Land O’Lakes High School phasing out agriculture program FFA

Land O' Lakes High School junior Jana Swank is still coming to grips with her high school's decision to phase out her favorite club.

"I was a nervous wreck the first week it happened," she recalls.  

Her school will no longer participate in the Future Farmers of America program. Swank has been in FFA since the 6th grade.  

"This teaches you more than just working with animals,” Swank explained. “It shows you time management, money management and friendship making. This program and FFA is just a complete lifestyle." 

Program graduates, like Justice Szetela, said the decision will rob future students of important life lessons.

"It's something you just don't learn in the classroom. You take it out in your everyday life. You come home and you sit down at the dinner table with your family at night and I put the food on the table," she said. 

Land O' Lakes High School posted a letter online explaining the cancellation, blaming a 48% decrease in enrollment over the past four years. This year, the letter says, only 40 students requested courses in the FFA program.

Colton Nichols graduated from the program with a certificate in biotechnology and agriculture. He's urging school officials to reconsider. 

"I would hope they would come and see the program and see the amount of work we put into it. We put in a lot of work into the program," Nichols said. 

Nichols’ mother, Valerie Nichols, said not enough people know about the program.  

"I think there should be a lot more involvement in getting the word out there and promoting the program and promoting agriculture as a whole," she said. 

She also worries about the long-term effect of high school agriculture programs shutting down.

She asked, "What's going to happen to our market? What's going to happen to our food? What's going to happen when these farmers go away?" 

Some students have started an online petition to keep the FFA program alive. They've already collected more than 2,000 signatures. 

The Land O' Lakes High School FFA program will be completely phased out by the end of the 2020 school year.

A district spokesperson said students with a passion for agriculture can always seek a transfer to another school in the district with a program.