PARIS – The Oxford Hills Technical High School Future Farmers of America chapter is on the cutting edge.

“I believe we’re standing on the cusp of a major, major change in agriculture,” said adviser Al Schaeffer, a forestry instructor at Oxford Hill Technical High School, to the dozens of students, family members and faculty who gathered at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Thursday evening for the organization’s first banquet program.

What would seem to be an agricultural organization on the brink of obsolescence could just be on the cutting edge, he said.

The national FFA organization was organized in 1928, but in recent years with the decline of farming, it has changed its name from Future Farmers of America to simply FFA and now encompasses a broad range of students from forestry to landscaping and horsemanship.

By changing its name to simply FFA, Schaeffer said the organization opened its doors for a much broader membership.

“It’s more than just cows, plows and sows,” he said quoting the organization’s motto. Today the organization deals with some of the most important issues facing the world, such as energy and food consumption.

Built on three core areas of classroom and laboratory work, the FFA offers students opportunities to prepare for leadership, personal growth and career success, whether its in the farming business or elsewhere.

Oxford Hills Technical High School has about 16 students, largely from the forestry division involved in the FFA, but several are also there because of their involvement in horsemanship programs.

Co-president Rebecca Strout said that she has been involved in the organization in Ohio where she lived and continued her membership here in the Oxford Hills Technical School because of her work with horses. She and two other girls in the organization are involved in horse judging. But she said one of the most important qualities she has learned from her participation is leadership skills.

“That’s probably the most important thing,” she said as she prepared to open up the meeting and the first annual banquet which included a slide show of the student’s competitions.

The officers for 2008-2009 sworn in during the ceremony were Strout and Co-president Shawn Morse; Vice President Sarah Leonard, secretary Ryan Lebroke, treasurer Levi Hill, reporter Ron. St. John and sentinel Nate Hill.

Honorary membership was awarded to Dave Mason, technical school director; Jane Munn, assistant director; Ted Moccia, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School principal; Gary Blanchard, guidance department; Schaeffer; and Brian Bean, forestry assistant instructor.

Greenhand degrees were awarded to Shawn Morse, Ryan Lebroke, Levi Hill, Nate Hill, Wesley McAllister, Josh Dyer and Andrew Schindler. Also awarded the Greenhand degree were Zach Martin, Kaylene Sutton, Sara Leonard, Ron St. John, Jared McClure, Cosmo Giansanti and Eric Knapik.

The group, which has been successful at competitions, will be raising funds to continue competing across the state and at national competitions this year. The organization will have a barbecue fundraiser at L.F. Pike & Son on July 18 beginning at 6 p.m.

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