Southern Ohio FFA’ers addressing local hunger needs

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Freshmen members of the Zane Trace FFA Chapter transplant seedlings into the raised bed gardens at Zane Trace High School as a part of the chapter’s grant programs to provide produce for local food pantries.

By Jennifer Johnston

If you happened to drive by Zane Trace High School in Chillicothe, Ohio, during May, you might have seen members of the ZT FFA chapter busy constructing raised beds, transplanting seedlings, carting topsoil or building chicken coops. All of these activities are a part of two grants the chapter recently received.

Student driven

The first project was a grant proposal written by senior member Ashley McCullough last November after she returned from the National FFA Convention. During the convention, Ashley was moved by a speaker’s message regarding the need for FFA chapters to do more to provide hunger relief in their communities.

Ashley took it upon herself to write a grant proposal through the National FFA Living to Serve Program for $1,000 to fund a series of projects to provide produce, eggs and poultry for local food pantries. Ashley learned in late February that her grant proposal had been accepted out of hundreds of applicants and she began planning for the arrival of the spring growing season.

Students in the freshman agriculture classes started vegetable plants from seeds in the shop in late March, then transplanted them into the raised bed garden plots in mid-May. The plants included tomatoes, peppers, squash, cantaloupe and cucumbers.

Additionally, students in the animal science course constructed two hoop houses for keeping poultry on pasture. This will allow market broilers to be raised on the grassy hillside behind the school during the summer. The broilers will be donated to a local food pantry, along with weekly bushels of produce from the gardens.

Second grant

The second grant program that the chapter received is the Agriculture in Rural Communities Outreach Program grant sponsored by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Through this $2,000 grant, members will be improving the laying hen facilities and donating eggs to a local food pantry.

They will also use a portion of the funding to purchase a hive of bees to improve pollination of the raised bed gardens along with equipment to improve the existing school greenhouse.

The popular elementary running program led by FFA members, Pioneer Pacers, will also be continued this fall thanks to funding from the ARCOP grant.

FFA members have enjoyed the opportunity to put what they are learning in the classroom to work in their school and community to help address hunger needs. Members have signed up to volunteer their time over the summer to care for the gardens, harvest produce, collect eggs and feed and water the chickens to keep the projects going strong.

If you happen to pass Zane Trace and see some of these members hard at work, say hello and thank them for helping improve our community!

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(The author is the agriculture teacher and FFA chapter co-adviser at Zane Trace Local Schools, Chillicothe, Ohio.)

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