CHATFIELD, Minn. — For the last two years, the Chatfield FFA team finished just a few points shy of being the top chapter in Minnesota. With the theme of redemption set for this year’s state convention, the chapter took home the National Chapter Award for the first time in school history.
The winner of the National Chapter Award needs to meet certain national standards, which consist of strengthening the community, building FFA membership and chapter development. Thirty-five members represented Chatfield this year in the school’s gold medal performance.
“We finally got the coveted top spot,” said chapter advisor Stacy Fritz, who’s in her 14th year leading the Chatfield program. “We met those standards across the board and we did it better than the rest of the state’s chapters.”
To qualify for the award, a chapter must showcase nine of the activities it has carried out over the year. Each activity has to have smart goals with a plan of action for each, impact statements and photos with captions and more.
The events Chatfield FFA puts on each year rely on support from the community, and go to supply the funding for FFA membership and scholarships.
“One of our strongest assets is our community support,” said Fritz. “The partnerships we have in the community, as well as our scholarships, are our biggest advantages.”
Chatfield FFA holds an annual pancake breakfast, along with the Jared Hammell Memorial Volleyball Tournament, in memory of the former FFA officer who died in a car accident in 2002. The tournament has raised more than $10,000 for scholarships the past few years. Every FFA member who graduates can apply for scholarships from $700 to $1,500.
The chapter also manages a crop plot of about 20 acres of corn and beans near the elementary school. All the seed and fertilizer is donated by community farmers, who also help students plant and harvest the crops.
The crop plot is an educational tool because the majority of FFA members are not familiar with farming before joining the program. Only three of the 10 FFA officers grew up in farm families.
All the activities translate into work for the FFA members.
“We put in countless hours over the year,” said President Maggie Lowrey. “Every one of us helps out with everything.”
None of the FFA officers had siblings in the program before them, but all of them remember looking up to FFA members when they were in younger grades.
“I remember feeling small, and like I didn’t know anything about agriculture,” said Lowrey of her first FFA experience. “When I was just starting FFA, I wouldn’t have considered any of these (fellow officers) as my friends. And then I got to know them, and now they’re some of my very best friends.”
Student adviser Adrianna Crawford said FFA has expanded her horizons.
“You can grow your leadership skills, make a lot of friends and learn life skills for the jobs when you get older,” said Crawford.
When it was announced that Chatfield had been named top chapter in the state, members were on a bus tuning into a live stream of the awards presentation. As the state's top chapters were being announced, the stream temporarily cut out.
“So when it came back on, we were like, OK, we’re either sixth, seventh or first,” said Secretary Morgan Zwart. “And when it was announced that we got first, I’m pretty sure people a few blocks away could hear our bus.”