YODER – “I believe that we need the reality of agriculture more than ever,” Southeast FFA Advisor Jay Clapper said of his brainchild – the Portable Farm Concept – which received a $10,000 boost from WESTCO and the Land O’Lakes Foundation this week.
An official check presentation, with WESTCO President and CEO David Briggs and Agronomy Division Manager David Shields – both Southeast High School graduates – took place Wednesday morning at SEHS. Principal Randy Epler introduced the pair to the students and staff gathered for the assembly.
“I think what hit me hard is here (are) a couple of Southeast graduates out there in the ag business world being highly successful,” he said, adding part of being highly successful means giving back.
“WESTCO is grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Land O’Lakes Foundation in supporting our schools, students and future agriculture leaders,” Briggs said in a press release. “This investment in the Southeast FFA chapter’s Portable Farm Concept will allow students to gain hands-on experience, learn new skills and train them for future careers in agriculture.”
Clapper said the inspiration for the project began with a pig.
“Early in my career, I tried to bring back an old school concept of a chapter sow,” he explained. “Years ago, the chapter would have a bred sow go from kid to kid. They would farrow them out, keep the babies, and the sow would then go to the next kid after being rebred. For years, I tried to get this to go, but the common problem was no one had facilities. So I began building portable sow facilities kids could use.
“We are getting further and further removed from production ag,” he continued. “Today’s ag students have had little opportunity to raise animals. With less kids coming directly from a farm, many do not have the facilities or equipment to be successful and purchasing necessary equipment for just a few animals is cost prohibitive. So my passion is this, make short-term portable farm experiences for kids that are parent-friendly.”
To that end, the Portable Farm Concept includes Adopt-A-sow, Bottle Calf, Meat Chicken, Corn Planter and Greenhouse.
“The goal is to create more experiences and to have on hand the necessary equipment and facilities for students to succeed,” Clapper said. “The list of projects we currently have and what we hope to add (include) two adopt-a-sow units; four facilities on trailers that could be used for calves, goats, sheep; two facilities to raise meat chickens or fresh-laying hens; one portable trailer with beehives and all the necessary equipment for safety and processing honey; one to two portable green houses; (and) we already have a four-row corn planter on its own trailer that allows a family to easily use this to plant sweet corn.”
Prior sponsors for the project are Farm Credit, Wyoming Pork Council, Pioneer, and Panhandle Coop. The Land O’Lakes Foundation Coop Match Program made Wednesday’s donation possible.
“Providing an opportunity to ‘try’ ag is so important in my eyes,” Clapper said. “If you come from a background that has little exposure to hands-on ag, how could you ever one day choose to become a production agriculturist?”
He added he’s already witnessed positive effects from the program “without a doubt.”
“First is the true confidence that is developed from this,” Clapper said. “It is a real accomplishment to farrow out pigs or bottle-feed calves, raise and butcher chickens, etc. (Students) sometimes have to face a death of an animal, and the success of making a true profit on their product. My deepest passion is to create the most well-rounded students I can.
“The funds we will receive from Land O’Lakes and WESTCO will allow us to put the final pieces together to create what I feel will have immeasurable impact on our youth.”