Students across the United States will celebrate their accomplishments as members of FFA Chapters during the upcoming week.
Designed to celebrate and recognize the joy and successes that Chapter members have experienced the week helps to make others aware of the importance of agriculture throughout America and the rest of the world.
“FFA provides so many opportunities for all our students,” Max Bax, vocational agricultural instructor and FFA sponsor at Smithton said.” “It gives students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills to help them become successful in all aspects of life.
“The program offers something for everyone but students need to take the first step and become involved which can be a struggle for some students,” Bax said. “Once they get involved in the program and see what it has to offer they become pretty excited about what it has to offer.”
For the 53 members of the Smithton FFA chapter some of those events include the opportunity to attend the state and national conventions, the annual FFA fruit sale, donating to the district’s backpack program, ringing bells each Christmas for the Salvation Army, cleaning up a section of highway in Smithton as part of the Adopt-a Highway Program as well as competing in livestock shows in both the county and at the Missouri State Fair.
“We’re hoping to do more events in the community and we are always looking for projects,” Bax said. “To be honest though, these kids put in a lot of their time with their school work, these events and their SAE’s and we know the importance of having some time of their own too.”
The SAE (supervised agricultural experience) is one way the students can have the opportunity to work and their own and express their personal interests.
“The students are the ones who chose their projects, with their parent’s consent,” Bax said. “Often they will choose to raise livestock, or work on a farm but recently they have allowed scientific research into the field of agriculture as a SAE as well.
“Their SAE’s are one of biggest qualifiers to see if they are chosen to receive their State or National FFA Degrees,” Bax added. “Juniors and seniors can apply as well as graduates who maintain their active membership until they age out at 21.”
This year Smithton has three students who are applying for their State Degrees and three graduates of the chapter who are applying for their National Degree.
Garrett Dowdy, Smithton’s FFA president is one of the three hoping to obtain his state degree.
“I have three SAE’s that I am working on this year,” Dowdy said. “I work for Williams’ Farms out of Syracuse, I raise cattle, and I have a garden that I sell produce from.
“It’s a half acre garden plot and I raise tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelon and cantaloupe and things that we eat at home too,” Dowdy added. “I show a lot of what I raise at the State Fair each year.”
Dowdy said that he works on all three of his SAE’s in some capacity every day and although it occupies a lot of his time it is fun and he learns a great deal from all three projects.
“FFA has been very good for me,” Dowdy said. “I’ve been an officer all three years and it has helped me a lot in my life.
“I have learned a lot of leadership skills that have really helped me in my decision making in a lot of areas,” he added. “I really think that once people know that you are in FFA it means something to them and that they realize that you are dependable and a hard worker.”
Bax offered a similar analogy.
“I always tell my students FFA is similar to a refrigerator, what you put in is what you get out. Bax said. “You can be as involved as you want to be in this organization and it can be tough sometimes, especially when the students are freshmen and they are dependent on others for rides.”
“But once they begin to participate it sets them up for greater things.” Bax added. “The results aren’t instantaneous and it takes the students, the ag teacher, their parents and the community to help build them into what they can become but the results are well worth the effort.”
Bax said the students may not notice the benefits at the time but later in life they can look back on what they have accomplished any attribute a great deal of their success to the lessons they learned and developed in FFA.
To thank the parents, teachers and community the Smithton FFA Chapter will host their annual breakfast from 6 to 8 a.m. on Thursday morning in the agriculture building on the school grounds.
The event is open to all district patrons.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484