By Sam Paul
On August 29, 1929, 23 Muscatine High School boys signed on make Muscatine FFA the second chartered FFA chapter in Iowa. Through the years many things have changed and the numbers have grown, but some principles have remained the same.
Agricultural education teaches students about agriculture, food, and natural resources. Through these subjects, agricultural educators teach students a wide variety of skills, including science, math, communications, leadership, management, and technology.
Agricultural education is delivered through three interconnected components: classroom or laboratory instruction; experiential learning, or learning experiences that usually take place outside of the classroom, supervised by the agriculture instructor; and leadership education, which is delivered through student organizations such as the National FFA Organization, the National Young Farmer Education Association, National Postsecondary Agricultural Student Organization, and others.
The Muscatine FFA Chapter is now the oldest existing chapter in Iowa. It has built up strength over the years to become one of the largest chapters in the state and has the highest enrollments in agriculture education in Iowa.
Through community, school leadership, and business support, the Agriculture program, which began with 23 students in 1929, has seen lots of growth over the years. This year there were 391 student requests for Agriculture classes at the high school and over 350 students are enrolled in classes.
With growing enrollment in the program, Muscatine FFA now has three full-time instructors at the high school: Dave Tometich, Sam Paul, and Josh Day. Every year, between 200 and 300 students are active in FFA. Seven years ago, a middle school course was offered to 8th graders. Since then it has expanded to include all middle school grades and the program has a teacher, Ashley Weibe, at Central or West Middle School all day long. Overall, this year over 600 middle school students will be enrolled in an Agriculture exploratory course.
As we get to the fourth quarter and enter summer, there are a number of upcoming events, including the Parent Member Banquet April 12, Day of Caring, Ag Safety Day, State Convention, Monsanto Trip, Kiddie Barnyard, Bee Release, and the World Food Prize. In addition, the chapter will compete in a number of career development events including Ag sales, poultry, horse, nursery, floriculture, Ag mechanics, meats, and livestock evaluation in the coming months. The chapter has about 70 students who will attend either the Muscatine County or Iowa State Fair and exhibit their projects.