"Boots on the Ground"

by Jed Blackwell
"Boots on the Ground"
Today marks a chance to recognize and learn about an educational organization with a mission to make a positive difference in the lives of young people by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agriculture education.

Each year during National FFA Week, the National FFA Foundation hosts a 24-hour giving event called Give FFA Day. This year, the annual day of giving will be held on Thursday, Feb. 24.

Leading up to and during the event, FFA supporters are encouraged to get involved by sharing the event with their social and professional networks, giving of their time and/or funds, and telling others why they support FFA. Each year, those who support FFA unite to donate and raise funds while also increasing awareness for the organization.

Give FFA Day celebrates the spirit of giving in the FFA family. Alumni chapters and former members, businesses and organizations, parents and friends – those are just some of the people who individually and collectively make #GiveFFADay a success.

Locally, the organization has chapters at several high schools and career centers. One of those is at R.D. Anderson Applied Technology Center, which serves Spartanburg County school districts 4, 5, and 6. Agriculture instructor Liz Morton shared some of the things a donation during Give FFA Day could mean.

"During National FFA Week, chapters all over are doing different things," she said. "Some are fun, some are community service. The big push today is for people to donate to the organization in any amount they want. The national foundation manages all the money, and the funds are used to award student grants. There are community service projects, scholarships, and a whole list of things the foundation helps students with. This is where those funds come from. It's a once-a-year push from the national organization."

R.D. Anderson received one of those grants in recent years, in a program called the Grants for Growing project. The end result, thanks to chicken coops made possible by the grant, is eggs that the center's Culinary Arts program uses in its popular Community Meals. Morton added that the center had been able to "basically triple" its garden thanks to the grants. Living to Serve grants provided both the funds for the chicken coops and raised beds for the community garden. 

Other grants received by R.D. Anderson students include a $1,000 grant for Grayson Morton and Hayden Burdette to advance their Supervised Agriculture Experience, and a Gift of Blue program grant that presented Josie Wingo with her FFA jacket.

Morton noted that FFA offers many programs that people might not realize.

"We still have the programs that people think of, the livestock projects and raising vegetables," she said. "But we're far beyond what happens on the farm. We offer a Veterinary Science program that's all about small animal care and grooming of companion animals. By the time those students are seniors, they should be able to intern and co-op with local vets, groomers, and kennels. Several are willing to take students under their wing. We offer plant production in the greenhouse, which includes cross-pollination. There's a lot of biology and chemistry involved. There's Ag Mechanical and Ag Engineering. The organization has come a long way, and it all starts in the classroom."

It also starts, in part, with FFA Giving Day. We're even in on the act, providing some boots for R.D. Anderson students.

"Harrison's has donated apparel for our show team in the past," Morton said. "Now, with the farm at school, kids don't have extra boots or shoes. Some of them were actually putting plastic bags on their shoes to work. I put out a call asking for help, and Kevin just asked for our sizes. Any time I call on him, he's there with supplies. This time, it was boots so our kids could get dirty."

That brings a new meaning to "boots on the ground".

If you'd like to donate on Give FFA Day, follow this link. https://giveffaday.ffa.org/pages/home-2176


by Jed Blackwell

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