Learning to farm: FFA offers something for all | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | April 6, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: April 5, 2017 at 10:26 am
Annual plant sale coming up this Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. at TCTC.
Members of the Future Farmers of America will hold their annual plant sale Saturday. But the FFA offers students much more than learning to grow plants.
Thunderbolt Career and Technology center offers three ag-related courses of study — plant and animal systems, horticulture and environmental and natural resources — all taught by Robin Lutten and her husband, Matt. She teaches agriculture-based classes while Matt teaches everything from wildlife to equpment operation to veterinary science.
Robin also leads the FFA, which is a club for agriculture students that offers a variety of events from public speaking to livestock judging and ag mechanics. “We normally compete in about five contests a day and last year had an individual place sixth in the state,” Robin said. And in 2016, eight students got to travel to the national convention in Indiana in October.
The FFA is nationally-based, not just a local club, Robin said. That means members are eligible to earn awards and scholarships for their efforts.
Surprisingly, most of the FFA members don’t come from farm families. “We have a little of each, but a lot aren’t from farm families. They may or may not have a small garden,” Robin said. She and Matt, on the other hand, both grew up on farms. “I didn’t want to sit in math class if I didn’t have to, so I’d go to ag class. Heck, I’d go play in a greenhouse any day versus sitting in a business class.” Matt grew up on a farm with cows and hay, while Robin grew up with horses and row crops. The two still live on a five-acre farm near Lodge with their two horses and two dogs.
Students learn how to take care of animals in class, which has resident chickens, rabbits, hedgehogs, a guinea pig, two chinchillas and a fish tank.
FFA members also have the chance to raise various farm animals, similar to 4-H. The students purchase and raise a goat, cow, etc. which they raise and compete in the state contests.
They also learn how to grow things and the plant sale is the culmination of that instruction. The vegetable plants are grown mostly from seed, while the flowers are from seedlings, Robin said. They start the plants in the greenhouse at the beginning of the second semester, and spend part of each day working in the greenhouse: planting, watering, shuffling and moving stuff around — all the skills required to grow commercial crops.
Then every April, the plants they have raised are offered for sale to raise money to help pay for the various FFA competitions and the annual summer camp in June in Myrtle Beach.
FFA camp is always a favorite with the students, Robin said. They get the chance to meet members from across the state and work on team-building activities, a ropes course with a zipline, canoeing, kayaking and social events such as concerts and the go-cart track. They also have a project: last year it was building a rocking chair from cardboard and duct tape. “Their chair supported Matt, who sat in it and rocked, and he probably weighs 260-270,” Robin said.
Any student enrolled in ag classes may join FFA — eighth graders signing up for TCTC ag programs this spring will be eligible for activities in the fall. FFA meets during club time at Colleton County High School so members have more time to participate.
Anyone interested in more information may call Robin Lutton at (843) 782-4514 ext. 42023.