FFA historically offers agricultural pathway to students

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For years the Future Farmers of America (FFA – and now known as the National FFA Organization) has helped cultivate strong leadership skills and work ethic in Winters High School students. In celebration of National FFA Week, it’s important to reflect on the local history of this grass roots organization and how it fits seamlessly into the ag-centric community we call home.

In the Official FFA Manual, it’s self-described as a dynamic youth organization within agricultural education that prepares students for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. After its official formation in 1928, California received National Charter Number Four and never looked back.

“Ag education is based on a three-circle model. Each circle representing something different that’s a requirement in the ag program. You’ve got FFA which is the leadership aspect, SAE which is a supervised agricultural experience and then the classroom,” said Kayla Roberts, an WHS ag teacher. “We like to say it’s the hand, the head and the heart. SAE is hands-on, the brain is the classroom and the heart is the FFA.”

As the FFA coursed through the country, it finally touched down and established itself in Winters in 1955. Found predominately in agriculturally based communities, the town took to the organization like a pig to mud.

“I grew up in Rocklin, I didn’t have ag-ed in high school. You only have it in schools that have a demand for it in the community,” explained Roberts. “We like to say we’re a pretty traditional FFA chapter. We teach traditional pathways here, we’re very active in our local community and pretty much check all the boxes. We have judging teams, speaking teams, hands-on classes at our farm here — so in that sense we’re very traditional.”

While most of WHS’s classes take place on the main campus, the FFA and ag classes take place at the Joe Aguiar Agriculture Department at the corner of Moody Slough Road and Niemann Street. A building constructed in 1980, it’s been the hub of Winters’ FFA initiatives for years. It’s comprised of classrooms, animal stalls, farm plots of various types of agriculture, and a tractor load of tools and equipment for students to learn with.

“It’s important to start teaching the younger generation about agriculture so we still have an ag industry in 20 to 30 years,” Roberts said, breaking down a more accurate portrayal of FFA in Winters beyond only doing livestock judging. “We want to train these students how to work in the local agriculture industries and teach them about the commodities produced in Yolo County so they can technically go into the workforce out of highs school.”

Joe Aguiar, Winters FFA Chapter President, said FFA opportunities offer real-life skills for students to experience and build upon.

“The FFA teaches outside of the classroom in ways that other programs can’t compete with,” Aguiar said. “The hands-on skills that you learn hold incredible value and can be applied to later opportunities.”

In addition to classes and events, Winters FFA members also work to provide the community with activities and products through annual fundraisers and events. In October, they host the Winters FFA Trunk or Treat so local children have a safe place to play games and have fun on Halloween. In December, students work to sell and deliver holiday trees to local residents. The floriculture class also runs a floral arrangement subscription program.

While ag teachers Donnie Whitworth and Roberts prepare the students for the future, the history of the FFA in Winters is studded with awards spanning from public speaking championships in the 70’s to welding and agricultural competition wins within the past decade. If the winning tenure of the FFA chapter in Winters is any indication of its impact on the youth taking part of it, suffice to say future is looking bright.

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