FFA youth committed to farming and leadership

Friday, October 30, 2020
Abbie Watts, FFA member.

Local FFA members have endured plenty of ups and downs this year, but thanks to the resiliency of youth, they say overall it has been a great year. They may be nostalgic and have had to adjust to settling for online events and very little face-to-face contact, but have found some silver linings.

Kelly Jensen is president of the Alta-Aurelia FFA chapter and has been in FFA since her freshman year at Alta-Aurelia High School. She is now a senior. Some benefits of being in FFA, she said are, “Getting to meet new people, getting pushed out of my comfort zone and trying new things, learning leadership skills and experiencing outside the classroom learning.”

She entered her peacock, Pete, in the Buena Vista County Fair. “I have shown him for three years and this year he received a blue ribbon in the Other Poultry Class. In past years he has received class champion, reserved overall class champion, and overall class champion,” she said.

FFA member Ethan Arnts is the state winner of the Ferris George Rising Star Award.

Jensen said this year in FFA has been different in that events previously done in person are now done online, which has both a good and bad aspect. “This has allowed me to do more events but it isn’t as fun because you don’t get to interact with different people.”

She plans to attend college but is undecided about her field of study because, as she said, “So many things interest me.” She lives outside of Alta, about a half mile from Hanover.

Another FFA member is eleventh-grader Ethan Arnts who recently won the Ferris George Rising Star Award, designed to recognize FFA members who exhibit outstanding leadership. He believes he won because, “I like to be a leader and help others when I can.” Arnts has been in FFA for three years.

“I would recommend FFA for people looking to boost their leadership skills,” he said, adding that some benefits to being in FFA are, “To make new friends, give back to your community and experience new things.” Despite pandemic challenges, he said this year has gone great.

Arnts always shows pigs and has done so for seven years. At the recent Buena Vista County Fair, he showed 10 pigs. “For 4-H I showed a pen of eight, then picked three pigs out of those eight for a pen of three, and two individuals for FFA I showed two individuals,” he said. For the two individual pigs for FFA he received blue ribbons.

Arnts plans to study diesel mechanics and farm technology when he attends college and would like to be a farmer. He lives on a farm south of Alta.

Abbie Watts, a senior at Alta-Aurelia High School, has been in FFA for four years. “Through FFA I have gained a lot of confidence and I am a better speaker now because of FFA, but the pandemic has really changed FFA for me,” she said.

“I was planning to go to national convention but that was canceled because of Covid and now we have the choice of an online option. Another thing that has changed because of Covid is we always have Feed the Farmer where we go to local co-ops and give the farmers that come in sack lunches. We were not able to do that this year because of Covid,” she said. “And now we must wear masks at meeting,”

She also participated in the Buena Vista County Fair. “I did show animals at the county fair (chickens, rabbits, goats, pigs) but they were all registered for 4H,” she said.

“I do plan to go to college but I am unsure on where I want to go. I plan on majoring in environmental science as I would like to be a naturalist someday.” She lives on a farm south of Alta.

Jamie Haugen is the Agricultural Education/FFA Advisor in the Alta-Aurelia Schools. This is her third year as the FFA Advisor for the Alta-Aurelia FFA Chapter.

“This year we have 20 members and our chapter is led by our six officers,” Haugen said. “My role as their advisor is to allow them to develop our chapter as far as preparing for meetings, contests, activities, etc. I am there to assist them with the development of their ideas, offer suggestions to keep them focused, promote agriculture in our youth and inform them of opportunities available through the Iowa FFA.”

“FFA is a student led organization, so from my perspective it’s very exciting when members have an idea and they then put it into action!” she said. “So far this school year we have been able to participate in district contests virtually which is really nice for those members wishing to obtain their greendhand, chapter or Iowa Degree as participation above the chapter level is very important.”

“Members have participated in the District Level livestock judging contest as well as Dairy Evaluation. We have had to cancel a few things that our members normally participate in due to the pandemic. Some of those events are helping with the Ag Citing and Ag Safety Days held in Newell for local third grade students and our grain elevator lunch that we have done in previous years. We hope to be able to return to these types of activities next year!”

“This year at the county fair we had members exhibit sheep, beef, swine and a peacock,” Haugen said. “In the pens of sheep our member Chandler Robbins placed first and Kash Pedersen placed second. Both of them also received blue ribbons for their second entry of pens. In the pens of beef, Kash Pedersen placed first and Chandler Robbins received second. Chandler also got a blue ribbon for his second pen. Ethan and Emily Arnts exhibited hogs and received blue ribbons. Lastly, Kelly Jensen exhibited her peacock and received a blue ribbon for her entry.”

“Members are interested in an organization such as FFA because it is open to students who are interested in any aspect of agriculture. This organization helps members become better leaders and communicators. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. There are times when students have activities and contests during the school day, which is always seen as a highlight to them, but the events they are participating in will help them later on in life when working with others even though it may not cross their mind at the present time,” Haugen said.

Members and leaders are doing their best to cope with all of the changes this year. Due to the pandemic, the only in-person events at this time are monthly meetings.