Future Farmers of America, known as FFA, is a national organization with more than 600,000 members. It promotes leadership and agriculture education among people ages 12 to 21. It’s being celebrated across the nation right now for National FFA Week – and Macomb High School put on a celebration of its own.
The halls of MHS are home to more than 500 students, and just 13 percent of them are involved in agriculture programming. FFA student leaders say regardless, agriculture affects us all. They are grateful, because not long ago this program did not even exist.
The walls of Wyatt McGrew’s classroom are covered in two things: information about the agriculture industry and students’ smiling faces.
Behind those smiles lies history and a lot of hard work.
“The last class to go through here would have been in the late 80’s – right around 1988 or 1989,” MHS Agriculture Instructor and FFA Adviser Wyatt McGrew said.
The re-instated agriculture education program at Macomb High School is just two years young. Before, students interested in agriculture were forced to go to neighboring school West Prairie to learn about the industry.
“West Prairie has a strong program and wonderful teachers in that program, but it just really didn’t give our students at Macomb High all of the opportunities that they really could have been afforded in the organization,” McGrew said.
It took the support of MHS parents, faculty, and community members to get the program back, and they finally did in the fall of 2015.
“The school district itself entered into a partnership with the Macomb Agriscience Association, and said yes – we will allow agriculture education programs to be back into the curriculum at Macomb High School,” McGrew said.
Each student who spends part of their day dedicated to agriculture in the classroom also participates in FFA as an extracurricular activity. MHS Senior Morgan Lowderman said the skills she is learning are crucial, not just for working on her family farm, but for working toward her future.
“Through FFA I’ve learned to put myself out there, and I’ve participated in a contest that would’ve thought I would’ve participated in before,” Lowderman said. “After graduation I plan to go to Kansas State University and I plan to major in Ag Business.”
Lowderman said she wants National FFA Week to teach students who are not involved with agriculture just how much it affects our every day lives.
“From when you wake up in the morning to when you go to bed at night agriculture is a part of your every day life,” she said. “Every food that you eat is agriculture. The clothes that you wear come from agriculture, and it’s important that you’re educated.”
MHS Senior Courtney Thorman hopes to clear up the most common misconception about FFA.
“Ag is so much more than living on a farm and owning a tractor,” she said. “You can do things with ag communications or ag business. You could be a mechanic. You could be a farmer. You could do all kinds of things, and that’s really important for people to know that because it’s not just about the farm and the lifestyle.”
A huge supporter of MHS FFA is the Alumni Association – a group of community members, some alumni of the group, and others concerned community members – who help fundraise for the group.
In December the Alumni Association held the first ever “Backin’ the Blue and Gold” auction fundraiser. The event raised over $40,000 and will help to fund college scholarships for the MHS program.
“We want to see this program continue to grow,” said MHS Alumni Association member Monica Torrance. “We really appreciate all the that we’ve gotten here from the high school from the faculty and administration. It takes a village definitely.”
All weeklong MHS students have been celebrating with themed dress-up days at school. Friday, February 23 is “Drive Your Tractor to School Day.” Be sure to check out the NEWS3 Facebook page for photos.