<img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-15100" src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2017\/02\/FFA.jpg" alt="FFA" width="400" height="502" \/>\r\n\r\nSuzanne Stewart\r\nStaff Writer\r\n\r\nThe Future Farmers of America organization was established in 1928 in Kansas City, Missouri. In the past 89 years, FFA has grown to be more than just an club for future farmers. \r\n\r\nFFA is very much alive and expanding every day at Pocahontas County High School. With a classroom, welding shop, greenhouse and meats processing shop, plus all the farms in Pocahontas County, the students have expanded their knowledge and experience into the communities and businesses to prepare for their futures.\r\n\r\nAgriculture education teacher and FFA sponsor Erwin Berry may only be in his third year at PCHS, but with 34 years of teaching behind him, he has tons of experience to pass on to his students.\r\n\r\nBerry came to PCHS at a time when FFA and ag education was in a slight decline, but with his help and the energy of the students, the program as returned to and even surpassed its former glory.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve always been hired to build programs,\u201d he said. \u201cI\u2019ve never walked into a good program, but I\u2019ve also made sure that it grew, not because of me, but because of the students I had, and I have.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe program has also grown, in large part, through help from the community. Berry and fellow FFA sponsor Scott Garber have organized an alumni program which currently has 46 members.\r\n\r\nThose members are helping the program thrive by giving helping hands to Berry and Garber in the realm of fundraising, trips and training.\r\n\r\nAlong with teaching students the ins and outs of agriculture in classes like horticulture, ag mechanics, meats processing, animal science and more, FFA has students learning the ropes through their Supervised Agriculture Experience projects. Students pick a business \u2013 whether it be raising cattle, pigs, sheep or crops \u2013 and they keep records and track the results.\r\n\r\n\u201cThese kids have to keep records on what they\u2019re doing,\u201d Berry said. \u201cThey have to do online financial records that they can do at home or they can do here. I help them with that because it doesn\u2019t come natural to them. It\u2019s a little rougher when you\u2019re doing inventory and balance sheets and income statements. It\u2019s a little different than balancing a checkbook.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe students also compete in state and national competitions which include animal judging, public speaking and team efforts.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe just got back from the Small Farms Conference in Charleston,\u201d Berry said. \u201cI took five kids to that. We got some ideas on not only what kids can do for their Supervised Ag Experience programs which is their enterprises that they do outside of school, but also, there\u2019s a competition \u2013\u00a0a marketing competition \u2013\u00a0and we\u2019re going to pair up with Frostmore Farm, Rachel and Adam Taylor, and we\u2019re going to develop a marketing development plan for them.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe students will work with the Taylors and the PCHS business department to develop a website and brochures for Frostmore Farm and will submit the project to the competition.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019ll use visual effects \u2013 we\u2019ll use all kinds of things,\u201d Berry said. \u201cIt\u2019s a real life situation that we\u2019re really going to be developing, and it\u2019s a competition, too. There\u2019s no doubt in my mind our kids will do well and it will help Rachel and Adam to grow their business.\u201d\r\n\r\nAnother new competition will include students from both the ag and forestry departments. Berry and Garber are working with the students to form an envirothon team which will have students compete in areas including forestry, soil science, aquatic science and wildlife management.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a very hands-on, critical thinking, problem-solving kind of competition,\u201d Berry said. \u201cWe\u2019re using people like Amy Coleman \u2013\u00a0she used to be a teacher here. She\u2019s working with the National Forest Service. Scott Garber and I are going to work together. He\u2019s an expert on forestry. I can work with the kids with soils and with that kind of collaboration, I think the kids will have a huge advantage.\u201d\r\n\r\nBerry said he has also asked Shenda Smith, of Marlinton, to help with the environmental science aspect of the envirothon.\r\n\r\nWhile competitions get the students out in the field and out of the county to experience agriculture on a state and national level, many of the programs in the ag department prepare the students to enter the workforce if they do not plan to start their own farm or business.\r\n\r\nThe meats program, the newest addition to the ag department, gives students the hands-on experience of processing meats \u2013 including venison and beef.