Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tri-Valley FFA Named Chapter of the Year

From Empire Farm & Dairy magazine:

In New York state, FFA chapters are as diverse as they come.

From New York City to Buffalo, FFA chapters and the agricultural education programs they serve meet the needs of the students in each location.

This year, the Tri-Valley Central School FFA Chapter in Grahamsville is the 2017 NYS Agricultural Society Chapter of the Year.

The Tri-Valley FFA is the only agriculture program and FFA in Sullivan and Ulster counties, and works with more than 150 members in grades 6-12 annually.

While many chapters focus on one component of local agriculture, Tri-Valley caters to a wide range of student interests and community needs. Advised by Tara Berescik and Robert Hayes, the program teaches classes in turf grass management, where students construct athletic fields from forest land to game day to learn the hands-on skills for success in the field.

The program boasts of Tri-Valley Blooms, a full-scale floral shop run by FFA students that has catered 120 weddings in the past 10 years. Students learn all aspects of the floral industry and have the necessary skills to run their own events as well.

In addition, Tri-Valley has two working commercial greenhouses for growing and finishing plants, and a small animal breeding and care laboratory at school.

Environmental Science is a major focus since Tri-Valley is located in the New York City Watershed, and students work hand-in-hand with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to develop ecologically friendly projects to learn about the local environment.

Tri-Valley is committed to enabling students to see the global scope of agriculture. Berescik works with students to plan and organize international trips, and teaches a class in international agriculture and sustainability. In 2016, 17 members of the chapter traveled to Europe to tour agricultural destinations in Switzerland, Italy, France, Monaco, and Spain. This is the fifth trip in 10 years.

Other tours have included Australia/New Zealand, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Scotland. Whether they are volunteering with coffee farmers in Costa Rica or studying lavender in France, the scope of worldwide agriculture is presented.

Tri-Valley FFA members excel in all areas. They have competed on the local, state and national level in at least one area every year for the last 17 years.

In 2016, members won multiple state proficiency awards and many placed gold nationally. Three members of the chapter were selected to receive National FFA Grants for Youth Entrepreneurship in 2016 – only 146 grants were given nationwide!

But even with awards and accolades, the spirit of giving is strong. Tri-Valley sophomore Emily Carey won a grant to increase her horse lesson business, and also received $1,000 to be used by the chapter. Officers voted to create the “6-for-16 drive” and selected six worthy members to receive their own FFA jacket, ties, registration to state convention, banquet tickets, and dues for the following year.

While the program offers amazing opportunities to its students, it is also community minded. Founded in 1951 by Richard Strangeway, Tri-Valley FFA has committed itself to community service and creating community-minded youth.

At school, the program boasts of a 40-raised bed community garden – built and managed by students in grades 6-12. The students do everything from preparing beds, to growing seedlings, to watering, maintaining and harvesting. Everything collected is sent to local food banks for distribution to those in need. The chapter also helped establish a backpack for kids anti-hunger program.

Thirty-four back packs are filled bi-weekly by donations collected around the school and community. These go home with youth to provide food on the weekends. In addition, members also collect turkeys and other food items to make the holidays happier for over 40 families in the community annually. Participating in FFA for four to six years, members can graduate with over 1,000 community service hours!

Tri-Valley FFA received their award at the evening banquet at the New York Agricultural Society annual meeting Jan. 5 in Salina, outside Syracuse. This is the write-up about the chapter in the annual meeting booklet.

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