By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — It was a busy week for the Newkirk FFA chapter Feb 24-27. Members of the chapter were seen out in the community, doing service projects such as reading to elementary students and cleaning local parks. It was all part of the job for the hardworking students, who were proud to be out as they promoted community spirit while celebrating FFA Week, along with thousands of other FFA members across the United States.
Advisor Bailey Platt reflected on the importance of FFA following a special petting zoo with elementary students Feb. 28.
“I think it has something to offer everyone, if they are willing to try something new,” she said. Originally known as Future Farmers of America, the National FFA Association was first charted in 1927, with Oklahoma joining the organization in 1930. Newkirk High School organized their chapter that same year. Newkirk FFA is still going strong today, with 63 members for the current school year.
FFA historically has been geared more toward agriculture, with students learning skills in areas such as crop and livestock production and shop skills, but in more recent years, it has advanced to offer more activities that attract a more diverse membership. Newkirk activities include not just livestock shows, but also animal and land judging, skeet shooting, speech contests, volunteering with Special Olympics and attending state and national conventions and various leadership meetings and camps. There are plenty of lessons to be learned through such activities.
“I like that you get to meet a lot of people and make lifelong friends, and you learn life skills you’ll use forever,” said Colton Fagan. “I really enjoy showing livestock. It has taught me so much responsibility and discipline.”
National FFA Week is held every year at the end of February to recognize the efforts of the students and the learning opportunities offered through the organization. The Newkirk chapter participated in the event for 2020, the first time in several years.
“It’s the first time we’ve gotten to do anything for FFA Week because of the Kay County Junior Livestock Show,” Platt said.
They made up for that lost time, however, with numerous community service project across Newkirk.
Outside the FFA building at NHS Thursday afternoon, Feb. 27, a group of excited third graders was met with their own special petting zoo as FFA member displayed several animals in front of the screaming children, including goats and several hog projects. Even Platt’s furry canine companions were greeted with much fanfare.
Other service projects included cleaning area parks and reading to elementary school students, and a teacher’s breakfast March 2.
They also are planning a seventh grade recruitment event after spring break to bring FFA excitement to potential future members.
Many FFA members have a family legacy in Newkirk FFA, some through several generations. That includes the Huster family, which has boasted many members though the years. That tradition has been passed down to Dalley Huster, who has immersed herself in the program.
“I thought about giving it a try, and I have some family members in FFA, so it was kind of passed to me,” she said.
Huster has gained a keen interest in livestock shows, and currently has several projects, including lambs, goat and hogs, adding that she loves being around animals.
One of her family’s legacies, however isn’t just livestock, but also earning the State FFA Degree, formerly the State Farmer Degree, something several family members have already earned, including her mother. She also plans to reach that goal.
“It would be a good thing to earn the degree, because it would be one more Huster in the family doing it,” she said.
Ty Behara is one of the youngest members of the chapter, joining as an eighth grader, the earliest one can become a member. Like Fagan and Huster, he is drawn to the chapter’s livestock program.
“My brother (Lane Ramsey) showed, and I thought that it was one of the things I wanted to do,” he said, adding that he currently shows goats, and was excited that he made the premium sale at the Kay County Junior Livestock Show.
The students aren’t the only ones who take livestock show program seriously, as members of the Newkirk Go-Getters 4-H program also participate. Platt noted that 49 out of the 105 premium sale participants were from Newkirk, nearly half of all selections.
”Four were grand Champions, four were Reserve Grand Champion. Eight of the top 16 winners were Newkirk, which is a huge number, in my mind,” Platt said.
There are so many other areas that FFA influences its members outside of livestock shows, including the larger agriculture industry.
“It teaches you about livestock, farming, and I think it’s important because we always need farmers and ranchers,” said Sentinel Zayne Bagg, who is also receiving his State FFA Degree at the State Convention in April.
Some also have been influenced in career choices due to FFA. For one, Huster has an interest in the culinary arts, and likes to see both sides of the industry.
“I fell in love with cooking, and it involves animals, and it helps with FFA, to learn the meat parts you’re working with,” she said. “It helps both ways, so you appreciate it more.”
Beyond livestock and culinary arts, it is the life skills offered through FFA that makes it so appealing, lessons they can learn now that will serve them the rest of their lives.
“I think it’s important for kids to learn responsibility, to learn a good work ethic that they will need in their lives,” said Vice President Colson Willits.