Central Springs welcomes ag program, FFA chapter
After a long road with many headwinds, the Central Springs Community School District (CSCSD) launched its first-ever ag classes and FFA chapter this year.
“There is a giant preconceived notion that if you’re not involved in farming, then ag education isn’t helpful. That’s just not true.” said Jordan Davison, a booster for the newly established program at Central Springs and Cerro Gordo Farm Bureau board member.
CSCSD includes students from Worth, Cerro Gordo, Floyd and Mitchell counties, a heavily agricultural area of the state, where about one in every three jobs is ag related. Yet until this school year, the district had no ag-specific vocational education opportunities.
A long processThe push to bring ag curriculum into CSCSD classrooms started in earnest in 2019 with the creation of the Central Springs AgEd Boosters (CSAEB) not-for-profit organization. Parents and community members, hearing from their students that this was an opportunity they lacked, pulled together, and started work.
After a pause because of COVID, last April organizers and the district reached an agreement. The boosters oversaw funding the program for the first five years and are fundraising $400,000 to do so. At the end of year five CSCSD will take over funding the program.
“Right now, we’re six months into fundraising and are at 83% of goal,” noted Laura Cunningham, CSAEB director and vice president of Floyd County Farm Bureau.
This semester, 42 students are participating in the ag program, that’s one-sixth of total enrollment at Central Springs High School.
In September another milestone was reached when Central Springs FFA’s charter was accepted by national FFA. The blue jackets have already been delivered to members.
“You can sense the excitement from the kids who are involved in the program. They are more than ready to dig into this curriculum and participate in the FFA program,” said Jessica Lutz, a Central Springs AgEd Booster.
Historic perspectiveThe last time the district offered ag classes and an FFA chapter was 1964. In 1959 the consolidated North Central school district was created. Vocational Ag classes were initially part of the curriculum until the ag teacher left in 1963. After trying to find a replacement instructor in 1964, and enrollment faltering, North Central ended ag classes.
Dwayne Christiansen was a sophomore at North Central in 1964 and was part of those last few classes.
“I learned a lot in those couple of years,” Christiansen said.
He noted specifically gaining experience with public speaking and running a meeting in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order.
“We took a field trip to see a hog confinement, it was the first in the area,” Christiansen said. “At that time we were still raising hogs outdoors.”
He now has five hog buildings of his own and credits those high school ag programs with encouraging him to stay in agriculture.
That experience also encouraged him to get involved with CSAEB, “I want kids to have that same chance to learn that I had,” Christiansen said.
Community supportBoth Cunningham and Davison said the community really stepped up to support the program. This includes more than $50,000 donated by Floyd, Cerro Gordo and Worth County Farm Bureaus.
“Farm Bureau has been an anchor for our effort,” Davison said. “When Farm Bureau puts their name on something, they really mean it.”
Many other individuals, organizations and companies have followed that lead. Viafield Cooperative, for example, provided a test plot to allow the program to offer row crop experience.
This fall, the boosters are offering local farmers the chance to contribute corn and beans to the fundraising efforts through a program called “Give Grain.”
“We have every retail grain office within 40 miles set up to receive grain and donate,” Davison said. “Every elevator in the area has Central Springs AgEd Boosters in their system.”
Giving made easyCentral Springs AgEd Boosters came up with the idea, with hopes that area farmers would want to support ag education efforts.
“I think it’s easier to donate something you don’t have your hand on,” he said. “This is hopefully easier than writing a check. You can just say I want to give this many bushels to Central Springs. It’s also good for the kids to know their education is being supported by the commodities they’re learning about.”
The Central Springs AgEd Boosters set up a Facebook page and website (CSAgEdBoosters.com) with information on how to get involved.
“There is a strong sense of community support around this program, and we look forward to the connections the students will make. In month one as a chapter, FFA members have completed two community service projects. The rewarding part of this work is watching the students excel in leadership development and sense of community,” Cunningham said.
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