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe process deer in the fall during deer season,\u201d Berry said. \u201cWe\u2019re also processing beef, pork, lamb and goats for local people. We\u2019ve gained our experience through Allegheny Meats in Monterey, Virginia.\u201d\r\n\r\nBerry trained at Allegheny Meats and in turn, is training students to process meat.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve gone there and trained because I want them to hire our kids,\u201d Berry said. \u201cThey\u2019re pretty excited about that, too, because they have a lot of turnover in that particular business. So, in training me, I\u2019ll be able to train the kids exactly how they want them to be trained and then they\u2019ve got a kid that can just walk right in and take off.\u201d\r\n\r\nWith so many aspects to ag education and FFA, students are able to find their niche, and sometimes, Berry is the one who sees their potential before they do. Berry said he pushes students to do things that may not be in their comfort zone, but in the long run, it\u2019s the thing they are meant to do.\r\n\r\nIn growing the students\u2019 talents, the program is growing community-oriented young men and women who understand the importance of community and working together.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe one common denominator of all these things \u2013 from the alumni to working with other teachers to working with community members \u2013\u00a0is we\u2019re trying to make this more of a collaboration and a community program instead of just our program,\u201d Berry said. \u201cWe\u2019re getting there. It\u2019s a process, but I think we\u2019re coming along. I\u2019m excited about it.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cWhat does FFA\u2008mean to you?\u201d\r\n\r\nBrandal Carr, President: I joined FFA because my brother and my sister were both in FFA and my brother and sister were both presidents of FFA, so I kind of grew up in FFA. I\u2019ve always loved being in it with Spencer and Kendra, and I just fell in love with it. My favorite part is the family of officers coming together and working together.\r\n\r\nCharity Morrison: To me, FFA means that I can enhance my agricultural experiences through my Supervised Agricultural Experience. I can learn and make better decisions about my agricultural business and care for my animals. In class, I am able to learn more about FFA history and be able to practice parliamentary procedure and learn about production, agriculture, forestry, ag mechanics, horticulture, animal and plan science and soils.\r\n\r\nSavannah Arbogast: FFA and ag education bring our communities together and create future jobs for agriculturalists. I think the FFA program also brings honor, courage and responsibility to young people today. I learn more about agriculture by being in class and by participating in fundraisers and activities and by going on educational field trips.\r\n\r\nKyle Cohenour: FFA to me is more than just farming and hard labor. To me, it is about the time and dedication that is applied toward different aspects in life including social skills, patience, the importance of hard work and making a difference among the lives of those in my community.\r\nThis organization has also taught me to take pride, but stay humble, in the accomplishments in my life. I encourage people to take part in FFA and seek the respect and helpful life morals that are a part of it.\r\n\r\nKurtis Kiner: FFAers are past, present and future. Like FFA creed says, \u201cachievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturalists; in the promise better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from struggles of former years.\u201d FFA is respect, passion and a deep love for agriculture. This is what FFA means to me.\r\n\r\nNoah Barkley: Being an officer in FFA has opened up doorways to many opportunities. It has created paths to experience agriculture and leadership in a new era of farming, as well as meeting many lifelong friends along the way. Being in FFA has taught me leadership and financial responsibility, as well as given me many great memories and useful tools that I can utilize for the rest of my life.\r\n\r\nBen Davis: FFA is very important to me, and I have been a member for two years. One of my proudest moments is when I put my FFA jacket on for the very first time. FFA opens many opportunities for students, and FFA has taught me many important skills that will be very important in my adult life and has changed my outlook on the world of agriculture. That is why FFA is important to me.\r\n\r\nMatthias Solliday: Being in FFA is a huge deal for me. FFA has shown me what it is to work along with other people. I have just started taking classes that are involved with FFA and they have already taught me a huge variety of skills that I will be able to use later in life. Later in life, I hope to have my own little farm and what I am learning in the meats class will let me be able to butcher my own animals and be able to provide food for my family. FFA is a great opportunity to learn useful skills that will be great to know later in life.