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Community supports Fairmont ag education in big way

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 04/11/2013 9:03 AM

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FAIRMONT, Minn. — Amber Seibert says starting an agricultural education program from scratch can be overwhelming -- but before that thought is completely out of her mouth, she says what a unique opportunity she has to build a program from the ground up.

The 2010 University of Minnesota graduate moved to Fairmont in summer 2012 to start an agricultural education and FFA program. The school district last offered an FFA and agricultural education program in the 1980s.

Fairmont FFA president Levi Becker mentioned this absence during his presentation on the FFA Creed last week. Becker's grandfather was the school's FFA president, but his father wasn't in FFA because it wasn't offered.

Now, the community has come forward in a big way to ensure students have opportunities in FFA and agricultural education.

"The community has raised over $300,000 to fund this program for at least three years," Seibert said. It's rewarding to work with a community that really cares about their students and their program, she added.

The school district provides a room and buys some laboratory supplies.

The agricultural education room is a former preschool room with cubbies sized for preschool children, windows and a door to the outside. It's one of the few rooms in the school with windows and its own exit, Seibert said, which is great for her outdoor learning classes. It's between the two family and consumer science classrooms, with sewing machines on one side and stoves on the other.

The stoves will be used on Saturday when the FFA hosts a community appreciation breakfast, one of the activities of FFA Week.

In an exploring agriculture class last week, Seibert reviewed the planned FFA Week activities. There will be dress up days and perhaps an ag olympics. FFA is the happiest week of the year, Seibert tells her students.

A debate erupts in the classroom of ninth through 12th graders when Thursday's dress theme is announced: It's wear your favorite tractor color day.

Becker says FFA Week will be like a second homecoming week at Fairmont High School.

Planning continued last week as they discussed having ag olympics on Friday and who needed to do what and bring what for the appreciation breakfast.

They turned to their peers at other schools, Seibert and each other to plan the school's first FFA Week in more than 25 years, said Emily Wegener, a senior and chapter secretary.

The FFA chapter has 30 to 40 active members and about 100 students enrolled in classes. Course offerings include animal science, small animals, landscape, ag leadership and exploring agriculture.

All her classes are open to students in grades nine through 12, Seibert said.

One day last week, she moved from guiding students as they began researching an animal to listening to students in another class report on what the FFA Creed means.

Senior Christian Petschke works on a hog farm and is taking several agriculture classes. He plans to do the Agriculture Issues Career Development Event and is now considering a minor in agriculture to compliment his human resources management major.

Fairmont has one team qualified for state competition. The General Livestock team of Mariah Thate, Courtney Whitmore, Levi Becker, Luke Becker and Jacob Portz will compete at the Minnesota State FFA Convention. Five other teams have also competed.

Seibert's goals for next year are to have three to five teams qualify for state competition, offer events throughout the year, have a solid number of students in each class and begin work on proficiencies.

"It's fun to have a community that's passionate about what I'm passionate about," Seibert said, before stepping out to speak with her in-school mentor, the shop teacher, and head to a faculty meeting.