Agriscience Educator Kylie Thompson is eager to launch a new FFA chapter this fall in Bellevue.

Eaton County Farm Bureau board member Kylie Thompson truly embodies this line from E.M. Tiffany’s FFA Creed: “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words, but of deeds…”

After decades of inactivity, Thompson’s pulled off an achievement for the envy of rural communities statewide: She’s brought her home FFA chapter back from the dead.

Bellevue’s FFA chapter fizzled out in the early 1990s after several decades of activity. And it’s taken all of Kylie’s passion for agriculture, students and FFA itself to raise this phoenix from the ashes.

“It can seem like a daunting task, but if you surround yourself with others who believe in your cause, all things are possible,” she said.

Re-igniting an ag program at Kylie’s alma mater started with the interest from Bellevue Superintendent Kathy Mohney. Seeing area schools with FFA chapters and agriculture programs, she started to wonder: “Why not Bellevue?”

That was really all that was necessary to set Kylie in motion. Finding elated community support, she quickly saw students signing up for agriculture classes scheduled to be offered in the fall of 2020 — a benefit to the students and a promising asset for Bellevue Schools overall.

“The foundation being laid for Bellevue FFA is a strong one, built on leadership, community and passion,” Kylie said.

That truth was verified by a successful fundraiser held last weekend — a clever drive-through chicken dinner hosted at Bellevue Elementary School and benefitting the district’s nascent agriculture and FFA program.

Donations totaling $6,700 from approximately 550 hungry community supporters.

Knowing hers isn’t the only community in need of a new or rekindled FFA program, Kylie has several tips for likeminded leaders looking to spark the same kind of progress she’s made in the southwest corner of Eaton County.

Once identifying the district in need — the self-evident starting point for most would-be FFA-starters — the key components of Kylie’s process break down like this:

  • School support is essential from the get-go, so getting the staff and superintendent on board with your plan is vital.
  • Contact state FFA staff early on to learn important timelines and program requirements.
  • Convene an advisory committee of community members to help maintain that community’s support for your program and to ensure its priorities are incorporated.
  • Coordinating with the school district’s financial staff, draft a budget to cover classroom needs, FFA project supplies and event expenses.
  • Begin fund raising- be resourceful and reach out to supporters
  • In coordination with your school district’s curriculum officials, develop class structures and lesson plans, always keeping in mind your students’ needs and interests.
  • Develop an outreach plan to keep your community informed about — and convinced of! — the value of your program.

Maybe most importantly, she adds: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Good ag education is worth it!”

Katelyn Thompson represents District 5 on MFB’s state P&E committee. Hannah Lange is MFB’s regional manager for the central region.