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Sioux Falls CTE Academy FFA Chapter Celebrates Its First FFA Week

Amanda Wolf with her FFA teammates Chantelle Meyeraan and Shelby Liesner-Fertig.
Courtesy Photo
Amanda Wolf with her FFA teammates Chantelle Meyeraan and Shelby Liesner-Fertig.

FFA is an agriculture youth leadership organization founded in 1928 by a group of farmers. Today, some 5,500 South Dakota students are members of this national organization. But it is an exclusive organization. Only students enrolled in agriculture education classes can participate. In recognition of FFA Week, we bring you a story from South Dakota’s newest chapter. It was founded fall 2022 when Sioux Falls Career and Technical Education Academy began offering agriculture education classes.

During the school year, Amanda Wolf lives with her parents and four siblings in Sioux Falls. But during the summer months, she’s outdoors caring for goats, chickens, rabbits and geese on her Aunt Megan’s Lincoln County farm.

“Farming and overall agriculture has been in my family for a long time. I have a heart for agriculture,” Amanda Wolf said.

During the summer months, Wolf is also active in Lincoln County 4-H, competing in livestock judging and she shows rabbits, goats, sheep and poultry. It was through her Lincoln County 4-H friends that she learned about high school agriculture education classes and FFA.

“I used to always be so jealous of my friends in Lennox because they got to go into the show ring for FFA. I was actually talking to my aunt and parents about possibly moving out to the farm and going to school in Lennox because they have an ag program over there,” Amanda Wolf said.

And then she learned that an agriculture education program and FFA chapter were opening in Sioux Falls at the Career and Technical Education Academy.

“I was like, ‘Yes! This is what I’m into,’” Amanda Wolf said.

Fall 2022 was the first school year agriculture education has been offered at Sioux Falls Career and Technical Education Academy. All students from Sioux Falls high schools, as well as some area rural high schools can take agriculture education.

Wolf is one of 30 students to sign up to take agriculture education as an elective class at the CTE Academy. Daily around 9:06, she boards a bus at Roosevelt High School to take the large animal science class. Once class is finished, she is bused back to Roosevelt to engage with her core classes like geometry or English 2.

Even though she knew quite a bit about livestock before taking this class, Wolf says she has learned a lot. And one more thing – now she actually looks forward to Mondays.

“Before this class, I didn’t really want to get up or go to school,” Wolf said. “Now, when my alarm rings every morning, it’s like, ‘All right, let’s get up. Let’s go.’ I actually have fun in school,” Amanda Wolf said.

Classmate Paytan Waterman agrees.

“This is the highlight of my morning, that’s for sure. The fact that Mr. Jensen is a very hands-on teacher, that really helps. He gives us information about the different kinds of cows, swine, horses, goats and sheep, all of that, with all that information and the games we play to remember that is very helpful,” Paytan Waterman said.

Paytan Waterman checks on chickens during her agriculture education class.
Lura Roti
Paytan Waterman checks on chickens during her agriculture education class.

This particular day in ag class, Jensen led Waterman, Wolf and the other students in an activity where they did a gallery walk to learn about agriculture careers.

In an earlier class, Jensen had students research an agriculture career of their choosing and create an informational poster about that career. The gallery walk gave students an opportunity to learn from their peers as they reviewed classmates’ posters.

Waterman’s poster focused on the career of a large animal veterinary technician.

“My plan after high school is to go to STI (Southeast Technical Institute) as a vet tech because ever since I was little, I have wanted to do something with animals,” Paytan Waterman said.

In addition to learning about agriculture careers and livestock, students have an opportunity to care for animals. The agriculture education facility is home to chickens, quail, fish, a turtle named Stacy and soon a sow ready to farrow.

“I think it is so important that our students get an understanding of what production agriculture is,” Andrew Jensen said.

Andrew Jensen is the Agriculture Education teacher.

Andrew Jensen is the Agriculture Education teacher at Sioux Falls Career and Technical Education Academy
Lura Roti
Andrew Jensen is the Agriculture Education teacher at Sioux Falls Career and Technical Education Academy

To help expose this largely urban class of students to the larger livestock, Jensen took all classes to the beef and swine shows held at the Sioux Empire Livestock Show in Sioux Falls.

“I want them to see all different aspects of agriculture so they can understand there is a place at the table for everyone in the ag industry,” Jensen said.

In addition to classroom instruction, Jensen also serves as Sioux Falls’ first FFA Adviser.

“When we really think about the city of Sioux Falls, it was really built on agriculture. With the Stockyards and Smithfield and all the other ag industry that is here, it really makes sense that we are doing this. It has always been so surprising that Sioux Falls never had one. Because Rapid City has had an ag program for many years, Aberdeen has an ag program, Pierre brought their ag program back and Yankton started an ag program, so, if we are looking at all these larges towns and cities in South Dakota, they all have an ag program and an FFA,” ,” Jensen said.

FFA – the agriculture youth leadership and professional development organization that gives students an opportunity to take what they learn in class and apply it in competitions, like public speaking or livestock judging. Waterman and Wolf are both members.

Amanda Wolf shared what it was like when she received the blue corduroy jacket – the FFA uniform since the 1920s.

Wolf competed in her first livestock judging contest as an FFA member during the Sioux Empire Livestock Show held in January. She is eager to participate in more FFA contests in the future.

“When I first put the blue jacket on, I asked myself, ’is this a dream? Is this true?’” Wolf said.

Lura Roti grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota but today she calls Sioux Falls home. She has worked as a freelance journalist for more than two decades. Lura loves working with the SDPB team to share the stories of South Dakota’s citizens and communities. And she loves sharing her knowledge with the next generation. Lura teaches a writing course for the University of Sioux Falls.