When your school hasn’t had FFA for over 50 years, you make up for lost time. At least that’s what one Wisconsin FFA chapter has been doing this past year and the amount of hard work they have put in their first year — with only 10 members — may make some chapters feel lazy.
“Everyone continued to grow their passion for agriculture and found their favorite agriculture aspect, as there are many different industries and passions within the ag industry,” said Kelsey Henderson, Union Grove FFA Vice President. “And some students are realizing that it is ok to have little or no prior experience with agriculture. FFA truly has something to offer to everyone regardless of your background.”
Union Grove will start ag classes this fall, but that didn’t stop the members from diving headfirst into FFA this past year after a fifty-five year break. The chapter kicked off the school year attending their first National FFA Convention, where they learned just what the organization is all about.
“We attended different sessions and workshops and got to walk through the convention center,” Henderson said. “We can’t wait to go back another year and have some competitors on the national level!”
Then came National FFA Week, a huge success for the chap,ter Henderson said. Each day Union Grove had a different dress up day for points, and the class with the most points got a prize at the end of the week. They also offered a Kahoot game for all of the classes to play with a winner for the best class and at the end of the week, they provided free ice cream for all of the kids in the school during lunch hour.
During that same week, Union Grove also launched their “Thank a Farmer” campaign.
“We went out to all the local farmers in our district and gave them homemade cookies and Union Grove FFA gloves,” Henderson said. “It was great to get out in our community and thank all of the wonderful farmers that support us.”
In May, the chapter hosted a drive your tractor to school day. Henderson said the event brought lots of tractors to town where they paraded them down Main Street to school. Case IH also brought two tractors to lead and close the parade.
Union Grove sent two students to participate in the agriscience division at the 89th Wisconsin State Convention. One member took top gold with his power, structural technical systems project, giving him the chance to move on to nationals this fall. Henderson placed second gold with her agriscience project on digital dermatitis, aka hairy hoof wart.
Summer hasn’t slowed the newly-formed chapter down at all. In June, they hosted a photo booth and gave out cow hats at the Racine County Breakfast on the Farm and for the Union Grove Fourth of July parade, the chapter’s float themed “Bridged the Past to the Future” with future, current, and past FFA members took first place.
“We are very thankful for a very supportive community. We have had some great opportunities to get out in our community and talk to all of our wonderful supporters. It was also great to see some people who were in Union Grove FFA when they were in school back when Union Grove had a chapter,” Henderson said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of our activities if it wasn’t for our great community and supporters.”
In addition to starting an alumni chapter this fall, the officers hope to see their chapter’s enrollment grow to 50.
“We believe having ag classes will be very helpful in our FFA enrollment numbers,” Henderson said. “We have many activities planned for this upcoming year and can’t wait to continue to grow!”
And 55 years later, Henderson believes Union Grove FFA is here to stay. In addition to ag classes this fall, the school has plans to put up an ag building featuring classrooms, a greenhouse, a small animal laboratory, and more.
“We are so fortunate to have a very supportive school and community backing our club and ag education that we believe it is here to stay,” Henderson said.
Henderson said her best advice to a chapter just getting started is to get out there and brand yourself.
“In schools, brand yourself not just as farmers but as all of the aspects of the ag industry. Make sure to push that there is a spot for everyone in FFA,” Henderson said. “In your community make sure to get out and talk to people. It is great to get your name out there and who FFA is and what FFA is all about. Also, make sure to stick to the FFA roots. It is great to have people recognize the blue jackets and FFA members when they see them around!”