Sioux Falls students gain hands-on experience in the ag classroom
City kids now have access to agricultural education and FFA.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — High school students in South Dakota’s largest city now have the option to take classes about the state’s largest industry: agriculture. And this semester, they welcomed some new friends to the classroom.
Agriculture and FFA courses are being offered in Sioux Falls for the first time this school year. Now, they are not only learning about animals, but they are also getting to take care of their own right in the classroom.
“So we have some chickens, we have some guinea pigs and some quail and then in April we will bring in a sow to farrow and our students will have all the hands-on opportunities of processing pigs and taking care of them,” said Andrew Jensen, Sioux Falls ag teacher and FFA advisor.
Students are each assigned chores.
“So it’s really fun, it teaches us ways to take care of the animals that you may not do if you live in Sioux Falls,” said Bree Koepke, junior. “Like chickens, I don’t have chickens at home but it’s really fun working with them and getting the eggs and cleaning their cage, like it seems horrible, but I feel like it’s more fun.”
“It gives you really important life skills on how not only to take care of animals but how to work together in a team to do it,” said Lillian Wright, senior.
After graduation, Wright is planning to study veterinarian medicine. She says this class has given her the background she needs to succeed in her college career.
“It’s helping me so when I go to college, I am going to already know like how to correctly define a certain type of livestock or how to take care of some type of animals and we are getting a pig soon and we are going to learn how to give them their shots and everything,” said Wright. “It’s just going to give me that opportunity to learn more so I can be ahead and kind of know more into my field and also get more experience for my field to make sure it’s really what I want to do.”
But agriculture is about more than just livestock. The class has also added space for aquaponics to give students an in-depth look at horticulture. For Alyssa Bade, working with the plants has been her favorite part of the ag education program.
“I really enjoy learning about all the different types of plants, roots, stems and propagating all those plants,” said Bade.
The program also offers FFA. This year, there were 13 students participating. They competed in LDEs in the fall, placing second in the district for their marketing plan and seventh at state. This spring, the chapter has a poultry judging team, a livestock judging team and a couple students participating in agronomy and vet science.
“So, small but mighty this first year,” said Jensen.
Bringing a better understanding of the agricultural industry to the students through hands-on learning is a key reason for building this program.
“It’s just so important because there is such a disconnect between food production and where students are getting their food,” said Jensen. “I know maybe several of them said I had no idea this is where this came from, or this is how this is produced. So, it’s really nice to be able to bridge the gap in Sioux Falls.”
This year, the program consists of 30 students. That enrollment number has already almost doubled for next year.