Video: BEA FFA students to participate in PA Farm Show
There’s a workshop in the back of Bald Eagle Area High School that’s filled with workbenches, tools and sawdust.
It smells like a garage, but there’s also the smell of a farm.
After all, there is a small room in the workshop that houses rabbits raised by students.
And if you walk though that workshop, it also leads to a classroom.
That’s agriculture teacher Todd Biddle’s domain, where he uses personal experience to help teach students in class and those also involved in FFA.
FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America, is a youth organization that promotes agriculture education.
Students and advisers of the Bald Eagle Area FFA chapter are headed back to the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January in Harrisburg to showcase projects they’ve been working on all school year.
It’s an exciting time. I personally have been competing at the Pennsylvania Farm Show since I’ve been 7 years of age, and I have not missed a single Farm Show, so I like sharing the same excitement with my students.
BEA ag teacher Todd Biddle
“It’s an exciting time,” Biddle said. “I personally have been competing at the Pennsylvania Farm Show since I’ve been 7 years of age, and I have not missed a single Farm Show, so I like sharing the same excitement with my students.”
Students will be entering the rabbit competition with variations of Dutch rabbits they produced in class.
There are also several students who are creating miniature landscapes that represent three theme areas.
Biddle said the entire FFA chapter is also putting together a window exhibit, which they competed with at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.
“We won that contest so we had to submit a picture of the winning exhibit, and some paperwork to the Pennsylvania state Department of Education and they picked us as one of the 20 best designs to be on display,” Biddle said.
There is also one student showing a sheer, and another showing pigs.
In the three years leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Farm Show, BEA FFA students showed swine, beef cattle and rabbits.
4 BEA students to receive Keystone Degrees 6 students to get first-year FFA jackets
“To top it all off, four of my students will be getting their Keystone Degree from the Pennsylvania FFA, and six of my students will be getting their first-year FFA jacket,” Biddle said.
The Keystone Degree is the state’s highest level of recognition for FFA students.
Those BEA students recognized are Adrianna Cohen, Sara Lucas, Cole Matthiesen and Emily Trigg.
“It’s a lot of work,” Biddle said.
To be eligible for the degree, students must keep records of individual projects and accumulate Supervised Agricultural Experience hours done outside the classroom.
Biddle said some students racked up more than 800 hours worth of work.
Projects completed must encompass an agricultural business idea that includes potential expenses and income generated from it. Students must then create a portfolio documenting their projects that is reviewed by a state and regional FFA committee.
Students must also participate in other FFA activities, become leaders of an FFA committee, meet GPA requirements and give a six-minute speech on an agriculture topic.
Biddle said his students completed the speech portion of the process earlier in the year during Bald Eagle Area School District’s math and science night that showcased STEM projects.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
The only other BEA student to previously receive the Keystone Degree was Shanelle Spotts, Biddle said.
“They’re learning, firsthand, about the scope of agriculture and about how important agriculture is to the world,” Biddle said. “It’s more than what you do at Grange Fair, but how you can supply the world.”
Biddle grew up on a farm in Oak Hall, and in 1990 graduated from State College Area High School, where he was a member of FFA.
“It’s something I love, love to do and want to help my students through my own experiences,” Biddle said. “My mission is to get more students involved in ag sciences.”
Biddle hasn’t missed participating in the PA Farm Show since he was 7 years old.
Biddle began competing in the Grange Fair and Farm Show when he was 7. Since then, he hasn’t missed a show, he said.
“I learned as a kid you go to Grange and compete with the county, but there are more competitions that are more competitive, and I aspired to compete at the state level and then national level,” Biddle said. “When you look back on it, agriculture is a global process.”
He called himself an expert in goats, as he’s been a speaker at conventions across the country, primarily speaking about goats.
“Working in the industry is all about connection and taking risk,” Biddle said. “If you know only what’s in your backyard, then when you envision the future, your perspective is limited. When you see what else is out there then you can try something new. And that’s what I try to teach my students.”
A group of students will be showing versions of Dutch rabbits they raised in class, but as something new this year, they will also be showcasing miniature landscape projects.
Biddle said students have been working since November to make a landscape within a 24-by 24-inch wooden box designed by students in the woodshop class.
The boxes are only 5 inches in depth.
“It’s like designing a landscape for a dollhouse,” Biddle said.
Cohen, a senior, is creating a landscape with the theme of a stone cottage in the woods.
“It’s a little hard at first to figure out the theme of your landscape, but once you get it, you can run with that idea,” Cohen said.
The project required her, and her peers, to order supplies that were provided by the school.
Biddle said it’s a way for students to learn the process of construction and the time it takes to order products.
“It’s around Christmastime and they’re seeing how there are challenges with ordering and deliveries during the holidays,” Biddle said. “It’s giving them real world experience even though the supplies come from us (the school).”
Trigg is making her landscape with a Farm Show theme with a barn and areas that represent 4-H and FFA.
She started her landscape at the end of November and by Christmas was about halfway done.
Classmate Andy Swabick is making his landscape project with the design of a storefront business.
“We encouraged the students to come up with different themes so there was no overlap and they can be evaluated differently,” Biddle said.
This is Bald Eagle Area FFA’s fourth year participating in the Farm Show.
It’s an annual agriculture convention that showcases production and products from Pennsylvania.
“I think the Farm Show is important because it helps the kids and gives us experience,” said sophomore Caleb Swartz, who will be showing a chocolate Dutch rabbit.
His rabbit is considered “chocolate” because of its color, Swartz said.
But the larger mission in participating in the Farm Show is that it exposes students to global agriculture, Biddle said.
When you go to Grange, it’s all local. Pennsylvania is a leader in the production of products and the Farm Show is a showcase of Pennsylvania agriculture. There are consumers who attend from all over the world, with the hope they can purchase Pennsylvania-based products.
“When you go to Grange, it’s all local,” Biddle said. “Pennsylvania is a leader in the production of products and the Farm Show is a showcase of Pennsylvania agriculture. There are consumers who attend from all over the world, with the hope they can purchase Pennsylvania-based products.”
Some students showing rabbits said this is their first year handling the animal, but they are relying on experiences showing other animals.
Swartz said he’s shown market beef cattle.
“It’s a different animal so there are different training and techniques that go into it, but there are similar traits and things you have to do to show,” he said. “You take those same values and use them when showing other animals.”
But with that training also comes networking.
Biddle said he teaches students the entire realm of agriculture, but with a focus on building relationships, and getting experience at different shows.
The marketplace is the No. 1 priority. I want my students to understand how significant agriculture is. It’s bigger than the classroom and Grange Fair. People in your backyard are part of providing for the world.
“The marketplace is the No.1 priority,” Biddle said. “I want my students to understand how significant agriculture is. It’s bigger than the classroom and Grange Fair. People in your backyard are part of providing for the world.”
Bald Eagle FFA
Students will be participating in the 100th annual Pennsylvania Farm Show, Jan. 9-16:
▪ 10 students showing rabbits, Jan. 8
▪ 7 students entering horticulture exhibits, Jan. 8
▪ 6 students receiving FFA jackets at the Mid-Winter Convention, Jan. 11
▪ 4 students receiving Keystone Degrees at the Mid-Winter Convention, Jan. 11
▪ Bald Eagle FFA receiving grant recognition on stage at the Mid-Winter Convention, Jan. 11
▪ 1 chapter display window (on display the entire show)
▪ 1 student showing market swine, Jan. 11
▪ 1 student showing market beef, Jan 10
▪ 1 student showing breeding swine, Jan. 8