WILKESBORO — High School students from 15 counties gathered at Wilkes Community College on May 4 for the North Carolina FFA Northwest Region Rally.
FFA is a dynamic youth organization within agricultural education that changes lives and prepares students for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. About 375 students and agriculture instructors from Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany, Surry, Stokes, Yadkin, Forsyth, Davie, Iredell, Alexander, Catawba, Burke, Caldwell, Avery and Watauga counties competed in Creed, Public Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Parliamentary Procedure, Job Interview, Ag Mechanics, Tools and Materials, Forestry, Introduction to Horticulture, Nursery Landscape and Floriculture career development events (CDE).
This year’s event was hosted by WCC’s agriculture departments. WCC Horticulture and Animal Science students maintain the information booths and help at the competitive events as assistants or judges. Many students volunteer to help set up before and clean after the event.
“The location of the regional rally is voted on each summer, and we have been honored with the event for the last three years,” said Donna Riddle, lead horticulture instructor at WCC. “This provides an awesome opportunity for WCC Ag-related programs to meet hundreds of local agriculture students and teachers. We get to know them a little better, and they are able to see firsthand the quality of our students, college facilities and dedication to North Carolina Agriculture.”
According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the state’s agricultural industry contributes $78 billion to the state’s economy, accounts for more than 17 percent of the state’s income, and employs 16 percent of the workforce. The state’s 52,200 farmers grow more than 80 different commodities, utilizing 8.4 million of the state’s 31 million acres to furnish consumers with a dependable and affordable supply of food and fiber.
North Carolina produces more tobacco and sweet potatoes than any other state and ranks second in Christmas tree cash receipts and the production of hogs and turkeys. The state ranks seventh nationally in farm profits with a net farm income of more than $3.3 billion. Net income per farm in the state is more than $63,000.
“When you look at the statistics of the state’s agricultural industry, it is easy to see why agriculture programs in high schools, community colleges and universities continue to grow in enrollment,” said Mindy Herman, lead instructor of Applied Animal Science Technology. “This industry continues to grow and involves more and more technology and scientific research. Our future farmers need to learn how to use this technology and research in order to make farms profitable and efficient.”
The opening ceremony began at 8:30 a.m. at the John A. Walker Community Center on the Wilkes Campus. Following the opening ceremony, students competed in Daniel Hall Applied Technology Center, the Horticulture Complex and at W. Kerr Scott Visitor Assistance Center. After lunch, the closing ceremony was held at the Walker Center.
Top three placements for the regional competition by county include Wilkes (3), Allegheny (1), Alexander (6), Caldwell (6), Catawba (5), Davie (3), Iredell (2), Watauga (2), Burke (2), Forsyth (2) and Avery (1).
The annual rally was organized by Andrew VonCanon, Western Region agricultural education coordinator; Matthew Greene, East Wilkes High School ag educator and regional advisor; and Donna Riddle, lead horticulture instructor at WCC.
“As the Western Region FFA Coordinator, I would like to thank Donna Riddle and the staff at Wilkes Community College for hosting our group and providing us with a wonderful facility to hold our FFA regional Rally,” said VonCanon. “It has been a joy to work with the faculty there and continue the partnership we have formed between the N.C. FFA and Wilkes Community College.”
During the event, Mindy Herman, Nathan Gatlin, Tori Cardea, Jayden Gantt, Stacie Taylor and Kristy Caldwell assist the organizers. Mindy Herman, WCC Animal Science lead instructor, helps with setup and coordinates her students to help with the event. She is also involved in the opening ceremony and helps with judging.
Nathan Gatlin, Wilkes County forester with the North Carolina Department of Forestry, sets up and coordinates the forestry event held at the W. Kerr Scott Visitor Assistance Center. The forestry event is a four-part competition. Staff at the center help during the competition.
Jayden Gantt, WCC lead welding instructor, prepares for and judges the welding portion of the Ag Mechanics CDE, held in the Applied Technology Center. And, Stacie Taylor, chair/instructor of Applied Technologies, and Kristy Caldwell, administrative assistant for Applied Technologies, assist in planning and holding the event.
For more information about the Applied Technology programs at Wilkes Community College, contact Stacie Taylor at 336-838-6551 or Stacie.firstname.lastname@example.org.