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Thrilled FFA Fall Ag Fair has returned

The Millerton News Editorial

After a year’s hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic that shut down everything we love about the Harlem Valley and all of the local traditions in our neighborhood communities, the Pine Plains Central School District (PPCSD) welcomed back one of its finest traditions this past weekend: the FFA Fall Agricultural Fair. The annual Ag Fair returned this year on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 8 and 9, and it came back with plenty of gusto.

Fourth- and fifth-graders showcased their dairy showmanship on Friday, Oct. 8, while middle and high schoolers enjoyed a field day that same day. Although the district had to cancel its traditional Friday night roast beef dinner — a disappointment to anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to enjoy the tasty and tender beef and all the sides that accompany it in the company of FFA members, their family, friends, teachers and advisors — we understand the PPCSD’s rationale considering the COVID pandemic is still raging in so many places. It simply makes sense to play it safe.

After all, the big event is really the FFA Ag Fair itself. The majority of the fair took place on Saturday, after the parade stepped off from Seymour Smith Intermediate Learning Center on Academy Street and then marched its way through town all the way to Stissing Mountain Junior/Senior High School.

That was the site of the main affair, where one could find everything from a tractor pull to a horse pull to a car show to animal exhibits to a dairy show to a horse show to a flower show to a pet show to a farmers market, and then of course, there was Cow Pie Bingo.

Let’s not forget about all of the scrumptious fair food, sold by the various school classes set out to fundraise for their graduations, selling everything from chili to baked potatoes to pulled-pork parfaits to homemade pie to cotton candy. Certainly plenty of people arrived at the fair with hunger pains and left with belly aches — and we speak from years of experience — but trust us, it’s well worth that little bit of discomfort.

The main point, as FFA Advisor Stephanie Rhoades explained, is that students got to “engage with the community” and talk to people about agriculture. That’s exactly what they train to do in their ag classes and through the FFA program.

“We especially appreciate the local farmers and businesses who continue to support the Ag Fair. It’s especially nice to get back to connecting the community with local agriculture,” said Rhoades, particularly after a year away due to the pandemic, she said.

Rhoades also expressed appreciation to the local farms that worked with the FFA members, training in the weeks and months before the Ag Fair to prepare them for the animal showmanship events. This year, Lo-Nan Farm and Ronnybrook Farm in Pine Plains and Millerhurst Farm in Ancramdale participated with Pine Plains’ FFA program.

Students in the PPCSD should count themselves lucky. Few school districts these days even have FFA programs any more; in the Harlem Valley, Pine Plains has an FFA chapter, but neither Webutuck nor Millbrook do any longer.

The FFA’s mission, according to its website, www.ffa.org, is to “make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.”

While FFA no longer stands for Future Farmers of America, its motto continues to be “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.”

Those students who belong to the Pine Plains FFA clearly understand the significance of those words and work hard to exemplify them, as shown at this past weekend’s Fall Agricultural Fair.

We commend the PPCSD for supporting such a robust agricultural curriculum and continuing its FFA program throughout the years. Doing so will ensure its students learn valuable real world skills and so much more, which could ultimately propel them into multiple and fascinating fields of study.

The Ag Fair offered just a hint of what could come from a career in agriculture. It’s organizations like the FFA that could provide the clues to help students reach such goals.

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