International opportunities abound for Wauseon FFA members

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WAUSEON, Ohio — For one Ohio FFA chapter, the experience is not just about the projects they complete, but the leadership development they receive in it.

International trips and community service are driving the force behind the FFA chapter at Wauseon High School in Fulton County in northwestern Ohio.

Urban chapter

What’s different about this FFA chapter is that it is considered an urban chapter. There are 100 students in the Wauseon FFA chapter.

One of the group’s teachers, Leah Amstutz, said many of the students are third or fourth generation removed from the farm. Many students live in the village of Wauseon, 30 miles west of Toledo, and have no experience with livestock when they join FFA.

Students in the chapter learn not only about agriculture, but also gain knowledge about natural resources, environmental science and environmental technology.

Amstutz said they soon realize there are boundless opportunities in agriculture — and not just in corn or steer production.

Ag is international market

Amstutz said the FFA is trying to give students opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t get and to teach them responsibility along the way. To that end, the chapter has developed an international study mission as part of its activities.

“Students feel they are part of something special with FFA.”

Leah Amstutz

Wauseon FFA chapter adviser

An 18-member group traveled to Brazil last summer, and in 2007, FFA members traveled to the Dominican Republic.

In Brazil, the group learned about coffee production and toured a sugar cane processing plant, following the cane from the field to the processing plant where ethanol is produced on one side and sugar on the other. They also learned about the citrus industry, and visited a large beef farm that raises Zebu-Nelore cattle. They visited three dairy farms, varying in size from small to large, and traced the milk from a farm to a processing plant.

The students also got to watch a CASE IH sugar cane harvester being built.

Amstutz said the goal is to make the program special by offering international opportunity to students. “I think it’s something our students can take with them,” she said.

“Students feel they are part of something special with FFA,” Amstutz said.

Awards

The group has earned many awards and members have also earned their share of awards during the past couple of years.

One of the most notable awards is the National Chapter Award they earned due to the study abroad trip to Dominican Republic, which focused both on agriculture and culture.

The chapter is also very big on community service and develops projects to help out where needed.

While in Brazil, they helped clean up a youth camp and had the opportunity to spend time with Brazilian students.

In the summer, the students grow a field of sweet corn and when it is ready, they distribute it free to residents in Wauseon.

For the holidays, the students sponsor the Christmas Cheer program for Fulton County. They purchase toys — $35 per child — for 1,200 children.

Crops and livestock. They also raise corn and other crops on 80 acres of school ground and to help pay for toys, maintain flower beds around Wauseon and raise funds for their trips.

In addition, to gaining experience of raising crops, the students can raise livestock as well at the school.

The group has many American Degree winners due to their record keeping of the livestock and other projects. In addition, the chapter has a livestock judging team that competes across the country.

Turn of events

Now, the students are getting another opportunity to learn from other countries. A student from the Brazilian university that hosted the group and helped to set up the trip, is studying abroad in Wauseon learning about American agriculture.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

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