Taking knowledge from time on the family’s farm to the next step

Published 11:25 pm Friday, February 16, 2018

When it comes to agricultural education at United South Central High School, many students are triple-dipping.

According to the national FFA, there are three circles of agricultural education: the classroom component, FFA and the supervised agricultural experience. USC teacher Dan Dylla has his hand in all three of those. Dylla has been the FFA adviser at USC for 27 years.

Dylla and 40 of his students were in Mankato last week at a regional competition for student supervised agricultural experience project interviews. Dylla said the USC attendees made up roughly half of the total number of participants, and the school walked away with 13 regional winners.

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According to Dylla, the SAEs are an opportunity for students to do skill-building related to record-keeping, goal-setting and planning. The competitions are extra.

“If you win something, that’s icing on the cake,” Dylla said. “I want the cake.”

Senior Trent Stevermer has the cake, but he’s got the icing, too.

Stevermer has been participating in FFA since the eighth grade. This year, he’s the president. Stevermer’s SAE project on swine production placement was the 2017 regional, state and then national champion. What makes a good project, he said, is that you just keep good records.

Stevermer works on his family farm, so the records he’s keeping relate to the activities he’s already doing: mixing feed, giving vaccinations and barn maintenance. With the SAE and FFA, he’s also learning those “cake” — life — skills Dylla spoke of. Eventually, he wants to come back to the area and farm for himself.

“You just get a good general basis of all the small things you need to succeed in life,” Stevermer said of FFA.

Fellow FFA member Brayden Schultz is taking the triplicate model to his SAE projects, too: He has three. They’re related to his family’s farm, too: grain production placement, diversified crop placement and fiber oil placement. Schultz helps his family grow corn, soybeans and oats.

“This is just what I’ve grown up doing in my family farm,” he said. “So the SAE project is just a way for me through, FFA, get it out there and compete against other individuals who are just like me: working on their farms.”

But being a participant is also an opportunity to impress future employers, who may notice that FFA is a big organization and that Schultz has put in time and effort to learn about and work hard in the agriculture industry. Schultz will be attending a community college in Iowa for an agricultural geospatial technology program. It will involve data management and using equipment to collect and analyze to discover how to make farming operations more efficient.

It’s a continuation of what he’s already working on at home, with the SAE and with FFA.

“I’m in the generation where it’s the future of agriculture,” he said. “I’m willing to jump in and get my hands dirty with it, learn how all this stuff works, and when you see the results at the end of the day, it’s really cool.”

It’s a chance to go more hands-on, Schultz said, with the things he’s watched his father do and now is doing for himself. The SAEs, then, the classes and the experience with FFA serve as a training ground.

“It’s taking what we’ve learned at home on our family’s farms, and then we’re actually the ones in charge,” he said. “So, we’re taking the knowledge that we’ve learned and actually putting it out there and seeing what we’ve learned and growing from those experiences, so when it comes time — we’re going to go home and actually do it for real life and be dependent on our success in farming — we have just that much more experience of actually doing things.”

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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