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23 fields of ag expertise

Established this past December, MHS FFA Alumni Association members can lend a helping hand to the local chapter

March 18, 2010
By Jodelle Greiner

MARSHALL - The Marshall FFA Chapter has about 120 students who participate in activities as varied as livestock judging, landscaping, mechanics, marketing and business.

"There's 20 judging teams and two adults," said Theresa Welu, parent of FFA students.

That's why she and others have formed the Marshall FFA Alumni Association to help out advisers Paul Lanoue and Eric Sawatzke.

The group was officially chartered in December and people do not have to be a former member of the FFA to join.

"You just have to be willing to help these kids," Welu said. "What's needed most is help with what the FFA has going on: judging, teaching marketing, livestock team, help with bookwork for fruit sales, advocate at school board meetings, internships at businesses, guest speaker at a meeting. It's time, more than anything that they need."

FFA students have activities at all hours, but most occur from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 5 p.m., "especially now with all the judging teams preparing," Welu said.

Sometimes just having an extra adult along is nice, said Sawatzke, who will be taking a team to South Dakota State University this week with Welu and Lane Smith coming along to help coach.

"Knowing I've got someone else to help chaperone those kids," Sawatzke said.

The Alumni Association is also looking for people with skills and knowledge.

"For Paul and I to claim to be experts in 23 different career fields would be an absolute lie," Sawatzke said, "so if we have people in town who can pick up those areas, our kids would be that much more marketable in the future."

Tony Jerve, a service manager with John Deere, is coaching the ag mechanics team for the tractor equipment section, "which is a fourth of the competition," Sawatzke said.

"When I know I can call on him for that one afternoon practice, I can focus on other teams," Sawatzke said.

"We have Kyle Gustafson, a crops guy, coming twice a week at 7 a.m. to show the kids techniques he learned in college," said Lanoue. "I'll be here learning with them and that will make me a better teacher, too.

"It's good for the kids to have experts showing them these skills," Lanoue added. "It's a chance for community members to work with youth to show them the future of agriculture careers."

Lanoue and Sawatzke know most of these kids will not be going into farming.

"About 20 percent of the students are from farms and less than that will go back," Sawatzke said, so he wants to prepare them for life out of the Midwest and even the United States.

Sawatzke has plans for the future, like having an exchange program with an FFA chapter in New Jersey and maybe taking some international trips, as well.

"We have opportunities for more than 120 (members) but we don't have the people resources," he said. "We've got everything else but the people resources."

To join the Alumni Association or to volunteer time, contact Welu or the advisers at Marshall High School at 537-6920, ext. 1083.



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