There were all kinds of surprises at the 88th Annual State FFA Convention this week – including the amount of interest being expressed in starting new agriculture education programs in largely urban areas.
Every year, the Wisconsin FFA and Department of Public Instruction, invite school administrators to join them at the convention and get a better feel of what today’s FFA is all about. Union Grove School District is one of those that attended.
Al Mollerskov, superintendent at Union Grove, says he wanted to start an FFA chapter years ago, but was told that 4-H was stronger and filled that need. However, as time went on and Mollerskov learned more about the diversity of the FFA membership and programs, he became even more convinced that the program would fit well with his students.
During the State FFA Convention this week, Mollerskov and his principle, Tom Hermann, visited with other schools about their curriculum and chapter activities. It all inspired new ideas on where they want to take their program. “I went to hear some national FFA officers that were visiting the JI Case facility in Racine,” Mollerskov says. “They stressed that today about 65% of FFA members don’t come from a farm background!” That message resonated with Mollerskov, and it’s one he shares with parents and school board members in Union Grove.
Commitment is so strong for restarting ag education in Union Grove that they’ve secured 14 acres of land adjacent to the school for possible agriculture development – and have even secured an agriculture education teacher, before the first lesson plan’s even been approved. Mollerskov says they want to be thoughtful and well planned at every phase of this project. He says they’ll go to referendum this fall to get approval on some of the upgrades they want before the program fully begins – all with no additional tax pressure on the district. He says the biggest challenge may be changing voters perspective on what agriculture education and the FFA today really are. “Some people will say ‘well that’s for farmers’ – when in reality it’s for all of our students”.