Kentucky FFA Foundation Awards More Than $60,000 in Grants to School-Based Agriculture Programs
Kentucky FFA Foundation
LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 18, 2019) — The Kentucky FFA Foundation recently announced that it has funded more than $60,000 in grants for agricultural education programs in Kentucky, including two $10,000 Agricultural Innovation grants that were awarded to LaRue County High School in Hodgenville and Thomas Nelson High School in Bardstown.
All the grants will go toward enhancing learning opportunities for agriculture students.
Agriculture programs are hands-on and often have students involved in things like raising animals, growing plants, or conducting scientific data collection or experimentation. This type of instruction requires greenhouses, school farms, pieces of technology – all of which can be expenses not necessarily covered by school funds.
Thirteen agriculture programs received Ag Achiever grants, which are designed to help agriculture teachers purchase new equipment or teaching resources, make modifications to existing equipment or facilities, or implement innovative programming.
“Effective agriculture programs are locally driven by the interests of students and the needs of the community,” said Sheldon McKinney, executive director of the Kentucky FFA Foundation. “Ag Achiever grants are a way to put money toward projects that are working for folks.”
The Kentucky FFA Foundation also introduced Agricultural Innovation grants this year, which are $10,000 each and have a big-picture focus.
“We’ve offered smaller grants for a long time, and those make a difference,” said McKinney. “But with these, we wanted to be able to go beyond meeting basic needs for a program. These grants are allowing us to say ‘What can move the needle for programs or students?’”
The agriculture program at LaRue County High School will use its Agricultural Innovation grant to create a processing facility where produce and fish harvested from its aquaponics system can be prepared for the end consumer. Aquaponics combines raising vegetables hydroponically with growing fish. It’s a system of food production that has been around for quite some time and continues to gain popularity.
“It’s my job to figure out how in the world I can get these students motivated to get them educated, and this is a great way to do it,” said Chris Thomas, one of the school’s two agriculture teachers. “We like to talk about local food, hands-on learning, year-round production – this project puts all that into practice.”
Thomas Nelson High School’s agriculture department will use the Agricultural Innovation grant funding to help develop its 40-acre land lab on the school’s campus. Agriculture teacher John Hammond has designed the project as a class that allows students to come up with ideas for different sections of the land lab.
Using grant funds, they plan to implement raised garden beds that incorporate technology called a FarmBot, reclaim unusable land through a variety of management practices, establish an orchard, introduce a small goat herd, and add a flock of laying hens – all projects that have been designed and led by students.
“As we go through life, we realize most big ideas need three things to happen; time, effort and money,” said FFA Foundation Chairman Adam Hinton. “Through our work with FFA members and ag programs, we know they have some really creative ideas. Often they have the time and effort to be able to execute these ideas, and if they just had the necessary money, we believe something really special could happen.”
The grants are funded by a wide segment of the agriculture community, including the Kentucky Farm License Plate, or “Ag Tag,” program and Universal Leaf for the Ag Achiever grants, and funds raised at the Kentucky FFA Foundation’s annual gala for the Ag Innovation grants.
“Universal Leaf is committed to making a positive impact in the areas where our employees and growers live,” said Lindsay Efird, Universal Leaf representative. “Ag education is amplified when you can couple the classroom materials with hands-on experiences.”
The Kentucky FFA Foundation cultivates partnerships which support the FFA vision to grow leaders, build communities, and strengthen agriculture. Kentucky FFA Foundation initiatives impact more than 14,500 FFA members in 154 FFA chapters across Kentucky.