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Sioux City district's first-ever FFA chapter hits the ground running
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Promoting agriculture education

Sioux City district's first-ever FFA chapter hits the ground running

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Sioux City FFA

Maria Collazo, a Sioux City Career Academy agriculture pathway student, takes notes on her laptop while dissecting a virtual reality flower during a Principles of Agronomy class Thursday at the Sioux City Community School District's downtown school. This is the first year the district has sponsored a National FFA Organization chapter.

SIOUX CITY -- Quick, what's the difference between dirt and soil? 

According to East High School 12th-grader Jonah Snieder, dirt is the stuff that gets under your fingernails while soil is the stuff that provides the nutrients needed to make plants grow.

"I didn't know that until I started taking (Career Academy pathway agriculture) classes," he said, prior to a Principles of Agronomy session.

Snieder must be a fast study, since he is also president of the Sioux City School District's first-ever FFA chapter. 

[Read more: Morningside Garden to Table Experience gives students a real-world education.]

Formerly known as Future Farmers of America, the FFA was founded in 1925 as a student organization to promote and support agriculture education in schools.

Snieder and other student officers for the inaugural FFA chapter will be presented with their iconic blue jackets during a Sioux City FFA Agriculture Dinner on Wednesday evening at Country Celebrations Event Center, 5606 Hamilton Blvd.

Sponsored by the Sioux City Public School Foundation, the program will feature a catered dinner in addition to a keynote speech by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. Proceeds will help Sioux City students attend the 92nd annual National FFA Convention Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Indianapolis.  

Organizing a local FFA chapter was a dream come true for Career Academy agriculture instructor Taylor Weidauer, since she was an FFA member when she was a teenager in her native Colorado.

Sioux City FFA

Ian Zishka, a Sioux City Career Academy agriculture pathway student, dissects a flower using a 3D virtual reality computer during a Principles of Agronomy class Thursday. In the background, from left, are Natalie Raasch, Cassandra Rohrbaugh and Maddax Frye.

"Even though I was a city girl with no direct connection with farm life, I gained experience as a leader through FFA," she said.

Indeed, only two or three of Weidauer's agriculture pathway students have any connection to farming.

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1887 Corn Palace
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The Huskers, 1891
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Sioux City Corn Palace 1891
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1889 Corn Palace
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Electrical Supply Co. Exhibit

Some students want to learn about agriculture since they'd like to become veterinarians in the future. Others, like Snieder, are considering pursuing agribusiness as a career path.

"I don't know much about farm life but I'd like to be an entrepreneur," he said. "I own a lawn mowing business with a buddy of mine. That's as close to nature as I get."

However, agriculture can actually involve everything from finance to medicine to sales to science.

[Read more: Uneasy with herbicides and sensing opportunity, some Northwest Iowa farmers go organic.]

This is why Weidauer was happy to show students how they could dissect a virtual reality flower via 3-D technology.

"Today's agriculture is all about using state-of-the-art technology," she said. "Students are naturally curious. Offering agriculture classes to city kids will give them an opportunity to consider a career path they hadn't thought of before."

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