Trio of schools collaborate to offer FFALUVERNE — Luverne High School ag teacher Dennis Moritz has offered his classes over interactive TV (ITV) for nine years now, reaching out to communities who don’t have agriculture departments or teachers to lead ag programming. This year, he took another leap, offering students in both Adrian and Edgerton an opportunity to join the FFA.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Luverne High School ag teacher Dennis Moritz has offered his classes over interactive TV (ITV) for nine years now, reaching out to communities who don’t have agriculture departments or teachers to lead ag programming. This year, he took another leap, offering students in both Adrian and Edgerton an opportunity to join the FFA.
The idea began with Adrian High School principal Tim Christianson, who wanted students at the school to have an opportunity for an ag-related extra-curricular activity.
“He made arrangements last May to meet with his students,” said Moritz.
Throughout the summer, Moritz made personal visits with each of the students interested in the FFA to explain the program.
“We talked a little about the ag classes, but mostly about FFA,” Moritz said. By the end of the summer, eight students from Adrian High School had signed on to join Luverne’s 42-member FFA chapter.
Moritz also reached out to the Edgerton Public School district last summer, signing up five new FFA members from that school.
“Adrian (High School) has typically had the ITV (classes) all but one year,” said Moritz. “This is the first year for Edgerton.”
Students must take at least one agriculture-related course offered by Moritz over ITV each year to remain an active FFA member.
The way the ITV program is set up, Moritz teaches his class in Luverne. His instruction is transmitted to a hub at Windom and then sent out to other schools.
“(Windom) controls what time it comes on (for) broadcast at Edgerton and Adrian,” Moritz said.
Each school provides a faculty member to supervise the class and assist with any labs, and all tests are faxed to the participating schools, where copies are made and distributed to students during class time.
Once the tests are taken, they are packaged and delivered to Moritz. Since Adrian’s principal lives in Luverne, he delivers the tests to Moritz. In Edgerton, however, the paperwork is either sent through the mail or arrangements are made for Moritz to meet someone from the school district midway for the hand-off.
“A lot of this, this first year, has been trial and error,” said Moritz. “The communication factor is the big thing — to keep in contact with these kids.”
With the FFA, members have opportunities to get involved in career development events (CDEs), otherwise known as judging teams, as well as participate in chapter activities such as the annual corn drive, fruit sale fundraiser, community improvement projects, leadership trainings and Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs).
With judging contests just starting to ramp up this month, Moritz isn’t sure how the collaboration with students from three different school districts will work. He has students at all three schools participating on judging teams, with those members arranging times for practice.
“A lot of these kids know each other already,” said Moritz. “It’s probably a pretty good blend.”
As for the SAEs, which require oversight from the FFA adviser, Moritz travels to each school site to work with students in the evenings.
Between going to the school sites and doing home visits with his FFA members, Moritz puts on a lot of miles. His FFA territory extends from southwest of Rushmore to northeast of Edgerton, adding onto an already large Luverne school district. Moritz, a salaried teacher in the Luverne school district, said he receives a stipend each month for the extra traveling.
Students from Adrian and Edgerton appreciate the dedication Moritz has to the FFA. Without his willingness to offer the ITV classes and travel to the school sites, students might not have had the opportunity to get involved in the agricultural organization.
“I figured that it was a really good thing since we live in an area where there’s a lot of farms,” said Ashley Zemler, a junior at Adrian High School.
Zemler said her dad was in the FFA when he went to school in Fulda, and he had talked about the program with his kids.
“It seemed interesting,” said Zemler, who has since signed up to be on the fish and wildlife CDE team. In addition, she’s working on SAEs in several areas, including sheep, goats and beef production. The recordkeeping is nothing new for Zemler, who is also a Nobles County 4-H’er.
Joe Springman, also a junior at Adrian High School, is also glad to have the opportunity to be in the FFA.
“I was hearing about FFA from other people and was interested in it, but our school never had it,” he said. “I’m happy that (our school) finally joined.”
Springman, who is also involved in the livestock projects in 4-H, will take part in his first CDE contest later this month. He has signed up to be on the chapter’s general livestock CDE team.
Adam Brands, a senior at Edgerton Public School, said he signed up for an animal science class over ITV through Luverne High School, and after that, the opportunity came up to join the FFA.
“My dad was in FFA,” he said. “I thought I’d join it this year for the scholarship opportunities — that was kind of my main interest.”
Brands, a Rock County 4-H member, said he already knew several of the students from the Luverne FFA Chapter, and is now working with one of them in the dairy herdsmanship CDE area.
The contest judges FFA members on their dairy showmanship skills, and Brands and the student from Luverne practice showing calves, cows and heifers raised on Brands’ dairy farm. His SAE is also on the dairy operation.
Brands also took part in the FFA Corn Drive last October — his first official event as an FFA member.
“That was fun,” he said, adding that he received a lot of corn donations from the Edgerton area since the FFA program is so new there.
“(The farmers) really liked the opportunity to talk with the members and find out more about (the FFA),” Brands said.