FFA Program Has Served Community Well

St. Marys FFA President Ally Ott tells St. Marys Rotarians about the different community service projects the student-led organization has done throughout the school year.
Sports Editor

St. Marys FFA Adviser and Agriculture Teacher Lucy Bambauer gave St. Marys Rotarians a startling statistic during her speech on Wednesday — 1 out of every 7 Ohioans are employed in the ag industry. In a rural community, that’s what makes the ag program she teaches at St. Marys Memorial vital to the area.

“It has been awesome for us to allow more kids to be exposed to more ag at a young age and they know what it is when they enroll in their high school classes,” she said. “Less than 2 percent of the population actually farms and that percentage is going to continue to decline because the US farmer is efficient. The number of the kids that we have who are on farms is zero, so I don’t have kids who live on a farm so you might be asking why we teach agriculture and what is the relevance. 

“It is still Ohio’s No. 1 employer, so it is very relevant that way, but these kids are the ones who are going to make decisions about what our farmers can grow because they are the people who demand what we eat. With all of the trends and tag words out there — cagefree, conventional, organic — it is very important to me, as someone who was involved in agriculture, for the next generation to understand how food is grown and how they should make those decisions.”

In getting those students exposed, the ag program begins as early as eighth grade in a rotation with gym or choir as a way to explore that education.

At the high school level, St. Marys offers ag food and natural resource class, which is the first class taught for all incoming students for a three-week period. The class covers every ag topic, including food science, plant science, mechanics and animal science.

St. Marys also teaches a mechanical principles class for one year — which covers shop-based tasks such as welding, small engines, cold medal work, electricity, woodworking and concrete. Other classes include livestock and nutrition, greenhouse management, ag business and a work release program for seniors.

The FFA adviser said that FFA is available to any St. Marys student and any student in any ag class is an FFA member. The program elects officers annually and is 100 percent student-led. The program is inter curricular and not extracurricular, meaning that there are pieces of it that can spill over to the school’s curriculum but its not considered extra such as a sport.

“These kids are really important to me and I think if you talk to any of them, they will say that they thought they were signing up for a lot of work, they did a lot of work, but they got a lot out of it,” she said.

As part of the exposure to the industry, students learn much outside the classroom. Baumbauer said students take an extensive two-day leadership training in the summer so they can work with professionals about how to introduce themselves and what it means to set goals. With the training, students help Bambauer plan for the school year. She said she expects them to come up with ideas, delegate tasks to their peers and follow through with their projects.

Some of those projects were pointed out by FFA President Ally Ott, who highlighted some of the community service projects the organization has taken part of throughout the school year.

In the first weekend of May, then-senior Bryce Barker organized the inaugural FFA Cruise-In For Scholarships. The event was open to the public with 52 cars entered and raised more than $500, which goes to awarding a senior with a scholarship. 

Katelyn Miley oversaw the construction of five picnic tables that were later donated to the Auglaize County Fairgrounds and Ellen Schloemer’s Donkey Basketball Tournament raised money for a new Rocky the Roughrider costume. More than 500 people attended the event and $2,500 were donated from the FFA to the Rocky Fund. 

FFA member Courtney Nuss organized All In Week, bringing in New York Giants chaplain Gian Paul Gonzales for an all-school assembly. On the second day, she conducted 15 service projects with more than 192 high school participating and coordinated the volunteering of seven local professionals to teach stress relief on the final day for 134 students.

FFA Secretary Kayla Puschel conducted a project called Thanksgiving Giving Baskets. The project had each grade in junior high and high school be assigned a common Thanksgiving meal item to donate, $360 were donated from the project and under Puschel’s direction, 50 laundry baskets were purchased with more than 20 items in each basket — which were later donated to Agape Ministries Inc. 

To read the full story, read Thursday's print edition of The Evening Leader.