Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer
From being a Craig County High School Junior standout participating in Future Farmers of America (FFA) to now, the only Agriculture FFA Teacher at Craig County Middle and High School, Lara Edwards has continued to show her love and support for the field she teaches.
“A large priority of mine as the sole agriculture (AG) teacher at Craig for the past two years has been to deepen students understanding of the purpose and benefits of FFA as well as expand their basic knowledge of all the various career paths within agriculture,” Edwards shared.
Her passion parallels with the National FFA’s mission to: “Make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.”
CCPS had FFA many years ago, but it was reinstituted in 2006. Edwards was hired in 2014 and said, “I have been working to continuously improve the program since.”
Craig County FFA chapter is slowly growing while strengthening their leadership skills and enhancing their knowledge in agriculture. “My goals for the chapter include having a larger number of active members – active meaning attending every meeting, participating in fundraisers and competing in at least one Career Development Event throughout the year,” Edwards said. There are currently almost 40 paying FFA members in both schools, however only 15 are considered ‘active’.
Edwards believes that ‘active’ also means involved in community and external education. “As for activities, this past school year we attended the Virginia State Fair and competed in Forestry Field Day and an Agriscience Poster contest.” Brianna Charlton placed 7th in Agriscience Poster contest. “I am hoping for her to compete again this coming year as well as have a middle school participant,” Edwards added.
Though Craig did not place very high in the forestry field day, it was agreed that it was a very competitive competition, and this was a wonderful opportunity for her first time students to ‘get their feet wet’.
* Held a “Back to School” cookout for all the students in AG.
* Held their largest fundraiser, which was fruit sales, from late October until the first week of December.
* Middle School AG classes had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference at Virginia Tech in the fall and
toured parts of the campus.
* They have regular meetings.
* Participate in field trips to local farms
* After prom sold food and beverages.
Two weeks ago, AG III students were able to apply what they had learned in the classroom and took a field trip to a local farm belonging to Carter Fleming, to participate in hands on activities.
Edwards shared that, “The students were able to look at reproductive tracts of cows.” The process of Artificial Insemination was demonstrated and some of the students volunteered to palpate the cow. “The students were also able to use the reproductive tracts to practice artificially inseminating the AI rod,” Edwards said. “We had just finished our classroom section on female bovine anatomy and reproduction.”
And, the exciting class of Edwards has just begun. She plans to purchase chicks to raise in the classroom, compete in Envirothon ( a natural resource competition, involve the students in National Agriculture Day activities, create shop projects, raise plants in the greenhouse and also have an end of the year banquet in May as well as attend the FFA state convention in June.
The school has one greenhouse. “We are in the process of updating it, as a group of students from Virginia Tech is working with us to improve our use of the greenhouse,” Edwards added. The week of February 20th was National FFA week which was put in place to celebrate the organization and the impact it has on members. “We had a short week at school so it limited some of our activities,” Edwards said.
Still, they seemed to have been able to squeeze in many activities. Tuesday the FFA students prepared a pancake breakfast for teachers, administration and staff in the middle and high schools.
Wednesday, the FFA officers made animal themed cupcakes to pass out to teachers accompanied by agriculture facts associated with those animals. Some of these said, “The average cow will eat 100 lbs of feed per day” and “There are over 1 billion sheep in the world”.
Thursday they held their 2nd annual Dodge-ball Tournament as a fundraiser and Edwards AG classes participated in various competitive or teamwork games during class.
Middle and high school students could sign up teams of 6-8. They paid a dollar to play and then a small admission was charged to the public and other students. A mostly sophomore team consisting of Harrison Early, Jesse Brizendine, Hunter Wright, David Smith and Brandon Swingle were the winners. They received a trophy containing everyone’s dollar that paid in and an additional dollar was added.
Excitement was added to the evening when a faculty team played the student team winners. This has become an annual event which many came to watch. Craig County schools are excited about their AG program and its growth in size and education. “As a teacher, you just hope you have some sort of positive influence on them in the long run,” Edwards said.
Not afraid of a challenge, Edwards continues to pursue her vision for her students. Her favorite part of teaching AG is sharing her knowledge about the industry she loves with her students. “I also want to help them find what they are passionate about!” Edwards shared. “It is fun to see them grow as a person and as a student.”