It’s National FFA Week, and chapters in Tahlequah, Hulbert and Keys have held several events to promote the organization and invite new members.
Also known as Future Farmers of America, the FFA’s official name has been the National FFA Organization since 1988. This year’s FFA week ends Feb. 22.
“This week, we held a teacher appreciation breakfast to thank them for all they do for the students,” said Drew Jordan, FFA instructor at Tahlequah High School. “Of course, we’re getting ready for the county livestock show.”
Erica Sutton, instructor for Hulbert High School, and Darrell Hood, instructor at Keys High School, said their chapters are also making preparations for the 2014 Cherokee County Junior Livestock Show. The event runs Feb. 28 through March 3 in the livestock exhibition buildings at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds.
“Our archery team is also headed to the state competition on March 26,” Hood said. “We have skeet shooting, trap shooting, livestock judging teams, livestock shows, leadership training, vocational training, speech. FFA is one of the best programs in the school to help kids become involved.”
Sutton has been an enthusiastic supporter of FFA since she was in high school.
“It helped me come out of my shell, and I’ve always been involved,” she said. “It has always had a positive impact on my life, and I know what it can do for kids in this area. I want them to have the same opportunities I’ve had.”
FFA can also offer training in vocational skills, such as mechanics and welding. Many FFA alumni graduate from college and enter fields such as veterinary medicine, biology, engineering and chemistry.
“I enjoy working with youth and teaching them life-learning and life-building skills,” Jordan said. “FFA teaches real life lessons. You can learn to make a living with your hands. I think it is a great program for the youth.”
The organization also encourages students to become involved citizens of their communities. The Hulbert chapter hosts a petting zoo Friday at the elementary school from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
“We’ll have a horse, heifers, pigs, chickens, rabbits, even hedgehogs,” Sutton said. “On Monday, 13 of our juniors and seniors met with legislators at the state capital. This week we have made posters and hung them up all over school. We’ve conducted a canned food drive. After our teacher appreciation breakfast, we took milk and some bacon and about seven dozen eggs we didn’t cook and donated them to Hope House in Tahlequah.”
The vocational building at Keys High School shows the range of activities available to students - archery targets, shop equipment, pens for show pigs. Hood said it takes a lot of effort to keep up with it all.
“Well, it’s working day and night,” he said. “FFA is so much more than agriculture, and sometimes, it keeps kids in school who may not graduate otherwise. I enjoy watching kids who graduate from here go on to do things we’ve taught them here in class. I see them become integral parts of the community. We are also a family organization, and we wouldn’t have the success we do without great parental involvement.”
A chili lunch benefiting Cherokee County Junior Livestock is Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Tahlequah Community Building. To-go orders are available. The benefit is sponsered by Cherokee County 4-H.
To read an online exclusive about the history of FFA, go to tahlequah TDP.com