The Chester High School Agriculture Department celebrated National FFA Week Feb. 24-28 with a variety of activities to commemorate the occasion.
Matthew Meltzer, CHS agriculture teacher, organized the events with advice and assistance from his 94-member CHS FFA group at Chester High School.
"We have a great group of kids at CHS and they are really starting to get involved in our FFA activities and they are a becoming excited about the various aspects of agriculture," Meltzer said.
The agriculture program at Chester High School was resurrected last year after being eliminated from the CHS curriculum for 30 years. Meltzer was hired in the fall of 2018 to restore the program.
At CHS Meltzer teaches six classes, including two sections of Introduction to Agriculture; Construction; two sections of Mechanics and Technology; and two, one-semester classes of Animal Science (fall) and Plant Science (spring).
The CHS Ag program currently has 12 girls and 82 boys. "Most of our students are here because they want to be here and they have a real interest in some aspect of agriculture," Meltzer said.
"Agriculture is a student program that encourages personal growth, premiere leadership and career success through agriculture. Most of our students are invested in the program and see the value of agriculture not only as a high school class, but also as a potential career path for their future."
Membership in Chester's FFA organization is automatic for all of the 94 students who take Ag classes at CHS. The organization is led by Mr. Meltzer and guided by a seven-member Officer Team including Jared McCormick, Lauryn Vasquez, Jessica Handel, Deborah Wills, Blake Huffman, Zayne Stueve, and Brock Vasquez.
Meltzer and his team worked together, along with the CHS FFA membership to plan, organized and implement the various activities associated with the first FFA Week celebration since agriculture was brought back to CHS during the 2018-2019 school year.
This year's activities included an "Ag Awareness Day" hosted at Chester Grade School; an all-school Ag Assembly at Chester High School, and a "Charity Fund Raiser" to give back to the community.
Noe Martinez gave a presentation on 3-D Printing which included a demonstration in which Martinez actually created a plastic flower using a 3-D printer. Another session dealt with carpentry and involved the students in an interactive practice of actually learning how to properly handle a hammer. Students were challenged to hammer a nail into a board.
Outside, Blake Huffman and Jessica Handel had a session pertaining to "Animal Science/Livestock." Handel and Huffman spoke to each group of visiting students about the field of animal science and had interactive opportunities for students to hold a live rabbit and pet a baby goat. Students thoroughly enjoyed this fun and interactive "hands-on" session.
Ethan Eggemeyer and Gage Bollman hosted a very interesting and somewhat scary session about welding. Eggemeyer and Bollman presented a brief lecture about the art of welding after which each student had the opportunity to wear an actual welding helmet and witness the instructors perform a welding task.
The final outdoor session was related to Farm Machinery/Plant Science. Brock Vasquez and Jared McCormick had a huge trailer located directly in the path of the walkway, loaded with a large farm tractor. Both McCormick and Vasquez told the students about various aspects of farming machinery after which they allowed students to come aboard the trailer to take a firsthand physical tour of the tractor.
"I think the first FFA Day at CGS was a huge success. The students and teachers seemed to fully enjoy the afternoon and appeared to love the interactive experiences. It was equally fun and rewarding for our agriculture students who are already talking about how to make next year's event bigger and better," said Meltzer.
A similar event was held Feb. 27 at Chester High School.
"This is really a huge occasion," Meltzker told the assembled students. "This is the first time in 30 years that there has been an agriculture program here at CHS. All of you have the opportunity to become involved in one aspect or another and take advantage of the many aspects of agriculture."
Following Meltzer's presentation he invited everyone to take part in the Ag Day Hay Bale Toss competition and the Ag Day Dodge Ball Tournament.
"I was impressed with how the entire student body and all of the teachers seemed to really get into the activities," Meltzer said.
The charity fundraiser, the "Kiss a Goat Challenge, raised more than $300.
The "lucky" winner, Sara Hammel, kissed her goat at the assembly and donated the collected money to the Chester Public Library.
"I wanted to choose something local," Hammel said. "Maybe this can help sponsor a summer program. Maybe the theme could even be farm or agriculture related to give a shout out to the FFA Program at CHS in support of that organization with good PR"
Meltzer closed his week of educational and fun-filled activities by reminding everyone Thursday April 2 there would be a meeting in the CHS cafeteria to help organize a CHS FFA Alumni organization.
Meltzer said, "This group will be open to anyone who wants to help support the AG program at CHS. This group will be part of a National Organization. You do NOT have to be an actual alumnus of the Ag program to join. It is for anyone who wants to be supportive and help the students that are involved in the program."