FUTURE FARMERS: Garner students forming first FFA chapter

From left, Garner ISD students Wende Phillips, Jacey Smith, Journey Smith, Tyra Ochs and Gradun Adams work on a Red Ribbon Week poster, one of 15 Program of Activities goals the group must achieve toward chartering the first FFA chapter at the 1A district in Parker County. Not pictured is Wyatt Damron, the sixth charter member.

GARNER — Coaching, welding, teaching, cosmetology — these are careers that demand a spectrum of skills, but success in those or any endeavor comes through two foundational skills.

And six students in Garner hope to develop those skills, leadership and communication, as they embark on earning the 1A school's first FFA charter.

While the letters still stand for, Future Farmers of America, the objective for any young person who dons that iconic, blue corduroy jacket is to be outstanding in any field.

"It's leadership skills and how I work with people and communicate," said Tyra Ochs, 15, an aspiring cosmetologist who was elected president earlier in the school year.

Electing their slate of officers was the ninth in a 15-step process to chartering an FFA chapter in Texas. The Garner group's next step is to submit the chapter constitution and bylaws they adopted back in step 8.

Leaping ahead to step 12, the teens are mapping out a Program of Activities, POAs in FFA-speak — reading to young children, writing pen-pal letters to nursing home residents, adopting a Christmas Angel Tree, picking up trash from a local walking trail and designing signs for Red Ribbon Week.

The weeklong anti-drug observance is this week. The chapter's poster, put together by Ochs and eighth-grader Wende Phillips, encourages fellow students in the rural school district to "Moooove over from drugs," complete with paper-plate cow faces.

Agriculture remains a living heritage in FFA. Brooke Diaz, who with fellow ag science teacher Chance Walther is shepherding the students, said members must be certified in beef quality assurance.

A friend of hers who works as livestock coordinator for the New Mexico State Fair is scheduled to speak to the students.

The group also is set to compete in two FFA competitions in early November, one at Tarleton State University in nearby Stephenville. Their skill contests will be in radio, in which the student performs a mock broadcast with a local agricultural theme, and in chapter conducting.

Chapter conducting is FFA-speak for demonstrating expertise in parliamentary procedure, a skill for which leaders on local school boards, city councils and county commissioners courts would offer a hearty second.

Twins Jacey and Journey Smith, 13, plan to master such skills on their respective journeys to becoming an ag science teacher and a welder.

"My dad and my grandpa are both welders," Journey said. "And it just seems interesting, the stories that they talk about."

"I want to be a welder, too," chapter secretary Gradun Adams, 15, added.

And Wende Phillips, 13, said she hopes to one day coach volleyball and basketball in Parker County.

"I like to just teach people things that I know, and show them how to do it," she said.

Garner ISD only recently grew into 1A status, Walther said. The growing school district only goes as high as Ochs' and Adams' freshman year but is experiencing growth right along with Parker and neighboring counties.

There now are 244 students in Garner ISD.

The district is asking voters on Nov. 2 for $20 million to build new and renew standing campuses, plus buy a few new buses. Part of that bond package will include a new career and technical education building that will be headquarters for the young FFA chapter.

Under countywide voting, Garner residents can cast ballots at any poll in the county on election day. The nearest ones are in Bethesda United Methodist Church and the Millsap Community Center.

A permanent home would help the six charter members nurture a growing chapter they hope will welcome many more leaders-in-training by the time they reach their senior years.

"I want to have a lot of people involved in it and a lot of people going to contests," Adams said. "You're leading your fellow FFA members into good life and knowledge."

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