S-O FFA awards funds to community groups
SIBLEY, Iowa -- The Sibley-Ocheyedan FFA Chapter capped-off its National FFA Week festivities by giving something back to the communities that have supported it over the years.
As friends of the FFA gathered for pancakes in the ag shop Friday morning, several of the chapter's members presented large poster board checks, totaling $7,850, to a handful of non-profit agencies. The recipients included the Sibley Park Board, Tracy House Museum in Ocheyedan, McCallum Museum in Sibley, an Avenue of Flags project at Gilman Cemetery, Ashton, and the Hawkeye Point Foundation.
The money was from chapter profits after farming a 32-acre soybean plot last year.
S-O FFA Advisor Mike Earll said the chapter developed garden plots and farmed the parcel after local resident George Braaksma offered to let them use it as a rent-free educational tool.
Braaksma had sold the land -- 41 acres in all -- to the Osceola County Economic Development Corporation, to be used for business development. Until the ground is sold for development, however, he had an agreement to continue to farm the tillable acres.
"(Braaksma) pays the rent to the county, and the balance of taxes and insurance," Earll said. "He gave the land to the FFA kids with the stipulation he'd like them to plant some garden plots out there so kids would know a little bit more about where their food comes from, and push the idea of healthy foods."
The property was offered to the FFA chapter last May, and about half a dozen FFA members were involved in planting, tillage and harvest.
"We are fortunate that we've got a lot of folks in the community that help the FFA," Earll said, adding that seed was donated by a local Pioneer dealer. The field yielded an average of 60 bushels of soybeans per acre, with the crop marketed at harvest.
Because the extra revenue wasn't something the chapter was expecting, Earll said the officer team suggested giving the money back to the community for improvement projects.
"The ones we chose were all groups we have worked with," he added.
The Sibley Park Board will use its $850 to purchase a handicap-accessible swing, while the $2,500 donation to the Hawkeye Point Foundation will be used to help fund the development of a campground at Iowa's highest point this summer.
The chapter gave $1,500 donations to the Sibley and Ocheyedan museums, and for the Avenue of Flags at Ashton's Gilman Cemetery.
"We've talked a lot in our classes about small communities and the importance of volunteerism," said Earll. "As our group gets smaller and our population gets older, volunteerism is even more important if we're going to keep the services and keep the things that we have here.
"We want to set the example to our kids that it's important to be good stewards of what you have, but at the same time, also be willing to give back to the community that's given you a lot," he added. "If we can start that as young people, hopefully that's going to be lifelong learning activity -- that people will not only give of their resources but volunteer their service."
The FFA will farm the plot again this year, but Earll isn't sure how the proceeds will be used from the plot.
"We don't know how long we'll have this property. If they can find a business to come in, we're gone and the crop is gone." he said. "I think what the FFA will probably do is look at what we feel some of the community needs are and go from there in the future."
The hope is that more of the land will go into garden plots this year. They didn't have enough time to plan for them last year, but Earll said some of the FFA members will be growing produce on the site this year.
The garden plots are available to community residents, free of charge, and there is a well on the property that will provide a water source. Anyone interested in having a garden plot is encouraged to call Earll at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School's ag department at (712) 754-3601.