Tye River and Rockfish River elementary schoolers recently enjoyed a variety of agriculture and education activities thanks to the Nelson County High School FFA chapter. Fourth graders from eight classes met farm animals, planted tomatoes and made their own butter and cups stations of edible soil at organized and taught by FFA students.
At the livestock station, FFA students Houston Bryant and Daniel Campbell showed hogs, sheep, cattle and chickens to fourth graders eager to pet a hen’s downy feathers and answer Bryant’s questions about what cuts of chicken they eat.
At the Farm Equipment Safety station, Chris Bryant of James River Equipment represented the farming vehicles he loaned to the chapter for the event. Chris Bryant said he partnered with the chapter because it’s important to educate a new generation of farmers about the equipment they’re going to be using.
“Equipment is such an important part of agriculture,” Lily Folley said.
Folley is an FFA senior student at NCHS. She said helping lead the “build a burger” station at the FFA’s last Food for America event inspired her interest in agriculture education. Folley will attend Virginia Tech in the fall and plans to major in elementary education.
People are also reading…
She explained the purpose of the Food for America event is to educate younger students about where food comes from while advocating for farmers.
“A lot of people underestimate farmers and what they do,” she said.
Folley and junior FFA student Sydney Ellis were members of a committee that planned the April 1 event. Ellis said FFA students had been organizing since early February and borrowed some station ideas from the chapter’s last Food for America event but updated them for today’s elementary schoolers.
NCHS Agricultural Science teacher and FFA advisor Cole Ramsey explained Food for America is a national curriculum and program.
“Our kids have taken the idea and the formatting of it and made it their own,” he said.
FFA stands for Future Farmers of America, but Ramsey said most of his students don’t graduate directly into a farming career. Instead many enter the workforce in industries related to agriculture or pursue-related degrees such agricultural or environmental science and agricultural business.
“Our students leave with a skill set. Whether they go into nursing or whether they go into business or other careers not related to agriculture, they’re leading with that set of leadership skills: event planning, how to run a meeting and how to speak in front of people,” Ramsey said .
Ramsey has taught agriculture production at NCHS for five years. Farming and education run in the family: Ramsey was raised on a cattle farm, his father was an agriculture teacher and said he’s been involved in FFA “pretty much from birth,” showing sheep, cattle and pigs and livestock shows.
Ramsey said his classes are “so experiential.” In NCHS agriculture and horticulture classes, students learn how to start and tend a plant, harvest a crop and raise sheep and pigs.
“We have four ewes and a ram. The students manage that whole flock as part of their classes, everything from shots and vaccines to feeding to marketing the lambs when they’re done. They handle it all,” he said.
Ramsey was proud of his students on April 1, but his pride extends throughout the school year.
“I teach the best students at Nelson County High School, hands down, and I tell anybody that,” Ramsey said. “It’s a sign over my door in my classroom. The group of kids that we have to work with, they come in as great kids and they leave as great leaders.”
Ramsey said he will work with the same group of students from middle school up through graduation through FFA and his classes.
“It’s like a family that’s not your family. It’s one backbone thing that will never change. You always have those people to back you up,” Ellis said of FFA.
She’s interested in either pursuing agricultural education or welding when she graduates.
“I want to be able to do that for other kids in the future,” she said.