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Cedar Springs FFA celebrates 75 years

FFA 1947-48 Silver Award. Third row: Gordon Morris, Thorval Nielson, Roger Gillette, Jim Rector, Donovan Potter, James Sagorski, Jim McIntyre, Jack Smith, Ted Porter, Robert Carlson, Ralph Pennington. Second row: Vernon Starr, David Smith, Chuck Kramer, Lawrence Reyburn, Kenneth Shaw, Keith Thompson, Lyle Sipple, Steven Rau, Don Emery, Ivan Nielson, Benjamin Wall, Robert Robertson. First row: Jerry Zielinski, Carl Olmsted, Dick Clingon, Don Hook, Roy Austin, Bill Johnston, D.M. White, Bill Sevey, Max Hoven, and Merlyn French.

by Stacy Sevey and Madison Skelonc

Since becoming an official chapter on January 23, 1946, the Cedar Springs FFA Chapter has seen hundreds of local students as members. All of these members and all future members have a group of farm boys from the 1940’s to thank for bringing the “Future Farmers of America” to Cedar Springs. 

The 36 members at the 1st Annual banquet included the original officer team: President Lyle Sipple, Vice President Don Emory, Secretary Bill Sevey, Treasurer Wayne Bigney, Reporter Carl Olmstead, Sentinel Chuck Kramer and Advisor Mr. John Coady; and other members in attendance including Roy Austin, Robert Carlson, Dick Clingan, Merlyn French, Roger Gillette, Dick Goller, Donald Hook, Max Hovan, Roy Mabie, Jim McIntyre, Gordon Morris, Ivan Nielsen, Thorval Nielsen, Ralph Pennington, Ted Porter, Donovan Potter, Steve Rau, James Rector, Lawrence Reyburn, Robert Robertson, James Sagorski, Kenneth Shaw, David Smith, Jack Smith, Vernon Starr, Gordon Stoner, Keith Thompson, Ben Wall, D.M. White, and Gerald  Zielinski. Many of these past FFA members still have family members with prominent ties to the ag community in Cedar Springs today. 

During the 75-year history of the chapter, 10 agriscience teachers have dedicated their time to the students of Cedar Springs that have been interested in FFA and ag education. Mr. John Coady was the original advisor from 1946 until 1959. Another memorable teacher and advisor was Mr. Mel Matchett, who taught in the 1970’s. Mr. Larry Reyburn followed and became a favorite advisor that taught for 40 years until retiring in 2019. The current ag teacher and advisor is Mr. Brent Willett who started in 2019 and is working hard to rebuild the ag program and ensure its future here in Cedar Springs.

Although FFA no longer stands for “Future Farmers of America,” it still holds the original gold standards and beliefs. In 1988, the organization’s name changed to the National FFA Organization due to the progressive changes in agriculture. The Cedar Springs chapter uses “Future for America” in place of the original acronym. No longer just cows and plows, the FFA made moves to include more aspects of agriculture such as horticulture, forestry, food processing, agribusiness and leadership. 

The American FFA Degree is the highest honor awarded to FFA members who show the highest commitment to FFA and agriculture. The American Degree has many qualifications a member must meet including 3 years active membership, earning the FFA State Degree and completing secondary education in an agriculture education program. There have been 115 members of our chapter that have earned the FFA State Degree since 1948. Three of those 115 have also earned their American FFA Degree from Cedar Springs: Connie Hoskins in 1994, Melissa Fisk in 2008, and most recently Cecelia Brandt in 2019. 

Over the years, many members have worked hard to compete in leadership and skills contests at the local, state and even national level. This year, Cedar Springs FFA Forestry team members Gideon McConnon, Trevor Marsman, Chase Marsman, Eli Kleinenberg and Sam Kleinenberg, took first place at the state level and will be competing at the 94th National FFA Convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana in October. The  eam is coached by Larry Reyburn and is the first to represent Cedar Springs in a competition at the National FFA level.

The FFA motto is Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve. The 2021/22 officer team (President Gideon McConnon, Vice President Tate Ringelberg, Secretary Brennen Porter, Treasurer Caleb Skelonc, Reporter Morgan Merlington, Sentinel Maddy Powell, Historian Grace Willits, and Student Advisor Carly Brecker) have chosen the last line of the motto as their inspiration for the year and will be serving the community in many ways. With the beginning of the school year upon us, the officer team is currently working with the chapter to plan some events and opportunities that will get them out into the community soon.

The Cedar Springs FFA Alumni & Friends would like to congratulate the chapter on 75 years of leadership and dedication to Agriculture Education in our schools and community. Follow our facebook page for more Cedar Springs FFA history and current events for the chapter. If you were a past FFA member or just want to support agriculture in Cedar Springs, please consider joining the alumni to helping us keep FFA and ag education available to our students for another 75 years!

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Ray Winnie
Intandem Credit Union


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