High School students from 25 schools gathered at Wilkes Community College on Wednesday, April 5, for the North Carolina FFA (Future Farmers of America) Northwest Region Rally. FFA is a dynamic youth organization within agricultural education that changes lives and prepares students for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success. Approximately 380 students from Wilkes, Ashe, Alleghany, Surry, Stokes, Yadkin, Forsyth, Davie, Iredell, Alexander, Catawba, Burke, Caldwell, Avery, and Watauga counties competed in career development events (CDE), including Creed, Public Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Parliamentary Procedure, Job Interview, Tools and Materials, Forestry, Introduction to Horticulture, Nursery Landscape, and Floriculture.

This year’s event was hosted by WCC’s Applied Career Technologies Division. WCC Horticulture and Animal Science students maintained the information booths and helped at the competitive events as assistants or judges. Many students volunteered to help set up before and clean after the event.

“The location of the regional rally is voted on each summer, and we have been honored with the event for many years,” said Donna Riddle, Lead Horticulture and Agribusiness instructor at WCC. “This provides an awesome opportunity for WCC Ag-related programs to meet hundreds of local agriculture students and teachers. We get to know them a little better, and they are able to see firsthand the quality of our students, college facilities, and dedication to North Carolina Agriculture.”

According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, North Carolina’s agricultural industry, including food, fiber, and forestry, contributes $91.8 billion to the state’s economy, accounts for more than 17 percent of the state’s income, and employs 17 percent of the workforce.

North Carolina is one of the most diversified agriculture states in the nation. The state’s 50,200 farmers grow over 80 different commodities, utilizing 8.4 million of the state’s 31 million acres to furnish consumers with a dependable and affordable supply of food and fiber.

North Carolina produces more tobacco and sweet potatoes than any other state and ranks second in Christmas tree cash receipts and the production of hogs and turkeys. The state ranks seventh nationally in farm profits with a net farm income of over $2.8 billion. Net income per farm in the state is over $57,000.

The opening ceremony began at 9:00 a.m. at the John A. Walker Community Center on the campus of Wilkes Community College. Following the opening ceremony, students competed in the Daniel Hall Applied Technology Center, the Horticulture Complex, and at W. Kerr Scott Visitor Assistance Center. After lunch, the closing ceremony was held at the Walker Center.

The annual rally was organized by Andrew VonCanon, Western Region Agricultural Education Coordinator; Donna Riddle, and Frank Blevins, WCC Lead Animal Science and Poultry Instructor.

“As the Western Region FFA Coordinator, I would like to thank Donna Riddle, Frank Blevins, Lee K Cornett, and the staff at Wilkes Community College for hosting our group and providing us with a wonderful facility to hold our FFA regional Rally,” said VonCanon. “It has been a joy to work with the faculty there and continue the partnership we have formed between the N.C. FFA and Wilkes Community College.”

Donna Riddle stated, “My role is as a liaison between the FFA Coordinator and Advisor and Wilkes Community College. I work with the Walker Center to determine available dates, coordinate the forestry event with one of our local foresters (Nathan Gatlin) and the W Kerr Scott Visitor Center; set up the Horticulture facilities for the Nursery/Landscape, Intro to Horticulture, and Floriculture events; and organize WCC Horticulture students for event assistance.

As Lead Animal Science and Poultry Instructor, Frank Blevins arranges to have a variety of animals on campus, prepares their exhibits, assists with event volunteers, and educates exhibit visitors. This year, Wilkes Soil and Water staff, Kayla McCoy and Makayla Norman joined WCC to demonstrate drone flight and the WCC Agricultural Systems department worked with FFA students on equipment skills after their competitive events.

For more information about the Applied Career Technology programs at Wilkes Community College, contact Stacie Taylor at 336-838-6551 or sbtaylor965@wilkescc.edu.