Farm will help send students to FFA Convention

Published 9:17 am Tuesday, March 3, 2015

This summer and fall, Chilton County residents will be able to purchase produce from a source that will help local students.

Agriculture departments from Chilton County High School, Isabella, Maplesville and Thorsby—for a total of about 500 students—are teaming up to prepare and maintain a farm on school property in Thorsby, according to Landon Lowery, agriscience and FFA teacher at Isabella.

Class time in the spring could be devoted to preparing the site, which spreads over 10 acres located off County Road 37. Then, students would volunteer their time over the summer to cultivate the crops and sell the produce.

Farm site: Local ag students will use Board of Education property off County Road 37 in Thorsby to grow vegetables.

Farm site: Local ag students will use Board of Education property off County Road 37 in Thorsby to grow vegetables.

Proceeds would help the students pay their way to the FFA National Convention in Louisville, Ky.

Lowery said the typical cost is $500 per student, and not many from Chilton County are able to attend each year.

“The expense is the main hindrance there,” he said. “We’re hoping to make enough so that it pays for them to go. It’s a unique experience.”

Two FFA: Food For All $2,500 grants and a $5,000 grant from Cawaco for equipment have provided a head start for the project.

Lowery said grants through seed companies are also being sought.

Each of the schools involved has a little something different to offer. For example, a greenhouse on the Thorsby campus will be used to raise the crops before they are moved to the farm. All the local programs will provide personnel and equipment.

“We’re putting all our resources together,” Lowery said.

Lowery said educators have seen cooperation among local schools benefit students.

“It’s no longer just football and baseball, competing against each other; they’re working together,” he said.

Though many of the students who plan to work at the farm over the summer would be trying to pay their way to the National Convention, others have expressed an interest in helping for just the experience.

“They all said, ‘We don’t care; we want to be a part of it,’” Lowery said. “This is a chance for them to see what farming is, not just read about it out of a textbook.”

Lowery has talked with representatives of the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Farmers Market Authority about how the produce could be used.

The produce could be sold wholesale to local farmers, and sold retail locally or at farmers markets like the ones held in Birmingham and Montgomery.

Not all of the produce will be sold, Lowery said. Some will be given to local food banks and shelters, as part of an effort to teach the students good citizenship.

The support of local organizations like Garrison Farm and Home Center in Thorsby, the Chilton County Farmers Federation, the Chilton County Board of Education and the town of Thorsby has been critical, Lowery said.

The most significant need is for equipment. The students would like to have their own tractor, for example.

Anyone interested in donating should contact Lowery at or by calling the school at (205) 280-2770.

Lowery said he hopes students are able to being preparing the site in the coming weeks, and some plants could be in the ground at the first of April.

Crops planned to be grown and harvested include corn, peas, tomatoes, watermelon and squash; and fall crops could include collards and pumpkins.

The project could grow to cover 26 acres at the same site.

The farm project was announced during National FFA Week, which was from Feb. 21-28.

The Isabella FFA participated in National FFA Week by holding a cookout, a tug-of-war competition, a “wear your FFA gear to school day” and a medallion hunt.