IT IS ALWAYS exciting to have a new chapter established in the FFA, especially when it is one right here in Polk County! Winter Haven Christian School was founded in 1965, and it added a high school in 2013. This year, they introduced Agriculture as one of the academies for their high school students. I interviewed Mrs. Brandi Fountain, the agriculture instructor, to find out more about their new program.
ABBY: How long has your ag program been at your school, how many members are in your chapter, and how many students do you have in your classes?
FOUNTAIN: WHCS will have its first high school graduating class this year, and as part of our mission to provide an engaging, hands-on education, we recently began offering five different academies to the high schoolers — one of which is Agriculture. I have the opportunity to teach Agriscience Foundations with 11 students. All of them are enrolled in FFA and are active participants. We competed in Opening and Closing Ceremonies, FFA Creed Contest, and will have many more FFA events before the school year is over. Several students will be showing animals in the Polk County Youth Fair (everything from market hogs to rabbits, and beef cows). We will also be participating in the judging contest and many different exhibits in the Stuart Building. So far this year, we have been putting in irrigation, planting 500 strawberry plants, and several box gardens. None of this would have been possible without the help of our many volunteers and sponsors. Our goals for this school year are to get the materials to fence our pasture, build rabbit and chicken pens for show animals, put in a few rows of blueberry plants, and a vegetable garden.
ABBY: What are some things you’re doing to get more students involved?
FOUNTAIN: WHCS is a K-12 school. We aim to expand our Agriculture Academy to our middle school students as well. I have been a substitute teacher in a few classrooms, which gives me the chance to give WHCS students fun facts about different things like rabbits and squirrels. The school also just had our Walk of Thanksgiving, and I brought in a few live turkeys to share and teach some fun facts about.
ABBY: How is your FFA chapter communicating with the community?
FOUNTAIN: The school sends out a newsletter once a week, which includes Agriculture Academy updates. We also have a Facebook page as well, called “Winter Haven Christian School Agriculture Academy.” You can view and request to join the group here: www.facebook.com/ groups/1041484732542694
ABBY: What else would you like to share about your FFA Chapter?
FOUNTAIN: “We have been working with local supporters to make a barn a reality on school property. The open arms from the faculty and community, as well as the enthusiasm of the students, is the reason our program is becoming such a success. As a newly chartered FFA Chapter, Winter Haven Christian FFA, we hope to be able to help our FFA members attend future leadership conferences. Some of our other long term goals include irrigation for the animals, a tool shed, tools (hammers, screw drivers, tape measures, wrenches, wheel barrow, etc.), woodworking tools, a shade house/green house, John Deere Gator, gardening supplies, and utility trailer. If you are cleaning out your garage, shed, or barn and have some materials that you would like to donate to our program, please contact us at (863) 294-4135. Any donation is helpful.
Giving back to your community is a great way to ensure it grows strong leaders for tomorrow, and with another FFA Chapter to add to the ranks in our region, we will no doubt see more leaders emerge right from our own backyards.
This month, while you are decorating your Christmas trees, make sure you thank a farmer for working a full year to ensure that you have the most beautiful and best-smelling tree ever! Merry Christmas, y’all!
article by by ABBY CRAWFORD
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Abby Crawford is currently enrolled at Warner University, majoring in Agriculture Studies with hopes to go into either the agriculture education or communications field. She is the former president of the Haines City High School FFA chapter as well as the voice behind 97 Country’s segment, “Ag Time with Abby,” which airs the first Friday of every month during the Breakfast Club with Roger and Melissa. Abby is also the 2014 Polk County Farm Bureau Youth Speech Contest Winner. For questions, FFA news, or FFA story ideas, email Abby at firstname.lastname@example.org.