For most students, the last day of school signals a long summer break. However, for members of the Milford Central Academy FFA Chapter, the last day signals the beginning of a full summer of long days spent learning new things and preparing for the upcoming competitions and the State Fair. As the rest of the students boarded buses home on that last day, 28 MCA FFA members and their advisor, Mrs. Judith Bruns, boarded a different bus and headed to Killens Pond State Park to participate in various activities planned by this year’s officer team dubbed “FFA Fun Day at Killens Pond.” Beach volleyball, softball, corn hole, bike riding, and walking trails were some of the activities members enjoyed while eating hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill. The 2016-17 FFA officer team planned the “Fun Day” as a way to wrap up the school year and begin the summer they knew would be full of FFA activities.
All summer, FFA members have been volunteering their time in our community garden located on the campus. Students can be found in the garden 3-4 times a week weeding, caring for, and harvesting vegetables which they planted in their Agriscience class. All the produce that is harvested is cleaned and donated to the Food Bank of Delaware. This project continues all summer and into the fall when the turnips, carrots, and onions will be ready for harvest.
As June progressed, there were many days that FFA members could be seen in Mrs. Bruns’ room. The Ag Mechanics Team, compromised of Natalie Armstrong, Matthew Sacks, Tyler Smith, and Julianne Walls, met often to practice for their Agricultural Mechanics Career Development Event (CDE). This event tested students from around the state on their ability to identify different tools found in mechanics shops, correctly assemble PVC pipes, read the diagram of a 12-gauge circuit, and practice common surveying skills. This team competed at Lake Forest High School on June 22nd and they earned first place in the state at the middle school level competition. Individually they placed as follows: 1st place – Tyler Smith, 2nd place – Natalie Armstrong, 3rd place – Julianne Walls, and 4th place – Matthew Sacks.
In addition to the Ag Mechanics team, the MCA Veterinary Science Team of Hannah Haigh and Maddy Kibler also spent time in school this summer. The Vet Science CDE requires students to learn over 200 different breeds of livestock, poultry, and companion animals for a breed identification quiz. In addition, students learned over 30 types of parasites and diseases which also had to be identified during the competition. Students competed on a general knowledge quiz and worked together as a team solving veterinary math problems. MCA FFA placed first in the state in this competition with Hannah finishing 1st in the state and Maddy only 1 point behind in second place.
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Wrapping up June’s competition schedule that MCA FFA participated in was the Agriscience Fair. This competition allowed students to choose a research topic, design an experiment, test their hypothesis and develop a display board that depicts their results and conclusion. Jacob Smith’s experiment involved testing to see if the color of a chicken feeder affected the amount of feed that a chicken will eat from it. He competed against other 7th and 8th grade FFA members from around the state and won 1st place. As a result, his project summary is now being evaluated by the National FFA and, depending on the outcome, Jacob may earn an invitation to compete at the National FFA convention in Indianapolis, Indiana in October.
As soon as the competition portion of FFA finished in June, members now had to focus on the upcoming State Fair and the competitions it offered. On any given day one could find a wide variety of students inside Mrs. Bruns’ classroom working on the Chapter’s Horticulture Display for the Delaware State Fair. The display is 9ft wide and 5ft deep and was judged on the Chapter’s ability to make a pleasing display using plants and showing the theme “America the Beautiful”. Students began planning this in May and voted to use the famous Route 66 as the theme. When complete, the display would allow fair patrons to physically enter the display on a manmade road and take a selfie in front of any of six iconic spots on Rt. 66. The members then spent more than two months painting, cutting boards, assembling selfie stations and more and as a result of their hard work, the Delaware State Fair judges rewarded the Chapter with a first place Premium Blue Ribbon! Because of their first place finish, the Chapter members were invited to a meet and greet session with the US Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary Sonny Purdue, as well as both of Delaware’s US Senators and our US Representative.
As some students were working on the above display, members were practicing for Livestock Evaluation CDE and Tractor Driving CDE right up to the day of their competition. The Livestock Evaluation team worked hard for two months learning how to evaluate market steers, breeding cattle, market and breeding hogs, market lambs and market goats.
Students also learned how to defend their placing of a class of animals through oral reasons, which requires students to memorize their placings and then defend that placing in front of a judge. Team members also took a general knowledge quiz on the livestock industry. Milford Central Academy placed 1st in the state with Victoria Jordan taking 1st place individually in the state and Emma Simpson placing 2nd in the state. Jacob Smith placed 5th and Ashlyn Welch placed 13th.
The final FFA CDE of the week, the Tractor Driving competition, was a new one for middle school students. Michael Foxwell accepted the challenge. During this competition, students took a written test focusing on equipment usage and safety. Students had to identify tools from a list over 20 tools, and correctly identify specific parts of a tractor from a potential list of approximately 50 different parts. Finally, middle school students had to drive a tractor with a two wheeled manure spreader behind it through an obstacle course and demonstrate their ability to back both into a 40ft chute. The last part of the Tractor driving competition asked students to back a 4-wheeled wagon into a chute where points were earned for speed and lost for time spent and posts touched. Michael demonstrated his ability by placing 1st in the state.
In addition to FFA CDE’s, the signature yellow MCA FFA t-shirts could be seen around the fairgrounds as members volunteered their time working in the Delaware State Grange eatery as well as taking shifts to work at the John Curtis Sr. FFA Barnyard. While at the barnyard, members answered questions from fair patrons and cared for the animals. Finally, members enjoyed riding on the Delaware FFA Float during the daily Fair Parade.
While many MCA students are well into enjoying the dog days of summer, our MCA FFA members have been working hard and now that the State Fair is over for this year, will begin to enjoy their summer break. Congratulations to all MCA FFA members for their diligence and commitment.
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