By Tricia Goecks


BOONE COUNTY – At high schools throughout the United States, students are recognizing the importance of agriculture and farming with FFA Week.  The FFA clubs at Belvidere, Belvidere North and North Boone High Schools are participating in events throughout the week.

The Future Farmers of America helps prepare and develop students. FFA students participate in career development events, participate in a variety of competitions, and develop critical business skills with supervised agricultural experience (SAE) projects.

In conjunction with classroom experiences, FFA participation helps prepare students for life after high school. As part of the career development event, students recite the FFA creed, compete in extemporaneous public speaking, and prepared public speaking.  Belvidere North FFA chapter president Chelsey Huntington said that she considers her public speaking as one of her best FFA experiences. “I can stand in front of a room full of people and not stutter or anything,” Chelsey said of the confidence she developed through the career development events.

Belvidere North FFA students competed this year in a soil judging competition.  As part of the competition, FFA students from throughout their section took five core soil samples of 4 – 5 feet deep and described the composition of the soil. “The students are trained to take a core sample, look at the color and texture,” Belvidere North FFA advisor Emily Chambers said. “They have half an hour to 45 minutes to complete the task and they are given a rating.”

The FFA students are preparing to compete in dairy food competitions in March. The students will be provided with milk samples and have to identify what is wrong with the sample. The students are trained to determine if there is oxidation from lines, if the lines got mixed up, if the milk sample includes foreign matter, and test the cattle for mastitis.

 “FFA is everything to me. It means so much,” Chelsey said. “My sister is in it. My dad was involved. I wanted to make it a big part of who I was.”

Through Huntington’s SAE project, she enjoys spending extra time with her dad. “It is fun when I can tell him this is what I did today in FFA or what we did as a chapter,” Chelsea said. “It is nice to get his input and how he feels.”

Chelsey shows swine with her FFA project and with her local 4-H chapter. “My dad helps me with hands on. We will go over what we are doing for the year. When we go to auction, he comes with me and watches over me to make sure I make the right decisions.”

Among the advantages of belonging to the FFA are the friendships that the students develop throughout the United States and the sense of belonging to a group greater than themselves. “When I put on my blue jacket it isn’t that you are just representing yourself or your chapter. You are representing an entire organization,” Chelsey said of the pride she feels when she wears the traditional blue velvet jacket at FFA events. “What I love about being in FFA is sometimes in other clubs it is just you. [With FFA], you are always in a group and everyone is friends.”

“I love that people in my chapter are my friends and we know each other so well.”

Chambers credits the FFA with inspiring her as a student and helping her decide on agriculture and education as a career path. “I benefited from it because it was my career path,” Chambers said. “I didn’t know where I wanted to go in life, and FFA became that focus. It told me this is where I wanted to be.”

Chelsey plans to attend college to study animal science and eventually have her own farm. She would like to raise swine and also grain farm. “With the money I make selling my pigs most of the money goes towards paying for my college tuition,” Chelsey said. “A lot of the kids who show livestock plan on going on to college.”

“One way to pay for it is through livestock projects. That is how you continue to grow.

FFA is more than just agriculture

“I wish people knew it isn’t just for farming kids,” Chelsey added. “We have events like gardening and other events like that.”

A friend of Chambers was able to use her FFA background to gain an advantage over other candidates during a recent job search.  During a job interview for a nursing position in Florida, the Belvidere native was asked to tell something about herself that nobody else would know.  The woman told the interviewer that she showed swine for all four years in high school with FFA.

“The interviewer had recently attended an FFA conference and saw the kinds of things the FFA kids were doing and saw that it was an amazing organization that gives a lot of opportunity to its members,” Chambers said.

Chambers’ friend told her that the interviewer saw her FFA membership as a benefit on her resume and told her that the FFA “creates great productive people in society.”

Belvidere North FFA students develop skills that extend beyond the classroom and farm. “I love watching their motivation and maturity grow,” Chambers said of her students. “It feels good to see them benefit from FFA.”

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