FFA Behind the Emblem: DeForest

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513 members
DeForest, Wisconsin
Dane County

Tell us about your chapter. With over 1,300 students in grades 8-12, DeForest Area School District employs four agriculture teachers, Gwen Boettcher, Abbey Ryan, Alyssa Engel and Zeth Engel, to support an FFA program of 513 students. The agriculture program consists of courses ranging from eighth grade agriscience to welding and a cooperative internship/youth apprenticeship program. The students have opportunities that range from managing 83 acres of farmland, growing over 25,000 flowers and vegetables, working in a 62-acre nature preserve, handling animals in an 1,800-square-foot indoor animal lab, working in over 20 area businesses, and raising fish and lettuce in an aquaponics system.

How does your chapter volunteer in the community throughout the year? We create agriculture educational theme kits for over 500 kids in the community. We raised $16,000 to package meals for Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, an annual project. We do many trash pick-ups and petting zoo educational displays.

What fundraisers does your chapter do throughout the year? We have two major fundraisers each year. In the winter, we sell fruit, meat, nuts and cheese. In the spring, we have our annual plant sale from our greenhouse projects.

What are the biggest events of the year? The DeForest FFA Scholarship Committee collaborated with the three elementary schools to create this event. The scholarship committee selected the book, “How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?” to read and gift to the third graders in our district. This activity taught the students where their food comes from. Our students gave 340 books to students. The DeFo Fights Hunger committee advertised to the community to raise money to pack over 50,000 meals. The student body volunteered to pack the meals alongside community members. All of the money collected and meals packed went to families and individuals in need in the surrounding areas of Dane County. The DeForest FFA Food for America committee held a day on the farm event for all the fourth-grade students in the district. This event was held to inform students about pathways in agriculture, through 13 stations, and what they have to offer. Doing this event allowed youth to be more informed about agriculture as a whole.

What is unique about your chapter? We have 513 members total but only 18 of them live on a farm (10 families). Our FFA membership has increased from 70 students to 513 students in the last 19 years. DeForest FFA was a national 3-star chapter for the National Chapter Award Program at the national convention in 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Our members excel in Career Development Events and Leadership Development Events. In 2024, we advanced a prepared public speaking and employment skills contestants to state, having multiple top-five individual placings at state CDEs and the World Dairy Expo competitions. We raised funds and purchased and packaged over 150,000 meals in the last four years to help those who are in need in the DeForest community and abroad. DeForest FFA members and FFA alumni raise annually over $30,000 at the FFA Alumni Family Fun Night for the guaranteed scholarship for graduates of the program. The alumni have donated over $100,000 in the last 19 years to the agriculture program and over $100,000 in scholarships in the last 20 years.

When was your chapter founded, and how has it evolved? The agriculture program was created in 1948, centering on the strong foundation of agriculture that was predominant in the district. Since then, the program has evolved to match the changing community. Today, it is mainly a suburban community maintaining a commitment to agricultural sciences and natural resources.

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