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National FFA Week: Getting Creative

Hands on experiences are crucial for the Future Farmers of America, but the last year has seen the organization make drastic changes to remain effective.

Members have had to learn from a distance, wear masks in person and find ways to keep students focused during Zoom meetings.

Kim Schechinger, an advisor of Austin’s FFA Chapter, said they were able to start going person to person in late October, but there are still a lot of limitations. FFA members were able to do a virtual day on the farm for third graders and they were able to work on projects on crops, animals and machinery.

“We thought of creative ways where we can still be together working on a project when we can’t be face to face,” Schechinger said. “These kids have worked a lot on our own.”

One of the better days in the last year for Austin’s FFA was the Feed the Farmer event, which drew every member of the chapter on a day they didn’t have to be in school. Everything was done on time and the energy level was high.

Nick Schiltz, an Agriculture Education teacher, and an Austin FFA advisor, said that day was a highlight in what’s been a bittersweet year.

“We’ve been pretty lucky this year to have some opportunities. When the year began a lot of kids were still on edge with COVID fatigue,” Schiltz said. “Our one saving grace is that our students have been very motivated to learn. We’ve been pretty blessed with some great students, parents and volunteers. A lot of this is beyond our control, but we can control our actions.”

Smaller communities have also had to make big adjustments due to the pandemic. LeRoy-Ostrander Agriculture Instructor and FFA advisor Tiffany Timm said she has done whatever she can to keep things going, while also being safe.

“It’s all about change and modification,” Timm said. “When you get lemons, you try to make sweet lemonade and we’re trying to do that.”

The LeRoy FFA held a masked corn drive that raised funds for Camp Courage and a local civic organization and its fruit sale was one of the most successful ones they have had in years. Both events were held with masks, social distancing and limited contact.

“So many people want to support the kids and we’ve had to do things without contact,” Timm said. “We now run our meetings on a hybrid basis, with different kids coming in on different days. A lot of stuff happens over Google classroom.”

The LeRoy FFA has also given back to the community by removing snow and delivering care packages to a family that is struggling with a medical issue and they also wrote up Valentine’s cards for residents at Wildwood Grove, an assisted living facility.

The group also continues to maintain its three mile stretch for the adopt a highway program and it will be able to participate in the Polar Plunge in Rochester.

“It throws a whole new wrench at you. We want to do everything we can to keep our kids safe, but we also want them to still have opportunity and a chance to do those events,” Timm said. “The list is huge for ideas for next year.”

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