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FFA group cultivates leaders
Riverbend Elementary School fifth-graders take a tractor ride to the FFA barn at North Hall High School Friday morning. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

“Have any of you ever eaten bacon?”

Hands shot up like rockets. They may not know much about pigs or poultry, but the fifth-graders from Riverbend Elementary School sure knew what they liked on their plates. And they were about to find out how it gets there.

Students with North Hall High School FFA (formerly the Future Farmers of America) were ready with the facts to educate the visiting fifth-graders about agriculture and the importance FFA plays in preparing young minds for the future.

Stations were set up Friday morning at North Hall High for the elementary students, offering a quick glimpse into the world of agriculture.

Traipsing through the greenhouse, FFA members instructed the students on horticulture as the automatic sprinklers showered sprouting tomato plants.

Snaking their way around pansies and herbs, the youngsters learned a little about properly caring for plants and why horticulture is important to Hall County.

After getting a demonstration on potting a begonia by FFA member Jeremy Walker, it was off to the barn — via tractor.

A short hayride later, the kids were clamoring for a chance to get up close and personal with a sheep and chickens on display.

North Hall FFA members are using every opportunity to educate others about the benefits of the program.

Junior and FFA vice president Morgan Smith wants everyone to know what being in the group is really about.

“We want to show them that there isn’t one central thing about FFA, but there are various aspects and endless opportunities in agriculture,” Smith said.

And she should know. Smith recently placed first in public speaking, another skill learned in the program, and will compete next month for a region title.

In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions about FFA. For starters, not everyone wears overalls and chews on hay. In other words, as Smith said, “It’s not just about cows and dirt and tractors — it is so much more.”

Jeremy Walker, a junior, has several reasons why he joined FFA.

“I get to play in our FFA band. We’re a country band and we play to promote the FFA.”

Walker agreed that there is sometimes a corn pone image when people think of the FFA.

“Most people think it’s just farming, but there is public speaking, machining and other skills,” Walker said.

Back at the barn, the Riverbend students were learning how to worm a horse and how horseshoes are made.

While watching video from a recent barrel racing competition, two boys turned around to see the pig in the corner relieve itself.

Both boys giggled.

Then it was on to learn about forestry, hand tools, band saws, air compressors and welders.

FFA members Matt Satterfield and Emily Lawson introduced the kids to agribusiness with a list of companies that were familiar sights in Hall County.

“Cargill, anyone?” asked Lawson.

“That stinky place?” several kids said back.

“Yeah, that stinky place. They’re one of several agribusinesses in the area,” replied Lawson.

Along with Fieldale Farms, Kubota, Ingles and numerous others.

Final stop on the tour was the classroom for a PowerPoint presentation by Smith and fellow FFA member Carlee Savage, a freshman.

Smith read aloud the mission statement of the program.

“FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agriculture and education.”

Savage, wearing the traditional blue corduroy jacket with yellow embroidery, showed off the FFA emblem emblazoned on the back.
She asked the kids what their favorite part of the day has been.

After a moment of thought, the kids blurted out,“everything!”

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