Northeast Dubois High School junior Jaxen Sermersheim smells the smoke from senior Gavyn Gogel’s Ford 9700 tractor as Gavyn and juniors Beau Linne and Matthew Qualkenbush watch at the school in Dubois on Feb. 24. “It smelt good,” Jaxen said. “You gotta love the smell of diesel.” Northeast Dubois’ FFA chapter tractor show judged the students’ tractors in 12 categories, including smokiest.
Agriculture fairs brought Northeast Dubois high schoolers into the corporation’s elementaries for afternoons of learning. FFA members showed the kids how to shear sheep with shaving cream and a plastic spoon; taught them how to plant seeds using plastic foam cups; and even let them milk an artificial cow, whose utters were made of rubber tubes.
“We live in a rural area, and so they’re either on a farm, or they’re surrounded by farms,” said Celestine Elementary fourth-grade teacher Christine Betz. “So it’s good for them to understand about their farm and their neighbors ... and then hopefully it might interest them [in] careers that would go into an [agricultural] career.”
Jasper High School juniors Kate Stenftenagel, Hannah Schwenk and Ella Goeppner discuss what the tell the elementary school students when they arrive for the chapter's petting zoo at the high school on Feb. 25. Kate is the chapter's student advisor, Hannah is the vice president and Ella is the secretary.
Shortly before Hailey arrived at the Northeast Dubois petting zoo, two staff members were nominated to lock lips with a piglet in front of crowds of onlooking students as part of a fundraiser for the school’s FFA. Athletic Director Terry Friedman was one of the lucky kissers.
“All I can say is, the pig had very good hygiene,” he joked after the smooch. “And it seemed to have a really clean snout. So it wasn’t quite as traumatic as I thought the experience would be.”
Dodgeball teams from across the region converged in one of Heritage Hills’ gymnasiums for an epic tournament that pitted area FFA chapters against each other and brought them together. Sunflower seeds also shot through the air during the school’s annual spitting competition.
Heritage Hills High School sophomore Greg Steprow competes in the sunflower seed spitting contest during lunch at the school in Lincoln City on Feb. 28. “I just spit like I always do with sunflower seeds,” Greg said. He won a gift card for spitting the farthest — nearly 27 feet.
That group’s advisor, Paul Steinmetz, explained that FFA has morphed in line with agricultural trends and technology over the years. Fewer and fewer students are what he referred to as “traditional farm kids,” or those who call farms home. Still, the organization finds ways to connect them to the industry.
In short, farmers are definitely necessary. But so are many, many others in the field.
“We also need plant geneticists to make the next crop of GMO crops to be able to help feed people,” Steinmetz explained as dodgeballs whizzed around him. “We need engineers to design the new equipment. We need food scientists to change the raw food product into something consumers can use. You could just go down the list.”