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Teens dig into farm organization
Samantha Keserauskis, an eighth-grader at Brantley County Middle School in Nahunta, and Brad Baker, a freshman at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, sat next to each other on a bench, tapping their feet nervously Monday.

The two were waiting to participate in the public speaking portion of the Future Farmers of America Leadership Competition, hosted at Golden Isles Career Academy.

"We're a little nervous, but the nerves don't come from having to get up and talk in front of people," Samantha said. "This competition and being in the FFA, I think it gives good people skills, helps us prepare and be able to talk to the public about agriculture and what we in the FFA do."

Samantha and Brad were among 31 students, ranging from sixth- through 12th-grade, from Glynn and surrounding counties taking part in the one-day competition.

The organization's emphasis is broader than what people may realize, students say.

"People think it's all just animals and plants, but there's so much more because almost all the foods you see, even McDonald's, go back to agriculture of some kind," Brad said.

Michael Stalvey, agriculture teacher and organization advisor for Golden Isles Career Academy students, says there is much more to be discovered as a member of the FFA than just cows and crops.

"We've moved so far away from simply farming that there's something for everyone," Stalvey said. "Just about everything you see every day can somehow be connected to agriculture.

"I've been doing this in Glynn County for 22 years, and we've always done something other than farming, including landscape, and now we've added animal sciences, vet sciences, small animal care, forestry and wildlife."

While the prominence of agriculture has certainly changed in Georgia over the years, Stalvey says the FFA helps reconnect students to things that continue to maintain importance in the state.

"A lot of times, if nothing more, it opens students' eyes to everything around them," he said.

"It introduces them to agriculture that is all around them every day that they don't realize. Even the newspaper that comes out every day started out as an agricultural product at some point."

Watching students compete, it becomes clear that FFA programs at the different schools engage them far beyond just what's expected.

"You get to learn all about the outdoors, you meet amazing people, and you get the opportunity to do amazing things you would never get to do in a normal classroom," Samantha said.

Among those other opportunities are hands-on activities that teach skills a student can carry throughout life.

"The FFA allows these kids to learn a career skill to begin with and, in addition, they learn those soft job skills that every employer is going to require, including showing up on time and putting in 110 percent," Stalvey said.

"In regards to today's competition, it greatly helps students with their public speaking skills and confidence."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other topics.Contact her at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.

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