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ST. MARYS — If one asks St. Marys FFA sponsor and teacher Jack McBride if his FFA students are future farmers, he says no, not for the most part.
A more appropriate description would be future leaders, he explains, because while only 2 percent of Americans are farmers more than 20 percent are involved in agriculturally-related fields.
“In our area former FFA kids are in leadership positions all over the area,” McBride said. “I see my FFA kids in important leadership roles. They’re township trustees, police officers, soil and water conservation officers.”
This week is FFA week nationally and St. Marys FFA students planned a week of activities related to FFA, including honoring teachers.
On Monday, students brought donuts for teachers, on Tuesday they brought pie, on Wednesday they brought breakfast, and on Thursday gave all the teachers hugs from Elmo and Cookie Monster.
Also on Thursday and Friday, the students brought in a petting zoo of animals for younger children to play with during the mornings, including a cow, calves, pig, rabbit, chicken, donkey, horse and pony.
TLC Learning Center students ages 4 and 5 came on Friday, and teacher Kayla Chapman said she thought the students got a lot out of the visit.
“They enjoy seeing the different animals, petting them, and learning what they eat and where they live,” Chapman said.
They also wanted to learn about the habitats and habits of the students dressed as Sesame Street characters Elmo and Cookie Monster.
“Can you swim underwater?” Saige Lefevre asked Cookie Monster.
“No cookies for cookie monster,” said several students in a group.
McBride said the students go all out for FFA week, and while the club has 80 members, a small group of core officers took on a lot of responsibility for organizing the week.
“They plan everything,” McBride said. “I just advise a bit. And sometimes I have to tell them no.”
FFA member Tyler Sharp brought the calves and a hog for the students to pet. He said his favorite part of the week was probably doing things for the teachers.
“The teachers are so happy with everything we do for them,” Sharp said. “Also I like to see kids come in and see how happy they are.”
While FFA is trying to get away from a vocational, farmers-only image, and move on to a more agricultural one, McBride said that the region still has a farming base; the difference is more in scale.
Instead of ten people with 100 livestock, one operation may run with thousands of animals.
“I like to think we give kids a good look at the big picture of agriculture,” McBride said. “Crops, livestock, mechanics, greenhouses. Agriculture is more than farming. Hopefully kids get it from this.”