FFA instructor expands livestock program,
plans for year-round use of greenhouse
CAPAC — Chickens, rabbits and soon—pigs. This school year Capac’s FFA program will be expanding their hands-on projects to include two sows and eventually, piglets.
This spring, students will have the chance to grow and sell flowers for Mother’s Day and in the fall, they’ll take on vegetable production.
These are just some of many new and exciting additions Capac High School science teacher and FFA advisor Samantha Ellison has made since starting her job with the district this school year. Currently she works with 67 FFA members in grades 9-12.
In the barn
“I didn’t grow up on a farm so I wasn’t really exposed to large animals as much and that’s the same case for most of our members,” Ellison said of the decision to purchase the sows.
“This will be a really cool project for our vet science class too. Each of the students will be assigned a piglet to take care of.”
This will give them the chance to practice basic animal care and administer injections as needed, she said.
This past fall, the program welcomed 150 broiler chicks as part of the Michigan FFA Broiler Contest. Students raised the animals for six weeks as part of the contest. Six members then had the opportunity to travel to Fowlerville where they toured a USDA processing facility.
They’ve also been raising rabbits for pelt production and genetics studies.
To be better informed about egg production, Ellison brought in a flock of laying hens and ducks.
Aside from the on-campus learning opportunities, students will also have the chance to exhibit the livestock at fairs this summer.
Their options will include show and meat pens of poultry, rabbits or the young pigs in feeder weight categories.
“We want to get the kids exposed to what it means to show livestock,” Ellison said.
“So far, multiple kids have said they want to take as many animals to the fair as they can.”
Any pigs not taken to fairs will be used for breeding or meat sales, she added.
In the greenhouse
Ellison said the plan is to grow and sell petunia hanging baskets this spring. This summer and fall she hopes to start vegetable production with students.
Recently the district authorized using bond dollars to make repairs to the district’s greenhouse.
“We’re partnering with Ken Day from Hortmark who’s helping us out with the repairs,” Ellison said.
Some temporary repairs are due to be made early in 2021 with plans for new plastic to be installed over the summer.
“Our goal is to be growing year-round in the greenhouse next school year,” Ellison said, also noting that next year’s schedule will include a botany class.
Grateful for support
Ellison said she’s grateful for the support the FFA program continues to receive from the community.
“We’ve had items donated to us or sold to us at a cheaper rate,” Ellison said.
“I think that shows the community is happy to see the program growing too.”