May 25, 2024

WCA FFA/Ag Department celebrates growth

FFA Advisor Eric Sawatzke and WCA FFA students give remarks about the program’s growth at WCA.

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Grant County Herald

At last Thursday’s “Coffee and Corduroy” event in Barrett, West Central Area’s ag instructor and FFA Advisor Eric Sawatzke updated the public on what WCA’s Ag Department is doing, FFA growth, and the upcoming open house for the new WCA Greenhouse coming up Feb. 21.

Sawatzke told the dozen, or so, assembled, that the greenhouse project took around three years to complete. Conceived to teach plant science, it soon expanded to a food source for the school, food shelves, and the public. Completed this fall by the A. G. Lauer company, one of the nations best greenhouse contractors, the school accepted community pre-plants to test out the irrigation and automatic fertilizing systems. 

Now those plants are being cleared out and the greenhouse is preparing for its first harvestable crops, vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Sawatzke hopes they will be well established in time for the open house.

“We intend the greenhouse to be in operation 365 days a year and have food or flowers for sale all that time,” Sawatzke said.

The project includes eight “My Garden” hydroponic plant systems that grow plants without soil. Two are going to the WCA Middle School and the others will be divided between the two elementary schools’ 4th grades to get the students an early start on growing plants.

Next, the project is adding a meat processing component, through the acquisition of a mobile meat processing trailer, in combination with Ashby High School’s Ag Department. Lakes County Educational Cooperative, Fergus Falls, is giving both schools walk-in meat lockers to store processed meats and produce. Part of the grant that purchased the trailer also pays for a program director to manage the entire program. She has been hired and will start work soon.

“We are getting calls and emails from all over the country from schools that are interested in what we are doing, or wanting to come and tour the greenhouse,” said Sawatzke proudly.

A number of WCA FFA students informed the assembled about the remarkable growth of the WCA FFA program this past year. For instance, last year 11 FFAers had signed up for Career Development Events, a competition where students work on projects as diverse as trap shooting to archery, to ag mechanics to dairy cattle judging. This year 37 WCA FFA members are signed up from the club of 144 members.

Sawatzke ended the morning program by giving a tour of the greenhouse.

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