Sioux Falls CTE Academy FFA Chapter Celebrates Its First FFA Week

Amanda Wolf with her FFA teammates Chantelle Meyeraan and Shelby Liesner-Fertig.

By Lura Roti

During the school year, Amanda Wolf lives with her parents and four siblings in Sioux Falls. But during the summer months, she’s outdoors caring for goats, chickens, rabbits and geese on her Aunt Megan’s Lincoln County farm.

“I have a heart for agriculture,” said the Roosevelt High School student. “Farming and overall agriculture has been in my family for a long time.”

During the summer months, she is also active in Lincoln County 4-H, competing in livestock judging and she shows rabbits, goats, sheep and poultry. Over the years, she has become friends with other Lincoln County 4-H members. This is how she learned about high school agriculture education classes and FFA.

“I used to always be so jealous of my friends in Lennox because they got to go into the show ring for FFA,” Wolf said. “I was actually talking to my aunt and parents about possibly moving out to the farm and going to school in Lennox because they have an ag program over there.”

And then she learned that an agriculture education program and FFA chapter were opening in Sioux Falls at the Career and Technical Education Academy.

“I was like, ‘Yes! This is what I’m into. This is what I am going to sign up for. This is what I love to do.’ And now I don’t have to choose between leaving my family and friends here so I can take ag classes and be in FFA.’”

Fall 2022 was the first school year agriculture education has been offered at Sioux Falls Career and Technical Education Academy. All students from Sioux Falls high schools, as well as some area rural high schools can take agriculture education and other classes offered at this academy.

Wolf is one of 30 students to sign up to take agriculture education as an elective class at the CTE Academy. Daily around 9:06, she boards a bus at Roosevelt High School to take the large animal science class. Once class is finished, she is bused back to Roosevelt to engage with her core classes – geometry, English 2, physical science and child development.

Even though she knew quite a bit about livestock before taking this class, Wolf says she has learned a lot. And one more thing – now she actually looks forward to Mondays.

“Before this class, I didn’t really want to get up or go to school,” Wolf said. “Now, when my alarm rings every morning, it’s like, ‘All right, let’s get up. Let’s go.’ I actually have fun in school.”

Classmate Paytan Waterman agrees.

“This is the highlight of my morning, that’s for sure,” said Waterman, a junior at Roosevelt High School. “The fact we come to a different school and it’s in a different environment is helpful. It gets you out and moving – also just the fact that Mr. Jensen is a very hands-on teacher, that really helps. He gives us information about the different kinds of cows, swine, horses, goats and sheep, all of that, with all that information and the games we play to remember that is very helpful.”

This particular day in ag class, Jensen led Waterman, Wolf and the other students in an activity where they did a gallery walk to learn about agriculture careers.

In an earlier class, Jensen had students research an agriculture career of their choosing and create an informational poster about that career. The gallery walk gave students an opportunity to learn from their peers as they reviewed classmates’ posters.

Waterman’s poster focused on the career of a large animal veterinary technician.

“My plan after high school is to go to STI (Southeast Technical Institute) as a vet tech because ever since I was little, I have wanted to do something with animals,” Waterman explained. “This assignment taught me what they do day-by-day. Honestly, I have learned more in this first week of class (about animals) than I have my whole life.”

In addition to learning about agriculture careers and livestock, students have an opportunity to care for animals. The agriculture education facility is home to chickens, quail, fish, a turtle named Stacy and soon a sow ready to farrow.

“I think it is so important that our students get an understanding of what production agriculture is,” explained Andrew Jensen, ag education instructor and FFA adviser.

To help expose this largely urban class of students to the larger livestock they are learning about this semester, Jensen took all classes to the beef and swine shows held at the Sioux Empire Livestock Show in Sioux Falls.

“I want them to see all different aspects of agriculture so they can understand there is a place at the table for everyone in the ag industry,” explained Jensen, who grew up on a farm near Wakonda.

In addition to classroom instruction, Jensen also serves as Sioux Falls’ first FFA Adviser. “When we really think about the city of Sioux Falls, it was really built on agriculture. With the Stockyards and Smithfield and all the other ag industry that is here, it really makes sense that we are doing this,” Jensen said. “If you look at all the large towns and cities in South Dakota, they all have ag programs and FFA – Rapid City, Yankton, Pierre, Brookings.”

FFA – the agriculture youth leadership and professional development organization that all agriculture education students can participate in. Waterman and Wolf are both members.

Wolf shared what it was like when she received the blue corduroy jacket – the FFA uniform since the 1920s. “When I first put the blue jacket on, I asked myself, ’is this a dream? Is this true?’”

To learn more about FFA in South Dakota, visit South Dakota Farmers Union is a sponsor of South Dakota FFA and hosts a farm safety quiz bowl during the State FFA Convention held each spring in Brookings.