Eastern Introduces FFA, Agricultural Education

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Students at Eastern Local Schools have new options this school year as the district has introduced agricultural education and FFA (Future Farmers of America) to the school.
According to Emily Heizer, Eastern FFA Advisor, FFA is the largest youth organization in the country with nearly 600,000 members nationwide. Eastern currently has the only FFA program in the county, and Heizer said that some other schools in the area have been looking to Eastern for guidance in starting their own programs.
This is Heizer’s first year as a full-time teacher, and she said she has been very busy.
“But it’s been very rewarding,” she added. “The kids have been really great and the school district, so it’s made an easy transition.”
The program is open to students in grades 7 through 12. All seventh-grade students have class with Heizer on a nine-week rotation, and 64 eighth-graders are in the program. At the high-school level, Heizer teaches two vocational agriculture classes, ag food and natural resources, as well as an environmental science class and a forestry class.
“Agriculture definitely takes a look at hands-on learning, so the kids are getting experience as they’re learning,” Heizer said. “We are looking at possibly building a greenhouse in the spring … They get to go on different trips. We just got back from national convention a couple of weeks ago.”
The National FFA Convention was held in October in Louisville, Kentucky, and three students attended this year.
“They got to visit different sessions that the National FFA puts on,” Heizer said. “And then they visited the zoo to kind of tie in different aspects of agriculture, and then we took them out to Hard Rock Cafe as a treat.”
At the convention, Ohio FFA hosts a dance called the Buckeye Bash, which gave Eastern students the opportunity to meet other members of FFA from Ohio, as well.
On November 13, some of the students in agriculture classes attended a Greenhand Conference at Athens High School, where state FFA officers presented leadership activities.
“Greenhand is the first degree that you can earn through the FFA,” Heizer explained.
Eastern’s FFA currently has eight officers including Logan Warren, president; Jonathan Cantrell, vice president; Raven Kays, secretary; Gary Huffman, treasurer; Alex Triplett, student advisor; Clint Bapst, sentinel; Charity Thompson, reporter; and Andrew Mayton, historian.
Warren, a sophomore, said that he first took the forestry class and then wanted to try the vocational agricultural classes. He is now in all of the high school classes that Heizer offers. He said that he enjoys the classes and was also able to attend the national convention, which he said was fun and had interesting sessions with motivational speakers.
FFA has competitions, including public speaking, livestock judging, forestry, and soil judging. Heizer indicated that she hopes Eastern will be able to take part in competitions in the future and may compete in the livestock judging competition in the spring.
Among the subjects studied in the agricultural classes are animal science, plant science, careers in agriculture, and others.
Heizer indicated that the field of agriculture is quite varied.
“Agriculture is actually the largest employer in the country,” she said.
At the high-school level, students in the environmental science class get a science credit, and students in Heizer’s other classes receive a special credit.