By Pam Dudding
Students in Craig County middle and high schools are enjoying a boost to their Future Farmers of America and ag department. The new agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, Emily Nolen, has taken this “bull by the horns” and is running with it. The students seem to be loving it.
“I really do love what I do,” shared Nolen. “We have already accomplished a lot with the help of our community, but we still have a lot on our plate, and I am excited, but I think my students are more excited than me!”
At the recent Mountain Castles Soil and Water Conservation District meeting, four of the FFA students, including Emaleigh Radford, vice president, Brooke Beers, middle school FFA member, Makenzie Lucas, reporter and Eliza Muncey, president, were present.
“Last year was the first year we had an active FFA Chapter in a while and we are thrilled to be a part of this organization,” shared Lucas. “We had goals that we were determined to achieve, and we got straight to work. We started off with arranging a pet drive for the Montgomery County Animal Shelter. Later we partnered with the Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and did Agriculture activities with the elementary students for National Ag week in the classroom. Last October, we set up booths at the Fall Festival and Joe’s Tree Farm. In March, we took a field trip to John and Mary Hunter’s farm to check and vaccinate their cattle. Thanks to Ms. Nolen and numerous gracious members of our community, as we got a great start last year and we hope to see success in this exciting upcoming year.”
“Last year in October, we started to build the fence. It took several weeks to build,” Radford said. “Fast forward a few months and we now have three bull calves by May. We were able to help castrate them, vaccinate them and worm them. We also had a Land Lab Ag Fair where the FFA had booths with games and there were vendors there too. Overall, it was a great success!”
She added, “For this year, we are planning on expanding the Land Lab more, moving the greenhouse and are hoping to fence in the other side of the drive and will be using this space for livestock judging.”
“We are still looking for community members to help expand the Land Lab as well as donations,” said Radford. “We would like to thank everyone that has helped so far.”
Beers spoke about the different competitions they went to.
“First, we went to Abington Southwest Virginia and Carter Calfee placed in the top five overall,” Beers said. “A team of Mackenzie Lucas, Carter Calfee and myself placed fourth as a team overall for the Junior division. Second was VT Block and Bridle competition where a senior team of Chasity and Colby Wolfe, Aley Drake and Eliza Munsey placed ninth on the senior team. Aley Drake was 19th overall.”
While they were there, the seniors visited the meat lab, and the juniors toured the Virginia Tech campus.
“We also went to the Rockingham County Fairground for a dairy judging competition where the senior team placed fifth,” Beers added. “It was fun and educating to do all of these competitions and helps us to improve for next year’s events.”
Muncey, shared, “We have many events planned in the upcoming year for our FFA Chapter such as a dodgeball tournament, another Land Lab Fair, a teacher appreciation night and a farmer’s breakfast. We plan to host the farmers breakfast for everything they do for the industry. We also plan on doing quite a few fundraisers such as pork sausage sales in the fall and strawberries in hopes to raise enough money to go to the State Convention. We want to thank everyone for all of the donations, time and resources that you have provided. We hope that this upcoming year will bring growth and new opportunities to all FFA members and opportunities to connect to the community.”
Currently, the FFA members are selling sausage as a fundraiser. It is fresh mild, pork sausage that is packaged in one-pound vacuum-sealed bags ready for the freezer and priced at $5 per pound.
The fundraiser will take place until Oct. 10 and pickup will be Nov. 11, from 4 – 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.
Orders can be placed at the Catawba Farmer’s Market on Thursdays or by emailing Nolen at [email protected].
“These funds will help the students pay registration fees for the FFA State Convention,” shared Nolen.
Payment is recommended before pickup, but if those interested need to pay at pickup, they should send Nolen an email.
Nolen said that their upcoming events and goals include:
- Give every member the opportunity to purchase an FFA jacket
- Compete in career development events such as tractor driving and troubleshooting, livestock evaluation, stockmen’s, dairy evaluation, poultry evaluation and floriculture
- Create an alumni group
- Attend state convention at Virginia Tech
- Co-coordinate with the Land Lab for the second Annual Land Lab Ag Fair
“We are loving our new teacher and the exciting things we are doing at the Land Lab and places we go to learn,” shared the students. “We have just begun and can’t wait to keep expanding as the community really seems to be behind us, helping us a lot!”