Showcasing the Agricultural Program for Pea Ridge schools, teachers Dixie Miller and Josie Kutz hosted an open house Tuesday, Nov. 29.
"We're passionate about agriculture and all the opportunities and pathways it provides to our students," Miller wrote in the invitation to the open house.
"I love it. It's been a great experience," Miller said of her first year at Pea Ridge.
A native of Farmington, Ark., Miller graduated from Hutchinson Community College, where she was on the collegiate livestock judging team, then went to the University of Arkansas, where she also was on the livestock judging team. She said worked for animal science at the UofA, where she worked on the 4H livestock judging contest. She said she did training with extension agents.
"I really enjoyed it. I loved working there, but I wanted to work with youth more directly," she said. "I knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture. I don't think there's any industry out there quite like it."
"I really enjoy the kids and working with them -- kind of sparking their passion for agriculture," she said.
Students manned several displays to explain their projects.
Freshmen Neveah Woods, Zoeyanne Timmons, Hannah Ingalls and Carrieanne Nixon said they enjoy the opportunities for college and the future.
"I'm in FFA because not only is it fun, and it helps me learn many things... it really is going to help me when I'm in college," Woods said. "It's a really good look. If you say on a college application, 'I'm in FFA,' it's automatically a good look. They have scholarships for many things and many job opportunities.
"Right now we are learning the chapter of conduct," Woods said, explaining that she has learned how to plan events including the open house.
"Anyone can be in FFA," Woods said. "That's how you make new friends. That's what I love -- I can make friends from other schools. I really enjoy it."
"It's just for the good look in college," Nixon said, adding that she enjoys having new experiences and having fun with other people that like agriculture. "It's literally the base of everything."
Ingalls, who used to show sheep, said she wants to show sheep and cattle again.
"I"ve been wanting to be in FFA since I was 6 or 7 not only because of showing animals, poultry and stuff, but getting to learn a lot more new experiences. I really didn't know half the stuff I know now," Ingalls said.
"It can get you far in life," Timmons said. "I can recite the creed. I'm the creed speaker for now."
Freshman Zoey Hinojosa said she shows sheep, chickens and goats.
"I can get more out of it (FFA) and learn more about responsibility and being respectful," Hinojosa said, adding that there are opportunities to go on trips.
Junior Kelsey Whitehill said: "I love getting to learn about animals. I want to be a vet when I grow up. I love when I learn so much in animal science. I'm an officer -- secretary. I love all the opportunities in the community and the school that we get to do.
"I believe everyone in high school should take FFA," Whitehill said.
"It really helps you get another family. FFA practices brotherhood. You learn about the environment. Everything leads back to animal science or FFA -- you think about your food, where does food come from. You think about what you make -- you have ag mechanics. This is a well-rounded program that we get to be in that basically covers most things in life."
"I love animals," Whitehill said, adding that she has a dog that is a "walking vet bill."
"I wanted to be a doctor, then I realized I did not want to work on people. I did not want that responsibility in my hands. I love animals. I think they're so unique in how their behaviors are. How they live their life difference to humans."
Benton County extension service agent Johnny Gunsaulis raved about the open house and the Pea Ridge program. "This is wonderful. She's got them well prepared to talk about what they're learning. It's great!"
"Benton County still is, according to the last ag census, the number one county in the state in terms of total gate revenue in terms of ag production. A lot of people don't realize that," he said. "They think it's probably a row crop county."
"There's still a strong ag industry in Benton County. There's a growing population. So, there's that struggle to feed that population," Gunsaulis said.
"Folks want to be connected and have confidence in their food supply. These kind of programs play right into training people to move into careers in that field."