Piggott FFA continues to shine

Friday, February 24, 2012
PHS ag students taking part in the recent NEA Weld-A-Thon were, from left: Mason Henry, Login Mooneyhan and Eric Black. (Courtesy photo)

Monday marked the beginning of National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Week. Founded in 1928, the FFA has worked to bring together students, teachers and agriculturally-based businesses in order to help support agriculture education.

The FFA has continued to grow nationwide since it first formed, with thousands of chapters of the organization representing schools and communities across the globe. Today, FFA continues its goals offering students guidance and experience in key areas such as personal growth, leadership and career planning.

FFA Week is an important outreach opportunity for the organization, as it gives members a chance to educate the public about agriculture.

The week of George Washington's birthday was designated as National FFA Week in 1947 at a National FFA board of directors meeting. FFA Week always runs from Saturday to Saturday, and encompasses Feb. 22, Washington's birthday.

The Piggott High School chapter has never been more popular. Piggott FFA and agriculture studies are among the most sought after courses offered at the school.

"When I first started, my classes weren't filling up," said Piggott High School FFA adviser and ag teacher Casey Simpson. "Now all my classes are full. The kids have really responded to the program. The number of kids involved with FFA has grown a lot over the past few years. It's something the kids enjoy because they can be a part of something and have an active role immediately."

Piggott High School offers classes in animal science, biological animal science, science and technology, ag mechanics, ag metals and electricity/small gas engines. These classes offer a full range of agriculture-based learning, beginning with introductory level courses and branching out to include advanced studies.

"The introductory classes are designed to give students an idea of some of the basic principles," Simpson said. "It's a great way for the kids to learn more about agriculture and FFA and decide if they want to be involved.

"The more advanced classes are ideal for students who are interested in having a career in ag. Those classes are more specific and focus on areas they can use later on in a career or in college."

Metalworking has become one of the most successful programs for the Piggott chapter. In each of the past two years, students have performed well in the NEA Weld-A-Thon, winning valuable equipment for the program.

Piggott students Eric Black, Login Mooneyhan and Mason Henry displayed top-notch welding skills in competition Friday, Feb. 17, with other students from around the area. The Piggott representatives finished third out of 14 teams in overall competition.

The efforts of Black, Mooneyhan and Henry resulted in the ag department receiving a new Lincoln 110 MIG welder, two ESSAB auto shade welding helmets, welding jackets and gloves. In addition, the three students each received $500 welding scholarships to Arkansas State University's Technical Center.

The increased popularity of the Piggott program also is evident by the participation in the chapter's livestock show teams. The program has grown over the past four years to include several pigs, calves and horses.

"Our livestock has really taken off," Simpson said. "We've got more students involved in every aspect. The kids show the animals at the different competitions and care for the animals year-round. We've had success at the county, district and state level competitions. The kids have done a good job."

Simpson and his students plan to celebrate FFA Week with special activities. On Tuesday the group honored its new FFA members, known as Greenhands. Wednesday (today), all FFA students wore their organization t-shirts to school and also provided a special breakfast for administrators and teachers. Thursday will see the FFA students provide an appreciation pancake breakfast for faculty and staff at the school. On Friday, FFA members will enjoy a celebratory lunch.

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