FELTON — When Lake Forest High School Assistant Principal Bryan Holland thinks of the Future Farmers of America, one student comes to mind first: Cassidy Burch of Harrington.
Cassidy greeted Mr. Holland when he first arrived at his new job back in July. She also taught him how to shear a sheep.
“This young lady is the face of the FFA,” he said. “My first thought when it came to the FFA, I thought of this young lady.”
To help her truly become the face of Lake Forest’s FFA, she was recently awarded an official FFA jacket by the National FFA Foundation.
According to the National FFA Foundation, the blue jacket program began with Syngenta back in 2008. This year, Syngenta challenged its retail partners to contribute an amount to be matched by Syngenta as a part of its support of the organization. In recognition of the contribution, a local chapter selected by the retail partner, received the official jacket and a $750 donation.
Cassidy was then chosen by her advisors to receive the coveted FFA jacket with her name embroidered on the front.
“This is mine. It has my name on it,” she said proudly. Before she received her own jacket, she would pull any random jacket available from a school closet for official events and have to return it when her event was finished. This jacket is hers to keep.
Cassidy has been involved in the FFA since her seventh-grade year, however, became actively involved last year.
“When I walked into the classroom and saw the blue jackets and saw how much fun they were having, well, I obviously haven’t left yet,” she said.
Through the organization, she sold citrus, helps sustain the livestock and produce found at the school and participates in local, regional and national competitions. She has also taken all of the agriculture classes available to her so far at Lake Forest High School, according to her advisors.
“I want to be a veterinarian. Having those classes helped me know what I want to do. It helped me find my passion,” Cassidy said.
FFA competitions have also given her extra skills not always learned in a classroom such as agriculture communication, parliamentary law and procedure and the ins and outs of the poultry business.
Advisors say she has even jumped in last minute to help fill in for teammates unable to make competitions and helped the teams qualify for nationals.
“When she joins a team, she does her research,” Advisor Alison Scott said.
Cassidy will now also join several Lake Forest High School students in Indianapolis in October for the National FFA Convention to compete against other FFA members from across the country.
Ninth-grader Lauren McLaughlin placed second in Delaware in Ag Communication this year. She will join fellow students at the convention which she called “exciting, but intimidating.”
She followed the heels of ninth-grader Jaiden Cain who took first in the state in Ag Communication. Advisors say the point difference wasn’t very much between the students.
Maci Carter, also in the ninth grade, brought home Delaware’s first place spot in Sr. Prepared Speaking.
Advisor Lindsey Saxton says Lake Forest’s FFA is seventh in the nation and its students plan on keeping or bypassing the high ranking.
“We have to work hard to meet that, at least,” Lauren said.
According to Ms. Saxton, students who win at the national level could earn scholarships for their hard work. But most bring home great stories of the experience.
“A lot of businesses look at FFA members as cream of the crop,” she said.
GROWMARK, FS, LLC. is one such business and goes the extra mile to groom that crop of students at Lake Forest High School.
“It’s an honor giving back,” former FFA member Mike Wheatley of GROWMARK, FS said. “I began in GROWMARK in 1982. From that time on, anything to do with sales was about giving back to the schools.”
GROWMARK, FS, LLC. who provides Syngenta products to local farmers, helps the Lake Forest FFA by providing donated products such as supply, seed, spray and fertilizer. But that’s not all, according to Mr. Wheatley and Louis Wyatt of GROWMARK, FS, LLC. Mr. Wyatt is also a former FFA member and Lake Forest High School graduate.
“Anything we raise goes back to the FFA here,” Mr. Wheatley said. “We try to give back. Not many other districts do this here with the land. One year, we gave $8,000-10,000. Of course, that number varies by year because it depends on the weather.”
The school currently has 25-acres for the students to use for the FFA, agriculture classes or other school needs.
Mr. Wyatt said GROWMARK, FS, LLC. helps line up farmers to donate time and products to help maintain that land. They also engage with the students in a variety of ways, such as having them explore which crops work well, work on planting, do yield and fertility trials and get on tractors for hands-on experience.
“It really does have a symbol of community here. There are a lot of traditions and honor in representing Lake Forest High School. It’s a rich tradition through generations,” Assistant Principal Holland said.
Jennifer Antonik can be reached at email@example.com