This week (Feb. 22-29), Milton, along with the rest of America, is celebrating National FFA Week. The event was first celebrated in 1948, according to the organization’s website.

The purpose of National FFA Week is to promote FFA, while bringing awareness to production agriculture, even as people become further removed from the process, Milton High School agriculture teacher and Milton FFA advisor Stacy Skemp said.

“Our state theme is ‘Rise up, stand out,’” she said.

Chartered in October of 1929, Milton FFA includes today some 340 students most of whom are enrolled in elective agricultural classes at Milton High School. The number also includes recent graduates who want to exhibit projects at the Rock County 4H Fair scheduled to open June 1, and students working towards American degrees, described by Skemp as the highest degree one can earn through the national FFA. Students can begin applying to the program one year after high school graduation. This year, five Milton FFA students are pursuing that goal, she said.

Any Milton High School student who enrolls in elective agricultural classes is automatically enrolled in the FFA program, Skemp said. National and state requirements provide that a child has to be enrolled in an agricultural education program in order to be eligible for FFA enrollment.

Although nationally, seventh- and eighth-grade students were added to the program in 1988, due to scheduling concerns, agricultural classes and FFA enrollment were discontinued at the Milton Middle School last year, she said.

For Milton High School students, the week brought FFA-themed dress-up days and activities, including a milk-chugging contest and a hidden FFA emblem game. Students spotting the hidden emblems around campus could win a prize.

On Wednesday, a dodgeball tournament was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Members of the public interested in attending can bring three cans of food or $3 to the Milton High School gym. The food and money serve as admission and all proceeds will be donated to the Milton Food Pantry, Skemp said.

Today, Milton FFA Chapter President and high school senior Emma McNally said, brings a “piggy pie” contest. Without the use of hands, contestants are tasked with finding a piece of bubble gum in a pie plate filled with whipped cream and then blowing a bubble, and tomorrow, students will be treated to free ice cream at lunchtime and FFA members will be selling cheese curds.

Throughout the year, Skemp said, popular events in which Milton FFA students typically participate include exhibiting projects at the fair and career development events (CDE) in which students compete as teams in such categories as horse, wildlife, livestock, dairy cattle, milk quality, horticulture and veterinarian science.

Teams participating in CDEs compete at the district level in March at the Rock County fairgrounds and UW-Platteville campus, with those winners advancing to state competitions held in April at UW-Madison. State winners compete at the national level at the FFA convention, which will be held this year in October in Indianapolis, she said.

Skemp has served as agriculture teacher and FFA advisor in Milton for six years, and before that, within the Janesville school district for a total of 13 years. She has a farming background: her parents owned a dairy farm in Hollandale, and she was a member of FFA throughout her four years of high school, she said. Today, she is a member of the Milton FFA Alumni.

Exposure to opportunities made available through FFA guided her to her career choice to become an agricultural education teacher, she said.

Watching students develop through FFA, Skemp said: “The kids get out of it what they put in.”

For those who embrace the opportunities, she said: “By the time they graduate, there is a ton a growth and transformation.” Students go from shy and sometimes unsure to well-spoken, determined individuals with leadership skills and often a defined pathway forward, she said.

“We like to say we have an opportunity for everyone,” she said.

Upcoming opportunities to help support FFA initiatives include the spring plant sale, planned this year for May 6-9 and May 16 in the greenhouse at the high school. Students recently sold strawberries, Skemp said, with some of those proceeds going to the Milton Area Youth Center.

For more information about Milton FFA and upcoming events, visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/miltonffa/

FFA creed and some historical milestones found online: www.miltoncourieronline.com

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