The Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, which offers agricultural financing opportunities through its Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program, established an annual awards program in July of 1996. Known as the Governor's Agricultural Excellence Awards, this program recognizes and financially rewards 4-H Clubs and FFA Chapters in Nebraska for outstanding performance.
The challenges facing young people looking for a career in agriculture are formidable. To address these challenges, youth Ag organizations, such as the 4-H Clubs and FFA Chapters throughout the state, continually look for ways to motivate and prepare young people for a farming or ranching career.
The Governor’s Excellence Awards are presented by NIFA to Nebraska's top-rated 4-H Clubs and FFA Chapters. Eligible recipients are the approximately 1,900 4-H Clubs containing almost 26,000 members, and more than 180 FFA Chapters containing over 8,000 members. The awards range from $500 to $2,500. This rewards those Clubs and Chapters that most actively implement the mission and strategies of their organizations. Recipients of the awards implement programs that emphasize student development, Club/Chapter development, and community development. Clubs/Chapters are rewarded for providing educational experiences for the entire membership. The Governor’s Agricultural Excellence Award assists in providing quality agricultural education programs, preparing young people for careers in agriculture.
As club members seek agricultural futures of their own, NIFA offers assistance through its Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program, which enables beginning farmers/ranchers to obtain lower interest rate loans for the purchase of land, equipment and machinery, and breeding livestock.
The Johnson County Central FFA Chapter purchased 3 (60 pound) purebred Berkshire hogs, fed them out, and donated the processed meat to SENCA and the Osage Church food bank. The hogs were kept at one of their FFA officer's farm just a mile away from school. FFA members were assigned days that they were to feed, water, and make sure the hogs were healthy. Several classes took field trips out to the farm and incorporated it into their classroom learning. The chapter used the award money to purchase the hogs, feed, straw, water system, and feeder. With the initial investment of the feeder and water system, the Johnson County Central FFA Chapter plans on repeating this project next year. After presenting this project to the school board, a school board member offered to house hogs at his farm next year! The Chapter constructed video updates periodically and showed the video updates on the growth of the hogs, at home basketball games.
Increasing Ag Literacy Through STEM
The Career Academy FFA Chapter promoted STEM to increase Ag literacy. TCA’s projects included demonstrations for over 200 visitors at two TCA open houses. There were six rotational presentations over a full day for over 550 biology students at Lincoln East High School, providing 175 Ag STEM posters for over 20 LPS middle school and high school science departments. The TCA constructed, demonstrated, and donated nine plant vertical gardens for 7 LPS elementary/middle schools and 1 LPS high school. The NIFA grant helped pay for promotion, presenters, posters, and supplies for the grow towers. This project helped increase Ag literacy and helped increase the TCA Ag Bioscience applications to 26, a 110% increase from the previous year.
The David City FFA Chapter used the NIFA grant to expand science applications in the classroom including hydroponic towers, aquaponics and small animal science. The chapter also emphasized the exploration of the seven career pathways in the agriculture systems model by implementing monthly ‘Fieldtrip Friday’ tours and speakers from local community businesses and industry. Extension activities in the classroom were conducted throughout the year as well as opportunities for members to expand or start SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) projects.