Shaping tomorrow's leaders through community service and agriculture education is the goal of the 125-member of the Pioneer FFA chapter.
The group coordinated a recent landscaping project near
At one time FFA stood for Future Farmers of America. "But now we're just known by the initials, because we don't serve just farm kids anymore," said one of the chapter's advisors, Mary Lou Genaway. "Our mission is to teach leadership and service, while exposing students to the diversity of today's agriculture."
FFA members can take part in leadership competitions, problem-solving contests and forums on ag issues, as well as vying for honors in such hands-on areas as small engine troubleshooting and livestock judging. From regional competitions, students can travel to the state and national levels.
The chapter gathers at the middle school one evening per month, with a fun night followed by a half-hour business meeting.
Members must be either agriculture majors or enrolled in an ag class. "That's important to note, because we get a lot of our kids from the pre-veterinary programs offered here at Pioneer," said Genaway, who advises FFA with fellow teacher John Clayson.
Educating others is another FFA function. Through a program called Food For America, members visit elementary school classes to teach students about how food gets to their plates. In FFA's Project PALS program, members hook up with elementary students on a one-to-one or small group basis, in which they provide mentoring to the younger students.
Pioneer's Junior FFA seeks to get students involved in the group in the middle school grades. Like their high school counterparts, Junior FFA members elect officers and have meetings. Their activities focus around a monthly theme.
No story about FFA is complete without mentioning Pioneer Friends For Agriculture, an adult support group for FFA and the Pioneer ag program. The group organizes an annual dinner-dance which funds a scholarship and provides money for students to attend conferences. Friends for Agriculture also helps purchase educational materials for the Pioneer School District. "They're a real life-saver," said Genaway, "and a voice for us." The Friends are always looking for new members. Anyone with an interest in agriculture education at Pioneer is welcome to join.