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PEM FFA earns three stars

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 11/22/2013 11:34 AM

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PLAINVIEW, Minn. — For the first time in its 80-year history, the Plainview-Elgin-Millville FFA is a three-star chapter.

Only 280 of the nation's 7,500 chapters receive the National Chapter three-star award, said PEM FFA adviser and agricultural education teacher Steve Hinrichs. The award ranks the PEM FFA among the nation's top 3 percent of chapters.

The chapter will receive the award at the 86th annual National FFA Convention, held Oct. 30 through Nov. 2 at Louisville.

The award recognizes the chapter's Program of Activities, which includes a series of activities designed to encourage members to grow as individuals, to work as part of a team and to serve others.

In order to qualify, a chapter must complete at least 15 activities, one for each of the five quality standards in three divisions: Community Development, Chapter Development and Student Development.

The PEM chapter submitted an extensive 18 page application. The application, written primarily by 2013 graduates Caroline Rother and Becky Duden, is heavy on goals and results. The duo worked on the application over two to three years, Hinrichs said.

The application details three projects in each division, including photographs, an activity description, plan of action and results.

In the Community Development Division, the chapter's efforts to establish a community prairie park are outlined.

The chapter has worked for more than six years to establish the half-acre park, Hinrichs said. They planted Indian grass, little and big bluestem, switch grass, side oats grama, Canada wild rye, black-eyed Susan, hoary vervain, yellow coneflower, wild bergamot and common ox-eye.

They have placed wood duck and other bird houses in the park, said Macey Betcher, a PEM junior and chapter reporter.

Another task is mowing trails, Hinrichs said.

The prairie is located next to the school's track and chapter president PJ Aarsvold said he runs by there daily. He has seen deer and turkey near the prairie park.

A second community development activity was the chapter's ag issues presentations. The chapter put together an Agricultural Issues Team in early 2012 and the team went on to give several presentations in the community and to win the state contest. Their topic was silaca sand mining.

Winning the state contest was a first for PEM, Aarsvold said, and it inspired the chapter members that they, too, could win and compete at nationals.

The third community development event is the annual National Agriculture Day celebration, which includes a petting zoo and educational information.

The event has been held since 2006, Hinrichs said.

It's easy to see this is among the students' favorite events of the year.

Setting up for the celebration includes contacting people to bring animals in and inviting owners in to stay by their animal and answer questions.

They've had alpacas, donkeys, ponies, goats, calves and puppies, Betcher said.

In the chapter development area, they have a 16-acre crop plot, host a junior high agriculture challenge and put up a landscape booth at the Minnesota State Fair.

The 16-acre plot became was planted to soybeans this year because of the cold, wet spring, said junior McKayla Wingert, the chapter secretary.

Students help with harvest and planting, vacuuming the planter between varieties, said Brittany Smith, a junior.

They have eight to 15 varieties in the plot each year and yield checks are done at harvest, Hinrichs said.

The junior high agriculture challenge continues to grow. In 2012, 71 PEM students participated plus students from eight other chapters in the region for a total of 254 students.

Sara Rother, a sophomore, remembers participating in the challenge when she was in junior high.

The event offers a sampling of the opportunities available in FFA. It has grown each year.

Aarsvold said 20 to 30 FFA members staff the event and help with contests, tabulate scores or serving food.

PEM FFA has designed a landscape booth in the Ag Hort Building at the Minnesota State Fair since 2005, Hinrichs said.

Each year, the theme is different, but it stretches students to learn about horticulture. The committee meets over the summer to plan the booth and sets it up the day before the fair opens. Members who show livestock make sure to water plants during the fair's 12-day run.

In the student development area, the PEM FFA does an officer retreat, an ag safety day and a career and tech night.

The Career and Tech Night is planned in conjunction with high school conferences. Colleges, universities and tech schools come to PEM and students from neighboring schools are also invited. In 2012, 130 students came through the career and tech fair and 31 colleges, businesses and technical schools had booths.

The Ag Safety Day is held at the middle school in Elgin.

They introduce the idea of agriculture in the community through this program geared to fifth graders, Wingert said.

It's part of their plan to keep FFA in front of students of all ages, Aarsvold said.

He's never heard anyone say they regretted being in FFA.

The PEM officer retreat is organized to give the officers an opportunity to work on plan for the upcoming year.

On this list for the upcoming year: Continue to strive to provide opportunities for students to Learn to Do, Do to Learn, Earn to Live and Live to Serve.