FFA Programs in Catawba County Rebuilding After 2 Difficult Years During Pandemic | Local News

Three Catawba County high schools are working to rebuild their Future Farmers of America programs after losing two years of events and activities to the pandemic.

Bandys High School’s FFA counselor Shannon Vanhoy spoke about their growing year at the FFA Year-End BBQ. She said it felt like they were starting a new program as many of the 225 students currently in the program have never participated in an agricultural day or any of the FFA team competitions before. this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program was able to host the annual Agriculture Day in April after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic. Farm Day is important to the Bandys community as it gives approximately 1,200 students from Bandys and surrounding schools a chance to meet and learn about locally raised farm plants and animals. This includes animals raised on the school campus.

The FFA program at St. Stephens High School increased its membership this year from 65 to 107 students. The school used fundraising and donations to become an affiliate program, which makes every agriculture student a member of the FFA.

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“It was a great opportunity because previously students had to pay a fee to join the FFA and now every student who is in an agriculture class can enjoy the benefits of being in our organization,” said Alice Hartley, Advisor St. Stephens FFA.

Hartley says the program hopes to have a show team of chickens to eventually show off their silkies, a breed with hair-like feathers. The program has already received a grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund to have a poultry team and breeding program.

Bunker Hill High School had a strong FFA program in place before the pandemic, but COVID-19 protocol forced the FFA to hold only virtual events, which counselor Shaun Davis said was not of interest to most students.

“We and our students lost our breath. Currently, we are now in the process of rebuilding,” Davis said. He said one exception was the program’s hunter safety team.

Bunker Hill and Bandys High School hunter safety teams ranked first in the district competition this year and qualified for the state competition.

Bunker Hill placed third in the district competition, which was their best finish in at least a decade. The school also had one student individually qualified for the state competition.

The gold team from Bandys High School took first place in the district, while the two junior teams from Mill Creek Middle School placed first and second. The teams qualified for the state competition and Bandys gold team placed 17th overall. The Mill Creek gold team placed 12th and the green team 26th.

At Bandys High School, members of the FFA program make up a quarter of the student body. To be a member of the program, students must take the school’s agriculture courses.

The school’s FFA program offers students the opportunity to participate in the Livestock Show Team, where students can show off beef heifers that are loaned to the program by area producers, Laura Parker said. , advisor to Bandys FFA. Students can also compete in the areas of hunter safety, food science, job interviewing, milk quality, agronomy, and meat evaluation. Some years the teams change based on student interest, Vanhoy said.

The program also hosts three greenhouse plant sales each year that feature different plants depending on the season. Horticulture students work hard to ensure the greenhouse is stocked with plants that the community can purchase to support the school’s FFA program.

Bandys High School FFA 2021-22 officers Jason Dagenhart, who was part of the hunter safety team, and Colby Blackburn, who was part of the cattle show team and the hunter safety team, said the program gave them the opportunity to make friends and go on many fun trips.