February 18-25th is National FFA Week, and Weakley County Schools is celebrating the organization’s emphasis on leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.
Nearly 600 Weakley County students this year are choosing from a variety of ag-based options for classes including Large Animal and Small Animal Vet Science, Ag Science, Ag Mechanics, Ag Power and Equipment, Landscape and Turf Management, Greenhouse, Ag Engineering, Natural Resource Management, Applied Environmental Science, and Plant Science.
Students in the district who study agriculture are fortunate to have many essential community partners that invest their time and work into educating students.
UTM professors invite students into labs and/or offer expertise on the Livestock Production Farm related to topics such as emerging technologies in artificial insemination, estrus synchronization, ultrasound, and palpitation. The farm is also increasing research and demonstration plots to include both corn and soybeans. Other farm improvements planned are investigating the use of beef products from the farm in school cafeterias (already offering pork from student-raised swine), replacing cattle-working equipment, and building a structure with bleachers for students to observe procedures.
In addition, dual enrollment classes with the University of Tennessee at Martin’s Department of Agriculture, Geosciences and Natural Resources and the Weakley County Schools Livestock Production Farm expand the range of opportunities open to ag students.
Nutrien Ag Solutions and the Weakley County Farmers Co-op offer knowledge and support for the school farm’s test plots. They work with students to help them understand foundational concepts such as analyzing data collection, moisture content, yield data, stand counts, pollination rates, crop stressors, profitability, annual processes and methodology, and much more.
Tosh Farms provides the farm with essential protocols and hands-on, side-by-side training and education on vaccinations and hog health, swine artificial insemination, care of newborn pigs, feed mixing and grinding, care for growing and finishing hogs, and more.
Assistant Director of Schools Betsi Foster is grateful for the school system’s community partners.
“Community partnerships are essential to the success of our schools and programs. We are lucky to have so many local experts committed to our students and the continued growth of the ag economy in our region,” said Foster.
In addition to gaining knowledge and academic credits, ag students support many ongoing project needs in their schools. They’ve designed and constructed guitar stands for art shows and built staging elements for the Weakley Playhouse’s theatrical productions. CNC machines at each school provide signage and fundraising opportunities for various school-based enterprises. They construct various pieces, hang banners, and support the students and faculty through a multitude of additional daily needs.
In 2020, the Tennessee FFA Association became an affiliated state association within the National FFA Organization. Under the affiliation program, all enrolled students in local agricultural education programs are considered official FFA members. The Tennessee FFA Foundation provides the financial support for Affiliate Membership.
FFA members compete in local, state, and national competitions. They fundraise to cover the costs of travel and additional resources. Fundraisers include fruit sales and FFA spirit wear sales. Westview and Dresden, which currently have operational greenhouses, schedule plant sales in the spring. FFA Alumni support annual auctions as well.
Dresden’s 10th Annual FFA Alumni Meal and Auction is scheduled for Saturday, April 1, at Dresden High’s Gymnasium. Food will be served at 6:00 p.m. for those who have purchased the $5 tickets. The auction begins at 7:00 PM. Entry to the auction is free. All proceeds go to Dresden FFA.
Westview’s FFA Alumni Auction and Dinner is set for Friday, March 3, at 6:00 PM in the Westview High Cafeteria. Adult dinner tickets are $10. Children ages 5-10 eat for $5, and children under 4 eat free. Proceeds go to Westview FFA, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Westview FFA Scholarship Fund.
Ag teachers in Weakley County Schools are Jason Kemp, Jonathan Holden, and Jessica Browning in Dresden; Archie Rich in Gleason; Matthew Humphrey in Greenfield; David Hochreiter and Kyle Rogers at Westview. Holden, Rich, Humphrey, Hochreiter and Rogers also serve as the FFA Advisors. Lindsey Parham, Career and Technical Education Director for Weakley County Schools, supports their work.
To get more information about the FFA program in your community, contact any high school in Weakley County. For more about Weakley County Schools, visit weakleycountyschools.com.
National FFA Week is an annual holiday that occurs for a week in February, starting from the Saturday before the last Saturday of the month, from February 18 to 25 this year.
The holiday was initiated by the National Future Farmers of America Organization; a youth leadership development organization with more than 760,000 student members in 8,700 local F.F.A. chapters in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, with the mission to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding the growing population of the United States.
National FFA Week was specifically initiated to fall on George Washington’s birth week to highlight his legacy as a leader and a foremost farmer.