CASTLEFORD, Idaho (KLIX) – Agriculture has always been important to Dan Billington. When he was in high school he joined Future Farmers of America, which deepened his appreciation for farm life and helped him learn leadership, public speaking and other skills.

Now he is helping to ignite the same spark in other students.

Billington is an agricultural educator for the Castleford School District. He says the FFA program is an active one in the district, and that he meets with more than 90 students every week.

Most of them are excited about the program.

Students are just coming off a week that was devoted to the nationwide program, but due to school closures last Thursday and Friday because of winter weather some of the activities for National FFA Week were postponed until this week.

Like the drive-your-tractor-to-school day and community breakfast.

On Friday, students and community members can enjoy breakfast from 6:30 to 8 a.m. at Castleford schools.

Not all FFA students will bring tractors because at that early hour some of them will still be in use on the farms, Billington said. But he expects several students will show up to school riding a piece of farm equipment. Students don’t have to bring a tractor in order to have breakfast.

The breakfast is an annual event during FFA Week. Some 300 to 400 people usually show up for the morning meal that includes scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage links, hash browns, coffee and juice.

It’s enough to fill your belly, but the more meaningful purpose of the breakfast is to promote the FFA program that helps students deepen their appreciation of agriculture and learn skills that can help them in many aspects of life. And, Billington said, it is to honor those who help support the program in the local community.

Getty Images

Increasing Students’ Skills and Confidence
Billington said other activities are planned throughout the school year, including a public speaking competition next Wednesday, March 8, which will prepare winners of the competition for state finals held April 6-8 at the College of Southern Idaho.

Whether students at first want to believe it or not, public speaking and leadership skills can help them later in life once they have a profession.

“I think it’s very applicable today,” he said. “No matter what job students go into they still need critical thinking skills. They need to be held accountable for their choices and be a leader.”

And students don’t have to attend a big school to reap the benefits that come from participating.

Billington should know. He’s been teaching in Castleford for six years, but like his students he graduated from a small high school in Shoshone.

“It doesn’t matter if you come from a really small school or a really big school,” he said. “FFA is not like athletics. Even if you’re small, you still compete with big schools.”

What does that teach a student?

“That I can do it,” he said. “That I can compete at this level.”