By VIRGINIA KROPF
Empire Farm & Dairy magazine
Superintendent Mark Alexander is calling the new Oakfield-Elba FFA program a tremendous opportunity for kids to learn a lot.
“It is also a great honor for our kids to have someone like (state Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer) recognize a small school like ours,” Alexander said at the start of a recent board of education meeting at Oakfield-Alabama Central School.
The evening saw Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, recognized by the new FFA chapter with a plaque in appreciation of a $55,000 grant he acquired to start the new program.
Ranzenhofer announced the funding to establish a new joint agriculture education program for Oakfield-Alabama and Elba central schools.
The start-up money will cover equipment, field trip expenses, instructional resources and materials and instructional salaries. It will allow students in grades nine through 12 to experience classroom instruction, hands-on projects and opportunities to visit local agribusinesses.
The new program will be administered by and located at Oakfield-Alabama Central School.
“Our students are surrounded by agriculture and now have the opportunity to learn about the careers in the industry,” Alexander said. “We hope the program will motivate some of our graduates to remain in the area as well.”
Todd Hofheins, who will lead the program with Brian Craig, thanked the board and the students for taking a chance to sign up for the new program.
“We have an ag community here, and we need to embrace it,” he said.
Officers are Tucker Bezon from Elba Central School, president; Tristan Korzeliu from O-A, vice president; Kaitlyn Adamczak from O-A., secretary; Miranda Moore of Elba, treasurer; and Trevor Fitch of O-A, sentinel.
Each of the new officers introduced themselves and shared what they hoped to learn from FFA.
Bezon is excited to learn more about agriculture and be involved in agribusiness and ag-technology, he said.
Adamczak plans to major in conservation and forestry, and thinks FAA will provide some useful information.
Korzeliu said the club is very interactive and offers a range of activities, from animal husbandry to technology.
Moore wants to be an accountant and said what she learns in FFA may prepare her for clients in the agricultural industry, as well as teach her leadership.
Fitch has always been interested in agriculture and plans a career in animal husbandry/animal science.
They have already been on field trips to Lamb Farms, where they learned how a large dairy farm operates; Post Farms, where they viewed robotic milkers and learned about methane digesters; and the Oakfield town hall to learn parliamentary procedures.
Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia, also attended the presentation. He applauded Ranzenhofer for his efforts in securing the money for the FFA chapter.
“I represent Orleans County, as well, where agriculture is the No. 1 industry, like Genesee County,” Hawley said. “I have been to Albion, which has the oldest FFA chapter in New York state, and I look forward to a lot of FFA meetings here in Genesee County.”
Ed Engel of Oakfield played a major role in not only recognizing Ranzenhofer, but in getting the ball rolling to bring back FFA to Oakfield.
“We had an ag program in the 1960s, but it was discontinued,” Engel said. “In January 2015, we scheduled a presentation to the board and invited Todd Eick and his FFA students from Medina to tell about their program. The ag community was present, and it was very successful.”
A similar presentation was done that year to the Elba school board by Barry Flansburg of Albion, a former FFA member, and Adam Krenning, FFA adviser at Albion High School.
“The meeting drew so many people I was surprised at the interest,” Engel said. “The meeting was very positive. The only problem was Elba was going through some cuts from the GEA and the 2 percent tax cap.”
Engel said Kendra Lamb, wife of Matthew Lamb from Lamb Farms, was a big help in moving the program forward and getting the agricultural community involved.
Todd Hofheins, technology teacher at Oakfield-Alabama, was willing to get certified to teach the course. He was brought up on a farm and runs a maple syrup operation near Attica.
Engel has been vice president of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership since 1990, and has been involved with Rural Schools Association for more than 20 years. He was instrumental in the Rural Schools Association giving its Appreciation Award to Ranzenhofer this year.
The award is presented yearly to a person who has helped the rural schools in New York in some way, Engel said.
“Being involved with Rural Schools has shown me what FFA can do for kids and the excellent programs they have,” Engel said. “Every year we give two $1,000 scholarships to FFA students and a $500 award to Medina for the state FFA Convention.”
Several members of the agricultural community attended Tuesday’s board meeting for Ranzenhofer’s recognition.
Peggy Lamb said agriculture is very reflective of the area, and hopefully she will have grandchildren in the FFA program in the future.
Joan Phelps of Basom said her son Cole, who is studying agribusiness at Cobleskill, wishes they had FFA when he was in school.
“This is an exciting time for Elba and for all of us,” said Ed Engel’s wife Anne.