Gilbert High’s future farmers get project help

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GSN NEWS STAFF

The Gilbert FFA at Gilbert High School received a $4,000 grant from Tractor Supply Company that will allow the program to transform the school’s former landscape design area into an open space for livestock.

Tractor Supply Company is a nationwide retailer of agricultural and farming supplies that puts on an annual Grants for Growing program benefiting the National FFA Foundation. This year’s program raised $830,000 that resulted in over 271 grants for local organizations.

The grant will cover nearly the entire $4,800 budget for the project, which will see the roughly 4/10-acre site turned into an exercise area for Gilbert FFA’s large stock animals, such as pigs, cows, goats and sheep.

Gilbert FFA can house between 12 and 15 large stock animals at the school, said Bridget Goodner, Gilbert FFA advisor and agricultural teacher at Gilbert High School.

The funds will provide money to pay for tree and pond removal on the site as well as other expenses like bringing in a water trough for the animals.

“The students will have to contribute some time to help, because the grant didn’t meet the whole amount,” Goodner said. “There will be some time available for community service. We will remove some of the materials from the site for reuse, such as using the wood chips for mulch around garden bed.”

Despite Gilbert’s shift away from its agricultural past, the FFA program at Gilbert High School still attracts student participants, because it provides real world skills and training that are still valuable in today’s job market.

Agriculture, food and related industries were worth $992 billion in 2015, or a 5.5-percent share of U.S. gross domestic product. Those industries supported 21.4 million full and part-time jobs in 2016, which was 11 percent of the country’s total employment, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Gilbert FFA even provides useful training for students that aren’t necessarily interested in traditional agricultural jobs. The organization hosts career development days that introduces students to a range of career paths, from forestry to agricultural mechanics.

“When we talk to people in the community and students, we emphasize the diversity of agriculture,” Goodner said. “You could be an IT person working on software that farmers use to irrigate their crops.”

Goodner said that Gilbert FFA also provides events and training that will serve students regardless of the career path they choose, including opportunities to serve in leadership roles within the organization and learn how to run meetings.

The group also has leadership development events that give students the chance to practice public speaking and debate.

“There is something for everybody,” Goodner said.