In honor of both National FFA Week and the upcoming celebration of a 90-year anniversary, Brentwood members are encouraging their local community to get involved and support the program.
Liberty High School holds the last Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter in all of Contra Costa County, offering automatic membership to those students who enroll in the agricultural elective. But even as the last of its kind in the area, the program itself is growing in capacity, bringing in students — many who have never set foot on a farm — and teaching them fundamentals of ag science and business, in addition to giving them conference, public speaking and fair experiences.
“We’re in a growing phase right now, which is really cool,” said Liberty FFA teacher Nina Ferretti, who noted the program has grown to include two teachers (herself and Angie Bottarini).
Student leadership members, Sarah McGary, Colton Huelsmann and Jared de Fremery have all participated in Liberty’s FFA each year of high school. As they wrap up their senior year, they all agreed the program has added value to their lives.
“I think the reason it’s growing is because of the reputation that the FFA has,” said de Fremery, whose farming family first founded the Brentwood FFA. “For career readiness, there’s no other pathway that truly gears kids toward the workforce and gives them the skills to be successful.”
Ferretti expanded on the three-ring model for FFA, including: agricultural education in a classroom setting; youth leadership; and a supervised ag experience (SAE) project, which the students work on all year in their chosen area of interest. By the end of the school year, students completing SAE projects will have either conducted a self-study, working with animals or agriculture; taken on a work-study experience, shadowing professionals in the industry; or completed an agri-science project, similar to a science project with an ag focus.
“FFA has prepared me for life,” said McGary, whose SAE is a breeding project, selling young animals to other FFA and 4-H students, who then go on to show at fair. “I now know how to speak in public. I’m able to speak to people, and I actually want to be an ag teacher, so this was a good opportunity for me.”
In celebration of National FFA Week, Feb. 22-29, the student members of Liberty High School’s FFA chapter have been hard at work getting fellow students more involved with agriculture. Through hands-on activities held on the quad during lunch and after-school, they’ve connected each game — egg relay races, horseshoe tosses and cornhole, among others — to agriculture, in hopes of generating more interest.
The chapter is also in constant fundraising mode, hosting barbecues where customers can receive food pickups. They’ve been selling squares for cow chip bingo, a game wherein the lucky winner’s square is the one on which the cow relieves itself. Donkey basketball is slated for March 3, at 7 p.m., in the old Liberty gym. And they also hope to launch a Kiss the Pig fundraiser, which encourages students to raise money in a jar in their teachers’ classrooms. The teacher with the most funds raised will have to kiss a farm animal.
But to celebrate 90 years as a chapter, the FFA members are putting together a special banquet event, set to take place in May at the Brentwood Community Center. They hope to get former FFA members to attend and hang their coats on the chair backs in display of that ongoing legacy.
In the coming years, Ferretti hopes to continue improving the Liberty campus farm to make it easier for students to work. And her personal goal is to improve agricultural literacy in the East County area and provide the community with a better understanding of what FFA is and what it can do for kids.
“Once FFA touches you, it never leaves you,” said Ferretti, who was also once an FFA student. “It’s part of you forever.”
For more information on the Liberty FFA and upcoming events, visit bit.ly/2T2o0W7.