Thursday, February 23, 2012

FFA Week - SAE's

Supervised Agricultural Experiences or what many know as "projects", are the one thing that sets Agriculture Education above all other subjects.  A home based project where class subject matter is used to make a profit.  Besides the idea of teaching students to make money and in some cases start a business, it is the only reason the school district can make a home visit that isn't awkward.  I have had the opportunity to make several home visits, most of them uneventful.

I will however share my most embarrassing home visit.  I was making an SAE visit to Josh Snider.  Josh and his family have a wonderful group of ewes that they work hard with and breed strategically for club lambs.  They are a wonderful family and as I was pulling in I felt like I was an Ag. Teacher from the 1970's.  On the back patio, sat the entire family waiting for Josh's visit, so it appeared.  I got out and we looked at record books and talked about the possibility of a State Degree.  We then started walking down the road to where he kept his sheep and as we were crossing over a fence, my boot got stuck and I face planted into the ground.  I was laughing, mostly because as I looked up there was his little sister who was in middle school and I knew this story was going to be retold and embellished for several more years.  The worst part was yet to come, as I was getting up I noticed I had landed in a patch of poison ivy.  I am severely allergic to poison ivy and would have broke out in a rash even if I had never noticed that patch let alone landed in it.  The next week, the day we were leaving for FFA Camp I was at the local Urgent Care getting steroids for this poison ivy.

Other great things I have seen develop from SAE's are a garden program.  I started a garden program after Mr. Vance from Vinton County developed it and spent years perfecting it and then told me about it.  I loved the garden project it enabled students to learn a lot about crop production on a small scale and a small budget.  In addition and unintentionally high school kids teamed up with their grandparents and parents to grow really nice gardens for cash prizes.  High school students having positive educational experiences with their elders - got two thumbs up for me, all of the agronomy knowledge was a bonus.

The garden contest ended with a home visit from a judge in this case my good friend and fellow Agriculture Teacher Amy Moore.  A home visit allowed no weedy and bug infested gardens that happened to produce three good tomatoes.  We saw some really nice gardens and proud families.

The rewards of a productive SAE's many times are a State Degree. I really enjoyed parents having the opportunity to attend Convention, some for the first time.  What an honor to get a State Degree and what an honor to watch.

The final SAE story I am sharing tonight is from the Agriculture Business program I was able to be a part of for several years.  I was able to create relationships with businesses and work with students who left on early release to work at local businesses. I was able to see several positive outcomes from this, some students used the experience to start at the bottom level and work their way up in a business where they still work today.  I also once was told by a student "I am going to college I don't want to work here for the rest of my life".  I also saw many students save money for college, when otherwise they would have been sitting in a study hall.


At the end of the year as a final exam I asked students to take 10 pictures of the skills they learned and right a short caption for each.  As seniors, they complained a lot about this and then waited to the last minute to complete the project. I believe it usually involved the technology of disposal cameras and one hour photo. It is May and I have collected the projects and I am sitting at my desk, praying and looking for something really impressive.  As a teacher I am looking for something that shows I have made a difference, that kids are learning.  And here it is . . .

someone learned to clean the tracks of a dozer
That's funny - but now what.  Should they be punished?  Yeah they, because you have to have a friend to take this picture.  It's not like you can ask the boss.  The next day the boys walk in laughing. They said, "did you grade our projects".  I said "yes".  They said, "can we have our pictures back".  I said, "no, those will show up someday where you least expect them".


  1. Good times! Good memories! I still talk about being in FFA today. But those stories from back in the day can only really be shared with fellow FFA members. Because other wise they are the only ones who understand what its like to stand in the bottom of a pit in a down pouring rain to look at "the dirt". Otherwise known as Urban Soil Judging!

  2. " is the only reason the school district can make a home visit that isn't awkward." I love that! My most embarrassing SAE visit story was the first summer as a teacher when I visited a kid that raised dairy goats. Pulling into his driveway, I knew it was going to be interesting, when he came bounding out of the house trailer, and three chickens followed him. Anyway, we headed out to the greenhouse, where they kept the goats. Like I said, I knew it was going to be interesting. I looked over his books, snapped a few pictures, talked for a little while, and I was just ready to leave, when his dad brought out some crackers and cheese. From traveling abroad, I remembered the sage advice, "Don't ever turn down food that your host offers, even if you don't think you'll like it." I HATE goat cheese, but I figured I should at least choke some down, because this family had worked hard to produce it. I just swallowed the cracker and cheese, prayed I would just taste cracker, when I knew the cheese was coming back up. I ran to the bush, where I barfed for what felt like an eternity while this kid, his dad, and now his mother and four siblings had gathered to watch. As gracefully as possible, I returned to the group, where his dad said, "Yeah, goat cheese isn't for everyone." Understatement of the day.

    Also, in terms of your last picture, I think it's important to point out that ag teachers see students in a way many other teachers never have the opportunity to. :)

    Thanks for sharing your great posts this week!

    1. That story is hilarious. You should start interviewing other Ag. Teachers. That could be a book.