BEAVER – With nearly 150 chapter members, the Pike County FFA at Eastern High School has grown from its approximately 80 members in 2014 to nearly 150 members today. The chapter was reinstated in 2014 when Emily Anderson began her tenure at Eastern as the middle/high school vocational agriculture teacher and FFA adviser.
As interest in FFA has fallen away, Anderson says there is a new push for FFA participation.
“Some schools are working to start FFA in the middle schools to build a program, but we were the first ones with a fully functional program,” Anderson says. “Interest and funding losses have contributed to the demise of some vocational programs. The push was to bring it back to the county because most of the surrounding counties have FFA chapters.”
Anderson grew up in Highland County and attended FFA in Lynchburg. She studied agricultural education at Wilmington College, and secured her position at Eastern after learning about it through the Ohio FFA online jobs list.
Eastern senior Cassidy Fremont loves the FFA program and comes from a long line of farmers. Her father and her grandpa are both dairy farmers. “I’m really big into agriculture,” Fremont says. “I grew up around it, so I love it. I actually thought about studying agricultural management, which is what my brother is majoring in right now, but I decided to go to OUC (Ohio University-Chillicothe) and major in health services, but I can always change my major.”
Jacy Bevins, also a senior, is a fan of the FFA program as he considers a career in agricultural engineering. “I do a lot of work outside of school on farms,” Bevins says. He bales hay, and last summer worked on his uncle’s cattle farm in Jackson County. Whichever career path he chooses, he will be involved in farming, he says.
The FFA program is open to 7th through 12th graders. During the chapter’s first year, Anderson recalls, the group built a raised garden bed and planted vegetables, which provided vegetables for students and faculty, which they picked themselves. The greenhouse is one of many activities that give students hands-on experience outside of the classroom.
The chapter added a barn on a nearby hill during the second year, and an exciting adventure developed when students began raising rabbits for Rural King in Waverly. Anderson says the rabbits are sold to the store, then the store sells them to its customers.
“They were so much fun to take care of,” Fremont says. Anderson adds, “Some of the students want to keep them and buy them, and some have been class pets.”
Careers in the FFA program at Eastern follow a natural resources pathway, Anderson says. “That can cover anything from forestry, turf management, greenhouse management, environmentalists and different types of solar energy. We also talk about the animal pathway, so that would include veterinarian, and anything to do with animals and ranchers.”
Additionally, plant science studies cover turfway grass, agronomy careers and agricultural education, such as teaching. Ag business is another career path, featuring greenhouse management, parks and recreation management class, and city and sidewalk landscaping. Some students, Anderson says, study tech programs, and “some want to work for Rural King, which is a big agricultural employer here in Pike County,” Anderson says. “That’s exciting.”
Each year, the class takes trips to two major events, the national and state FFA conventions. There is an officer team of eight that is elected by their classmates and they serve as the leadership board for the chapter.