SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– Throughout the state, 95 FFA chapters with 4,600 members are celebrating National FFA week as a way to recognize all that the organization’s members are achieving as well as reconnect with alumni across the state and country.
This year, National FFA week runs from Feb. 20 to Feb. 27.
National FFA week was designed by the FFA Board of Directors in 1948 and is during the week of George Washington’s birthday, in honor of his legacy as an agriculturalist and farmer.
Alysha Kientopf, Agriculture Teacher and FFA advisor in Garretson, said it is kind of like their birthday celebration.
“It’s an opportunity for chapters to give thanks back to our communities and our schools, as well as promote agriculture in many different aspects and just share from people that are super young to older people that are elders and get to share their stories about history and how things have grown over the years and really just encompass that premiere leadership, personal growth and career success within our kids” Kientopf said.
The Garretson FFA officer team began their week with a visit to Mayor’s office to get the National FFA Week proclamation signed.
This year, the Garretson FFA chapter is hosting serval events to celebrate the week. They began the week with some business visits, writing thank you cards and teacher appreciation day. On Wednesday, they celebrated with their members by having lunch together, playing bingo for door prizes and playing dodgeball.
The chapter also began their ag literacy program, where officers and members go to elementary classrooms and read ag-based books to the students. They then leave gifts, provided by sponsors in the ag industry, so the kids can take some ag lessons home to share what they learned with their families, Kientopf said.
On Thursday, the chapter will be hosting their animal nursery, where local day cares and elementary students can come see animals, anything from llamas, mini donkeys, calves and mini ponies, Kientopf said.
“Our elementary, they ask about our animal nursery every year, the first day of school,” Kientopf said. “We always have a really good turnout. We have elementary teachers that are looking forward to us coming and sharing different things and content in the classroom.”
They will wrap up their week on Sunday with a drive-thru, carry-out community appreciation breakfast. The breakfast is free, but they will be accepting free-will donations.
“We really wanted the time to tell everyone in our community thank you for their support, whether it was through their time, monetary or just their continuous support for our chapter,” Kientopf said.
Kientopf said so far, their events have been going really well.
Every year, their chapter members look forward to National FFA week, Kientopf said.
“Between this and like state convention time, it’s probably two of their favorite times of the year,” Kientopf said. “I think some of it is probably because they get to get out of class, but they also get to work with a wide range of people.”
The members put a lot of preparation into the event, from staying late at night to setting up for the petting zoo. Last year, kids even came in on their own time during the weekends, nights and days off of school, Kientopf said. For the petting zoo, members built their own livestock panels.
“The kids take a lot of pride into it and have a lot of fun,” Kientopf said.
The Garretson FFA chapter has about 53 members, which is a good average for them, Kientopf said.
Kientopf herself was a graduate of the Garretson FFA program. She then went to SDSU before returning to Garretson, where she has been teaching agriculture for five years.
“Agriculture is part of our live,” Kientopf said. “If we didn’t have agriculture, really, we wouldn’t have a purpose and we wouldn’t really be here. It starts from the soil that’s in our ground to the food we put on our tables and the clothes we wear. So everyone, whether we realize it or want to recognize it, agriculture is a substantial industry in our lives and we just really need to make sure to get that information out so everyone understands and knows where the stuff is really coming from and the work and the amount of effort it takes behind it to get it from the farm to the stores and to our dinner tables.”
Gerri Ann Eide, Executive Director of the South Dakota FFA Foundation, expanded on some of the other events happening throughout the state.
She said some chapters are doing businessmen’s breakfasts. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and Sioux Valley Electric hosted a virtual conference connecting industry leaders with FFA members, Eide said. Some chapters are holding fundraisers and events to help communities in need. On Tuesday, FFA state officers were at the state capitol to advocate for agriculture.
“Feedback from advisors and alumni has been very positive. We have had very active social media activities and it’s been a great opportunity just to connect past members with current members to share what’s happening in the ag industry and a lot of excitement about just connecting again,” Eide said.
Chapters have been doing things a little differently this year with social distancing, not only for FFA week but also throughout the whole year, Eide said.
Eide said it is important for FFA members to educate the community because everyone, no matter of career or interests, relies on agriculture for clothing and food, which are all products from agriculture.
“FFA and agriculture education provide an opportunity to educate them as future producers, future agronomists, future food scientists, future florists, future nursery landscapers, and to understand the industry and most importantly, as consumers to understand how their food is produced, what’s safe, what to look for at the grocery store for a quality meat product or quality product, and to understand the practices that go into it so that they can make informed decisions,” Eide said.
FFA and agriculture education not only teach these things, but they also teach members how to advocate for agriculture, Eide said.
Eide said they would like to stress a thank you to the agricultural industry who has supported FFA.
“Certainly our ag teachers are the backbone and our members, but without the industry setting up and supporting us, the South Dakota FFA Foundation, none of it would be possible for us to provide to our members,” Eide said.