FFA program contributes to County Fair’s success | CraigDailyPress.com

FFA program contributes to County Fair’s success

Different agricultural groups combine efforts to improve organizational, ranch-related skills

Jeff Swanson

For many participants in the Moffat County Fair, 4-H is the driving force behind learning the advanced organizational and social skills that are shown in the different events.

However, for a selected few, it isn’t the 4-H program that is the driving force, but a program offered through Moffat County High School (MCHS), which has helped to lead them to and prepare them for their success.

MCHS’s agriculture program gives students the tools necessary to become proficient in a variety of farming and ranching skills and is often overlooked with the high profile that the 4-H program has throughout the community.

The ag program, which is a by-product of Future Farmers of America (FFA), helps students learn about everything from gestation periods in animals to working with engines and welding.

“The programs [4-H and FFA] are very complementary to each other,” agriculture program instructor and FFA leader John Hadden said.

“They both teach the kids responsibility and have the same goal as far as developing good leadership skills.

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With the wide range of jobs that are now available that are ag-related, this is a great program to help kids advance with agricultural knowledge.”

Students can advance from the high school’s ag program into a variety of job fields. Production, ag science, natural resources, horticulture and ranching all offer hands-on experience.

4-H can also work as an introductory program for many who wish to advance their agriculturally-related knowledge to another level.

“4-H serves as a great feeder program for us,” Hadden said. “I’d say that the best kids that we see in the ag program have been in 4-H before they got into high school.”

Students can begin participating in 4-H when they are in third grade, while FFA and the ag program aren’t available until students enter ninth grade.

That allows students to focus more time and effort into learning the finer points of farm life.

“I would say that the ag program at the high school is more intensive than 4-H is because we are a school-oriented program, where they are run mainly by volunteers and their efforts,” Hadden said. “They do a great job with the kids with the time they have, but when you are at school, you constantly have someone there watching over, so I think that may make a bit of a difference.”

Although Hadden believes that most of the top FFA students come from the 4-H program, there are a few exceptions to the rule.

In particular is John Counts, who took home Grand Champion honors in market swine at the Moffat County Fair last week. Counts was never a member of 4-H, however, he believes the experiences he had through FFA helped him to develop his skills sooner than he expected.

“They’ve taught me a lot about a lot of things that are related to a future in agriculture,” he said. “I have learned about some things that I had never really had any experience in before like welding.

“They have helped to teach me how to work better, and especially develop a better work ethic, which is something that can carry on throughout life.”

Counts has been showing swine since he was 9 years old; however, this is the first year he has placed as either a grand champion or champion. Rewards like that, Hadden believes, are what make it all worthwhile.

“It was great to see him do so well,” he said. “It’s exciting to see someone who has worked so hard finally get the rewards for it. He has done a great job for us over the years.”

Counts believes that he will pursue a career in the agricultural field after graduating from high school, although a college degree may slow him down.

“I’ve known for a while that I would someday end up doing this, but I plan on going to college first,” he said.

“If I can get my degree in something ag-related, it will give me the opportunity to do any number of things that I would like to do.”

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