South Rowan Future Farmers of America: Growing goodness

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 10, 2017

By Laura Allen

LANDIS — Growing, learning and serving others are all a part of a day’s work if you’re a member of the South Rowan High School Future Farmers of America.

Every year, students enrolled in agriculture classes and the FFA club have the opportunity to gain hands-on experiences on the school’s 13-acre land laboratory. Much of this experience involves growing plants in a greenhouse or garden setting and also taking care of the animals in the school barn — which can include dairy cattle, chickens, goats and sheep.

Learning skills in the areas of horticulture and animal science is important for students, as most will have a yard, plants and probably an animal to take care of during their lifetime.

Since 2012, members have taken their experiential learning a step further. For the past six years, the club has been involved in a service-learning project where students tend a half-acre garden plot and raise laying hens with all produce and eggs being donated to two local charitable organizations: Main Street Family Mission and Unity Mobile Meals. Each year, the club donates 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of produce and 200 to 400 dozen eggs to these two groups.

This year will be no different. The South Rowan FFA was recently awarded a $3,000 Living to Serve grant through the National FFA Organization for the 2017-18 school year. The grant, sponsored by CSX and Tractor Supply Co., will allow the club to continue its efforts to supply fresh, healthy food to those in need in the South Rowan community.

Main Street Mission in China Grove supplies food to 350 to 450 families each month. Often, those in poverty are not able to afford healthy food or acquire healthy food from food pantries, but through South Rowan FFA’s donations this need can be met.

Anne Corriher, director of Main Street Mission, said the club’s donations are appreciated.

“It is a happy sight to see the teachers and students from South Rowan High School’s FFA come through the door with fresh produce from their garden and fresh eggs.” Corriher said. “This food helps so many neighbors with needed fresh food items, and it also creates a wonderful partnership between the school, teachers, students and the agency.”

Unity Mobile Meals of Unity United Methodist Church provides 90 to 100 lunch time meals to local residents Monday through Friday. The group relies solely on donations.

In 2016 as part of its service-learning project, FFA members not only donated food items, but nine members and their parents also spent a morning delivering meals to the recipients. This was a way for members to see how their donations are being used to provide meals to help others, while also giving the regular route drivers a needed day off.

Elizabeth Villeneuve, the 2017-18 South Rowan FFA president, has been involved with this service-learning project since 2014. She, like many FFA members, has worked numerous hours in the garden and barn during class time, after school, and also during the summer months. Growing a large garden and raising layers for egg production is hard work, but throughout this project, Villeneuve has learned that “working all together for a good cause brings out the good in people.”

Laura Allen is an agriculture instructor and FFA adviser for South Rowan High School.