MASON COUNTY — As an organization Future Farmers of America is an integral part of the agriculture program at Mason County Career Center. Ag students are encouraged, and indeed expected, to be involved.
Students are also expected to be involved in the FFA’s annual fundraising fruit sale, which just ended for 2013; participation in the sale has always carried with it a two-fold benefit, said Rodney Wallbrown.
Wallbrown is now the West Virginia University extension agent for Mason County; previously he taught in the agriculture program at the career center. He said that from the very beginning the fruit sale was well-received in the local community.
“It’s the main fundraiser for the organization, for future farmers’ education, for educational trips and so forth,” Wallbrown said, “When we started [around 35 years ago] I thought we’d just be bothering people in the community. But I was 180 degrees wrong about that. They looked at it as an opportunity to buy good citrus fruit, and to help the local FFA chapter.”
The other benefit, Wallbrown said, is to do with building the characters and confidence of the students themselves.
“We need to realize that yes, it’s a good money-maker for the FFA, but as a vo-ag teacher you look at all parts of a program and this is an opportunity for students who are maybe a little backward to go out and learn to talk to people — to build business relationships.”
In the past, Wallbrown taught current teachers Sam Nibert, lead teacher at the center, and Tim Kidwell. Kidwell is an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, teaching in one of the three brances of ag education.
One of his areas of expertise is in farm equipment; he teaches students and potential farmers about maintenance and repair of their equipment. At the moment he and students from one of his classes are working on restoring an old tractor for a local farmer.
Kidwell said that he has worked on his own farm equipment for as long as he can remember. To a farmer, he said, this know-how is invaluable.
“Anytime you have to call someone to come and fix your tractors, or sharpen a blade, it’s expensive,” he said. “The more maintenance you can do yourself, the better.”
“Even something as seemingly small as lawnmower maintenance is important for the kids,” said Nibert. “Mr. Kidwell teaches a small engine class, which is very useful for the kids.”
The fruit sale, Kidwell added, is one of the major fundraisers for the local FFA, benefiting the chapter, and by extension, the students.
Student Danielle Fogelsong is the vice-president of the Mason County FFA, and like her peers is involved with the sale each year. She said that she and the other members are responsible for speaking to potential customers, taking and fulfilling orders, and handling money.
All important skills for students who wish to go into the agriculture business, or any business, Nibert commented.
Ag program offers three concentrations: plant program, animals, equipment
“There has been an overwhelming support from the community for the fruit-sale,” Nibert concluded. “We hope its success continues for years to come.”