helping with Round Barn exhibits.

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