September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

The future of FFA

Holdingford alumni gather to strengthen program
Holdingford Alumni chapter board members, (from left) Ed Young, Jeff Symanietz, Dan Skwira, Joe Zachman and John Roberts, stand with a tractor donated by Stanley Symanietz. The tractor is in the midst of restoration at Holdingford High School. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY LIZ VOS
Holdingford Alumni chapter board members, (from left) Ed Young, Jeff Symanietz, Dan Skwira, Joe Zachman and John Roberts, stand with a tractor donated by Stanley Symanietz. The tractor is in the midst of restoration at Holdingford High School. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY LIZ VOS

By by Liz Vos- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

HOLDINGFORD, Minn. - Agriculture has a long and strong history in Holdingford, and the district's FFA program has followed in that same path over the years with blooming interest and growing participation. The members of the Holdingford FFA Alumni chapter are aiming to keep it that way.
"We want to keep FFA strong in the school," said treasurer, Dan Skwira. "We want it to stay strong so the program doesn't get pushed out."
With a recent burst in FFA involvement, the possibility of the program coming to an end is minimal, especially with such a strong support system in place.
"We have a lot of student members and they are not just members, they are very active," said Holdingford's FFA advisor and agriculture instructor, John Roberts. "We had 33 kids who went to State this year; it's a driven group."
Participation from younger generations is growing in part to Roberts' high involvement in every aspect of the school's FFA and agriculture programs.
"He gets so involved," said Joel Ebnet, a member of the alumni chapter. "It's been great to see that."
Working alongside Roberts are past members of FFA and graduates of Holdingford who came together in March 2012 to form the FFA Alumni chapter. With 24 current members, they are making an impact on the current and future generations of FFA participants.
"I want the program to be here and to be strong when my own kids are old enough to be involved," said the FFA Alumni vice president, Ed Young.
The group is striving not only to keep the traditions of the FFA program in place, but also to support the school in expanding opportunities to students.
"It used to just be farm kids in FFA," said Ebnet. "Now, kids can get involved in vegetable growth, orchards, animal care and more. We want to help with that because it expands the variety of student involvement."
Expansions in the program have led to needed support from the school's alumni, who wholeheartedly give their time and effort to help.
A recent addition on the school grounds started by the alumni chapter was an orchard surrounding the school's garden this spring, which will be expanded in years to come. As time goes by, students will be able to help the orchard progress and will enjoy the yields in their school lunches.
Other projects supported heavily by the FFA Alumni are the annual tractor restoration project at the school, improved equipment used by the FFA team and the agriculture department, FFA involvement costs and scholarship opportunities for students headed into ag-related fields.
"With the funds we have raised, we have purchased welding equipment, paid for the rental of vans for FFA conventions and sponsored three FFA students to go to Washington," said Skwira. "With donations from area businesses, the alumni group provides tractor parts for the annually renovated tractor which is auctioned off at the homecoming football game."
In an effort to continue and grow such support for the present and future FFA students, the alumni want to spread the word to others that there is such an organization and that they are invited to join.
"I didn't join until a year ago because I didn't know about it," said alumni member, Kurt Woitalla. "We need to get our name out there."
The group will start their efforts during Holdingford Daze on Saturday, July 12, when they sponsor a tractor drive.
"We want to invite everyone to be a part of the drive," said Ebnet. "We want it to be a fun celebration of tractors and a way for people to become aware of our alumni chapter."
Registration will begin at 9 a.m., on July 12 with the 20-mile drive starting at 10 a.m., from the Holdingford High School parking lot. Early entries will receive a tractor drive hat and lunch will be provided at a stop about halfway through the drive.
To get registered, participants are asked to call Joel Ebnet at 320-290-6347 or Dan Skwira at 320-250-9549. Participants are asked to contact the group by June 20, but registrations on the day of the event will be accepted. Participants must carry their own liability insurance, have a slow moving vehicle sign, be at least 15 years of age, may not have duals and may not exceed 10 miles per hour during the drive. Registration forms and further details can be found at www.holdingforddaze.com.
"We are excited for this," said Skwira. "We really hope for it to bring attention to the group for further growth."
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