Royalton’s FFA program has a new adviser

Pat Tax and energized students working hard to keep the program alive

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

Pat Tax, Pierz, dairy farmer and the mother of the former Princess Kay of the Milky Way Mary Zahurones, is the new FFA adviser in Royalton. She started her position the first day of the school year, taking the place of retired Randy Voyles.

“My husband, Chuck, and I hosted Breakfast on the Farm this past summer and during the event, Mary and  Austin Schmitt approached me to be the adviser,” she said. “It was pretty much, ‘If you don’t say yes, we won’t have a program. How could I say ‘no?’”

But, Tax admitted she was excited about the idea.

Four hundred and two cases of fruit were delivered to the Royalton High School Wednesday, to be delivered by the FFA students as their annual fundraiser. Pictured unloading the truck are (from left): Matt Neu, Maddy Block and Matthew Leners.

“I traveled around the state with Mary when she was Princess Kay and I learned about the negative perception people have toward farming and farm products,” she said. Those negative perceptions were centered around pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified seeds, etc.

Tax was also concerned that FFA would leave the Royalton Schools.

“It’s so important to have FFA in an agriculture community,” she said. “It would be a tragedy to have it leave. It does more than build leadership, it holds the community together.”

The goal of Royalton’s program is to do service hours, be visible and active in both the community and in school.

Pat Tax

“So many people don’t know where their food actually comes from,” said Maddy Block, a two-year member of the Royalton FFA. “Everyone knows someone in agriculture. I would have been very disappointed if the program left.”

One of the group’s recent activities was to bring pumpkins to the elementary school. They not only helped the children carve them, but they explained that to get a pumpkin to carve, someone needs to grow it.

The FFA Chapter also creates a barnyard at the high school, a huge event for first graders.

“We show the students all types of animals. Some of them have never seen a pig,” Block said. “I fear for their future.”

They also put together a Haunted Trail this year, on Carol Posch’s property. The fee was food for the local food shelf and they collected 80 pounds.

The 32 members of the Royalton FFA also sell fruit each year. This year, they sold 402 cases and in an average year, the Chapter nets about $1,800.

“We use the funds we make to help send teams to state competition and to do local projects,” said Schmitt, a three-year member of the Royalton FFA and the Regional vice president.

Schmitt said he clicked with FFA when he joined. “I’m learning leadership and how to help others,” he said.

He will enter crop science competition during the school year, grading grains, naming plants, weeds and chemicals and more.

Derick Lent, a three-year member also, said he joined because it gets people together, exchanging ideas. His area of expertise is dairy judging which will help him when he’s older and purchasing dairy cattle.

Matthew Leners is a first-year member, and hopes to compete in dairy judging. He said he joined to learn and become good at whatever he chooses.

Corey Popp, another dairy judge, has been with the program for four years.

“Agriculture is in my blood,” he said. “My entire family was involved in FFA and I want to continue.”

Block has been part of FFA for two years and she competes in fish and wildlife. Her goal is to learn more about farming, help on the family farm and help improve the farm with more efficiency.

But future competition may be hard for the Royalton FFA students as the school does not currently have an agriculture program. FFA rules state there will be no competition without the program.

Tax said the school administration has assured her they will be adding one for the 2013-14 school year.

“FFA gives these kids the tools to work with  and to become successful in life,” said Tax. “I am so proud of them all.”

The Royalton Chapter will be working hard to build their  program. Future projects include Adopt A Highway and adding a greenhouse to the school.