Students give ‘ag’ real meaning

FAIRMONT – “Does anyone know what agriculture is?”

It seemed like a simple question, but when Fairmont Area Schools teacher Heidi Luhmann asked it of her third-grade social studies students, they were stumped.

“Only one or two raised their hands,” she said.

The students were studying types of communities. They had learned they lived in a rural community, and agriculture was listed as a key study word. But the kids didn’t know what it meant.

“Even though they live in an agricultural community, it is not their life,” she said. “Very few of the kids live on a farm.”

Luhmann decided to enlist some help. She contacted Ag Academy instructor Amber Seibert at Fairmont High School. Seibert organized a lesson for all six sections of third-graders, coinciding with National FFA Week.

FFA is an organization devoted to developing leaders in the ag community. This is Fairmont High School’s first year participating in FFA. Students must be enrolled in at least one agriculture class in order to be in FFA. Fairmont began offering ag classes in September.

Seibert has between 90 and 120 FFA members but their level of involvement varies. Members participate in contests and activities throughout the year.

For the third-graders, Seibert had her FFA officers teach students differing aspects of farming – animal agriculture, crop farming, dairy farming and general ag information.

The officers asked the third-graders to think about a pizza, then went on to explain how agriculture produced all the items necessary to make one. The kids did a craft project connecting the pepperoni to pork, the crust to wheat, and cheese to the dairy industry.

“I hope they come out of it understanding what ag is,” Luhmann said. “To get a better understanding and maybe spark some interest in FFA or 4-H.”

Seibert said Ag Academy and FFA have been successful in their first year, but there is a bit of myth-busting to be done.

“Something we struggle with is not everyone in FFA grew up on a farm,” she said. “There is a place in agriculture for everyone.”

While a majority of her students have some connection to a farm, there are students involved who live in town and are simply interested in the industry.

National FFA Week is being celebrated at the school this week through a series of dress-up days and activities, culminating with a pancake breakfast Saturday morning for FFA students, their families and the sponsors of Ag Academy.

On Tuesday, students were encouraged to dress up as their favorite farm animal, or to wear camouflage clothing. Today is dress like a farmer day. On Thursday, students are asked to declare their favorite tractor brand by wearing red or green clothes. On Friday, FFA students will don their FFA jackets or T-shirts.