FFA Inside te Emblem: Neillsville

70 members Neillsville, Wisconsin Clark County

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Tell us about your chapter. We are a seventh grade through post-secondary FFA chapter with a strong focus on classroom instruction, community service and leadership opportunities. Students are first exposed to agriculture education in the seventh grade, when each student goes through a class rotation that includes one quarter of a class called Ag 7. We also have seven agriculture course offerings for high school students. Outside of the classroom, we attend leadership conferences, compete in contests, volunteer in our community and participate in the Clark County Fair.

How does your chapter volunteer in the community throughout the year? We are active in our community with a variety of events. Each year, we put on an educational children’s area at the Neillsville Dairy Breakfast. In May, our FFA puts on the Food for America field trip for Neillsville fourth graders. The members serve as tour guides on an afternoon field trip to Byrne Dairy Farm, who has hosted the event for almost 15 years. Each December, we spend a Saturday bringing Christmas gifts to local farmers. This school year, we have been making monthly visits to a retirement home to put on a different activity each month. This has been a highlight, not only for the retirement home residents. Some of our FFA members can’t wait to sign up because they enjoy it just as much.

What fundraisers does your chapter do throughout the year? Our chapter runs concessions for all home football games so we are pretty busy in the fall. We also host a fruit sale in which the fruit is delivered in early December. This is always successful as it is right before Christmas and many community members purchase fruit to give as gifts. New this year, we will be trying our hand at a plant sale in our school greenhouse. The horticulture class has started a majority of the plants from seed, and we recently planted the plugs for our hanging baskets.

What are the biggest events of the year? The community service events and Career Development Events and Leadership Development Events are our most attended events. Neillsville is fortunate to have students who love to give back. Whether it be trick-or-treating for canned goods, doing roadside clean up, monthly visits to the retirement home or involving younger kids in activities we have in the school, members try to give back and reach out. The speaking contest LDE and judging contest CDE involvement has skyrocketed this year. Members are truly putting in so much time and effort to their events, gaining confidence in themselves and their team, and representing our chapter well at events.

What is unique about your chapter? Since the 1970s, the Neillsville agriculture teachers and FFA advisers have been Neillsville High School graduates. Herman Seebandt and Terry Sischo (both graduates of Neillsville) were hired in the 1970s as instructors and FFA advisers. They taught Amy Gerhardt, who came back to be the instructor and FFA adviser in 2004. Gerhardt taught Carla Byrne, who is the current agriculture instructor and FFA adviser. It is neat to see teachers having their own students come back to the school they graduated from to take their positions and continue to make a positive difference in the lives of students.

When was your chapter founded, and how has it evolved? The Neillsville FFA Chapter was founded in 1930 with 31 members, all male. In that time, there has only been 10 agriculture teachers in Neillsville. Today, we sit at about 70 members, both male and female, and the department is managed by one instructor.

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