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East Buchanan starts ag education and FFA program

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 04/11/2013 9:06 AM

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WINTHROP, Iowa —Not only is Brittney Zumbach a first-year teacher, she is building a new agriculture program at East Buchanan High School. The school serves students from Winthrop, Aurora and Quasqueton.

For East Buchanan senior Kendra Kehrli, the new ag program means she can take agriculture classes and belong to FFA at her own school rather than traveling to Oelwein.

"It's really nice to have an ag program here," Kehrli said.

Kehrli is chapter president and is taking plant science. Her family has a farrow to finish hog operation. Her supervised agricultural experience consists of hogs, cattle and sheep. She wants to study animal science with an emphasis on nutrition in college.

Freshmen Jordan Lentz, Jared Kelly and Nile White are pursuing their interests in agriculture as a part of their school day. They are in Zumbach's intro to agriculture class. White also takes animal science. Kelly is chapter secretary.

Lentz is interested in trapping and showing cattle for his SAE. Kelly is building an Angus cow herd. He currently has six cows and shows cattle at the Buchanan County fair. White is interested in horses and barrel racing for his SAE. He shows horses at the county, state and national level.

Parents, students and community members had asked for an agriculture program for several years. When a biology teacher resigned last year, it opened the door to start an agriculture program.

Zumbach was finishing her agricultural education degree at Iowa State University when the school announced it was seeking someone who could teach both agriculture and biology.

Zumbach, who grew up on a farm near Ryan and has a biology endorsement, found the perfect job.

East Buchanan FFA just received its FFA chapter charter in October. Zumbach worked with her students to write a constitution, a program of activities and file the papers.

Kelly said their blue corduroy FFA jackets arrived in January.

"It's pretty neat to see East Buchanan on the jackets," Zumbach said.

She has set up a Friends of FFA booster group, which meets once a month.

"They've been wonderfully supportive," Zumbach said.

Lentz said their intro to ag class has been selling healthy snacks three days a week at school. The chapter put on a pancake breakfast this fall and hosted a Sweetheart Dance in early February. Kehrli was crowned Sweetheart Queen, and Tyler Hoffman was crowned King.

During FFA Week, the chapter will compete in subdistricts for the first time. Kelly is on the Conduct of Meetings Team. A chapter member also is doing creed speaking.

For FFA Week, they are hiding toy farm animals around the school, Lentz said. Whoever finds the animal of the day wins a gift certificate. Chapter members will wear FFA T-shirts and blue and gold.

Zumbach is creating a new curriculum drawing on what has worked for colleagues as well as using online tools.

"I have tons of ideas," she said. "I'm applying for grants and talking to community members. We'd like to build a greenhouse."

Kelly said community members are pushing for a test plot. A farmer who has land near the school is interested in working with students.

Zumbach has 50 students in her ag classes. Everyone who takes an ag class can be a local FFA member. To participate in contests and events beyond the chapter level, students must become dues-paying members. She has 27 students who have paid dues.

"I think these numbers are very good considering that this is our first year and we have less than 200 students in our high school," Zumbach said. "I have immense support and wonderful kids in my classes."

Zumbach graduated from West Delaware High School in Manchester. She joined FFA when she was a junior.

"One of my professors said being a new teacher is like trying to fly an airplane while building it," said Zumbach. "Since I'm starting a new ag program, I'm also trying to explain what an airplane is while I'm trying to fly it and build it."