FFA Festival highlights town's farming roots
PINE PLAINS â€” Stissing Mountain Middle/High School has one of the more involved and active agricultural programs in the area. Last weekend highlighted that, as the districtâ€™s FFA chapterâ€™s annual Fall Agricultural Festival was held Oct. 8 and 9.
It was a community event with antique tractor pulls, flower shows from the Pine Plains Garden Club and food vendors, among others. Saturday morningâ€™s parade attracted hundreds of residents and visitors who crowded along the parade route. Winding from Seymour Smith Elementary School to Stissing Mountain High School, dozens of floats made their way down Route 199 in a salute to agriculture ranging from a marching band to local farmers proudly driving their farm equipment.
While there was plenty to do during the festival, the focal point of the weekendâ€™s activities was the schoolâ€™s FFA chapter. Students participated in livestock and small animal judging competitions, as well as arts and crafts exhibits for younger participants. Friday night a large roast beef dinner was held in the high school cafeteria; the tradition is one of the FFAâ€™s many fundraisers.
One of the most popular activities for FFA members involves working on farms with cows, which led up to the dairy show held on Friday.
â€œIâ€™ve been looking forward to it,â€ said 9-year-old Emma Schaeffer, â€œOnce you get in fourth grade you get to do it.â€
This was Emmaâ€™s first year working with her cow, Riley.
â€œThe hardest part is when youâ€™re walking them on a Monday and they donâ€™t remember the things you worked with them on from the last week,â€ she continued. â€œItâ€™s kind of bad when you donâ€™t see them every day.â€
Some of the students in the program sponsor animals from area farms while others have their own.
Faith Maskell, a 9-year-old from Milan, owns a chicken and a goat. Both were in competition Friday, and Faith walked away with a first-place ribbon for her market goat.
â€œMy chicken already laid an egg today,â€ she excitedly told her friends gathered around the cage her Australorp was in.
The larger animals were judged in competition based on the physical attributes of the animal as well the handlerâ€™s ability and control. This yearâ€™s judge was Chris Smith, who is a 2006 graduate of Stissing Mountain currently attending Cornell University for agricultural education in hopes of becoming an ag teacher.
This yearâ€™s FFA chapter president, senior Jonny Weinberger, said that the annual festival is such a success every year because of the way it involves the community.
â€œItâ€™s really a salute to agriculture,â€ he said Saturday morning after the parade. â€œI think it brings the community together over a common ground and everyone seems to contribute, not just the FFA. Everybody helps out because everybody cares.â€