Davids’ visit highlights importance of agricultural education program

The agriculture education and Future Farmers of America programs at Spring Hill High School have continually grown stronger during the past 20 years.

And on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids visited Spring Hill High School to talk to ag students as part of her Farm Bill listening tour. During her tour, Davids has visited farms, ranches and businesses throughout the 3rd District before she considers the 2023 Farm Bill proposal. Davids currently serves on the House Agriculture Committee.

The 2023 Farm Bill determines policy and funding levels for agriculture, food assistance programs, natural resources and other food and agriculture items with the Department of Agriculture. The bill, which is voted on every ive years expires Sept 30, 2023.

Davids said the Farm Bill was daunting, and so she embarked on the tour to better understand why the bill was controversial as well as why lawmakers could potentially vote against farmers.

“I don’t think anyone is out there like, ‘I don’t like farmers she said Davids discussed how the 2023 Farm Bill could support young, beginning farmers with improved access to capital and land.

“All humans need to eat, and it is a major economic sector for our country she said I am really excited to hear that you guys are learning all this stuff at such a young age

Alicia Hampton, high school ag education teacher and FFA sponsor, said it all comes back to people lacking an awareness for the agriculture industry.

“Most people have no clue where their food comes from she said. “They have no clue, whatsoever. And so all these problems, they don’t even know they are taking place, and they kind of feed into those problems because of misconcep- tions

Hampton said they need more people, especially youth involved in agriculture.

“FFA and 4-H groups are really great, and they are growing she said. “You don’t have to have an agricultural background to be in- volved in FFA

Spring Hill High School’s FFA program was founded in 2001 and currently has more than 80 members.The FFA program is a national educational organization encouraging students to explore a broad range of agricultural career pathways.

Alicia Hampton has served as an ag teacher and FFA adviser for the last eight years.

“Our students are our future and programs like agricultural education, FFA and 4-H provide students with the opportunity to foster a passion for the industry that serves our country and the world through its food sup- ply she said

Hampton said her students were predominantly female, and she enjoyed watching their commitment and passion to the agricultural way of life.

“Once they get immersed in it, they abso- lutely love it she said Student Melissa Duncan said agriculture had impacted her life in that it taught her a lot of patience about an industry she was unfamiliar with, but has grown to be passionate about.

Students shared with Davids how their journey with the school’s ag education program began, including how some of them initially lacked experience with farming or animals. One student told Davids how a love for dogs led to veterinary science.

During her visit, Davids participated in activities with students, including learning how to candle an egg for grading, noting the differences between processed and more complex cheeses ind ing the differences between dairy, breeding and beef cattle and learning about horticulture. She also spent time with students and their prized livestock projects, including goats, a pig and a cow, as well as how to properly show them in competition.

Davids said federal oficials need to invest more in the next generation of ag professionals, from farmers to veterinarians.

“Kansas’ economy depends on agriculture, but the workforce is getting older she said Peyton Sherron, a senior and Spring Hill FFA chapter president, and her sister, Brooklyn, started their own soap product business, Sherron Valley Farm. The sisters sell their bath bombs, bar soaps, loofahs and lip balms at the Spring Hill Farmers’ Market.

Peyton said the soaps are derived from the milk of their Nigerian and Alpine goats. She admits it took lots of research through trial and error to get their formula just right. Their parents have been supportive of their business venture.

“My dad grew up in the city, so he’s very supportive of it, but my mom is a lot more hands- on. She just knows more about it she said.

Peyton said FFA has been like a second family to her.

“It has instilled strong leadership and communication skills in me, allowed me to develop friendships with other FFA members from all over and introduced me to future career op- portunities she said The students take several trips throughout the year including an annual trip to Indianapolis, Ind., for the National FFA Competition.

Peyton said she was exited about the state competition, which will be at Kansas State University. Twenty-seven students qualiied to compete in 12 of the 16 contests.