Westfall FFA

Article written by Steven Collins and published in the Circleville Herald on November 17, 2023.

WILLIAMSPORT — For students at Westfall High School, participating in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) can mean more than a potential future career in agriculture, although it’s an easy pathway to take.

This year, 181 students at the high school are participating in the program.

Callen Logan and Karlie Gill, teachers in the program at Westfall, shared highlights of the program and what students in the program experience.

“I think we are such a successful program because our community works very well with us,” Logan said. “They take the time to figure out what they need as a community and work with us and we’re able to help provide things for them.”

One such example of how Westfall FFA met the community’s needs was by running the meeting the candidates’ night for the local school board race that concluded on Nov. 7.

“Our FFA decided to run an hour-long meeting where they introduced all the candidates and were able to ask them premade questions, and the community could write a question for those candidates,” Logan said.

Gill said the different activities they offer throughout the year drive students’ interest.

“We do small things at the school, like our first meeting, we had BBQ and games,” she said. “Those things kids are excited about and want to be a part of it.”

The FFA meets every two months, usually at least once per quarter, and partners with other schools to highlight the program.

Natalie Yates works with eighth-grade students as part of FFA recruitment.

“We do strawberry DNA extracting with eighth graders to get them involved and ready to come into ag the next year,” Logan said. “We also do elementary school literacy where we read books to the students and teach them a little bit about where their food comes from. That’s something we’re going to do around Thanksgiving...when they get to the high school level, they can see what we do and enjoy it.”

Some classes students can take during the school day include AG Physical Science, Ag Biology, Ag Business, Mechanical Principals, Animal Anatomy, Livestock Production, Greenhouse Management, and the Agronomic Systems capstone.

After the students’ first two years in the program, they can take any course they or regular science offers.

“They can take our anatomy and regular anatomy at the same time so they can decide if they want to go more the vet route or more doctor,” she said. “The difference in classes really gets them intrigued.”

While both Gill and Logan said they’re setting up students for careers in agriculture, there are correlations beyond that into non-ag or agriculture-adjacent fields.

“One of the core things if Ag education is them doing a supervised experience, which is them doing some kind of ag work, hopefully in agriculture,” Gill said. “They’ll get that experience working in a job. We have students that work on the family farm, we have students that work at like Starbucks and we have a student doing science fair. These are all things they’ll learn about in our courses and see if they want to expand on for a potential career as well.”

Logan said they have several students who know they aren’t going to be in an ag career but they’re still trying to set them up for success.

“They’re learning how to manage a credit card, how to balance a checkbook, what are you going to do when you have a mortgage,” she said. “That’s the goal. Would I love for all our students to go into agriculture, absolutely, it’s my passion. But our goal for the chapter is for them to be the best person they can be and set them up for as much success as can be.”

Anna Snyder, a junior at Westfall, shared she is part of a farming family and that’s why she joined FFA.

“I was excited to be able to learn more,” she said. “Freshman year you do a lot of basic stuff. Agronomy was one of the biggest things, doing plants in class. I got to do the career development event. I see that stuff in my everyday life and I wasn’t aware of how much of it I was actually around and that I knew what it was. I’m not an animal person so getting to know that basic stuff was good too.”

Snyder said she plans to pursue an ag career, she currently grows 20 acres of her own crops.

“Because I got introduced to agronomy, I want to be a full time farmer and part time agronomist and I want to sell seed,” she said.

Snyder encouraged her fellow students to join FFA.

“It’s a great thing to try, and if you don’t like it, you can always drop it after Freshman year,” she said. “It’s not just for ag kids either. There’s a lot of opportunities in it. I did job interviews in my freshman year, and there are a lot of things outside of it to offer. It’s a really good thing to experience.”

Gill and Logan said they want the community to know they can help the program by getting involved.

“Their support means everything to us,” Logan said. “If we’re doing something they like and they want to be a part of it, we want them to be involved as much as they want to be. We try to bring in outside speakers, so it’s not just us talking. Eventually, that becomes like a parent, and once they hear you talk, they don’t care. Bringing in those outside sources helps a lot. We’re open to bringing in people to speak about their job, their experience in FFA, or their careers.”

Logan said they also love new ideas and opinions on potential things they can do.

“We love listening to their ideas and what the community wants for the students,” she said. “We’re trying to meet the community’s goals as well as the goals for our students.”

Gill said the community does a great job of supporting the program, but still, there’s a lot they don’t see.

FFA Leadership (L-R) Reese Paudicz (Student Advisor), Kylie Nafzger (Sentinel), Mitchell Ruff (Treasurer), Natalie Yates (Vice President), Bryson Dudgeon (President), Anna Snyder (Secretary), Dalton Bush (Reporter), and Emma Dotson (Historian).

“Our officers and FFA members are really hard workers and I don’t think everyone gets to see how hard these kids are working,” she said.

“They come in during their lunches, study halls and before and after school,” Logan added. “We may not be out their winning all of our competitions yet but we just had a girl go to state. They’re not only working students, coming to school as full time students and they’re still taking the time to come in and compete. The amount of work they do is astonishing. We don’t do the heavy lifting, the kids do. We’re here to advise, the kids do it all.”

Looking ahead, Logan said they’re working with Pickaway-Ross to have the greenhouse skeleton put up by the end of the school year after receiving a grant in 2019. Logan said they’re also planning a community breakfast in April that will be a partnership with the other county schools.

“Next year, when we have our greenhouse course, we’ll be able to be an actual greenhouse, and there’s a wide variety of things to do there,” Logan said. “That’s the best thing about it; there’s a bunch of things the kids can decide to do. It’s something our community is most excited about because they are the ones that helped us write the grant to be able to do it.”