Milford has one of the largest FFA programs in the state, with more than 200 students participating throughout middle school and high school. But it’s the program's focus on agriculture within a community that has earned this FFA chapter national recognition for the past seven years, according to Milford FFA Advisor Judith Bruns.
It’s not every day that a teenager just learning about livestock can successfully raise a marketable hog, let alone find a buyer to purchase a pig for more than $2,000. And it’s even more surprising that a buyer would give the pig right back to its caretaker as a donation.
But that’s exactly what happened this year at the Delaware State Fair, when Milford High School junior Morgan Morris won first place for her chunky, pink pig, and Southern States returned the animal for educational purposes.
“This is my first time showing and winning, and I didn’t think I’d place as high as I did,” said the Lincoln resident, who started with the school’s FFA program only two years ago.
This was a first-time experience for Morris, who said that without the school’s new agriscience facility, which was completed in early 2014, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to raise the animal.
The 40-by-120-foot pole barn sits on Milford High School’s campus near the soccer practice fields, and allows students to have a centralized location for agriscience studies and livestock practices. Before the Ag barn was built, students would travel to Milford FFA Advisor Judith Bruns’ parents’ farm on Canterbury Road to work with any livestock in preparation for the fair.
Now that the facility is fully functioning, students have the opportunity to work with sheep, pigs and miniature Hereford cows, which look more like calves, and unfortunately did not do well compared to the full-sized animals at the Delaware State Fair this year.
Regardless of how the mini cows faired at show, years of planning, construction and nearly $900,000 in funding for the barn is finally paying off.
“Everything worked just like it should,” Bruns said. “It’s been amazing to be able to have the animals at the school. It opened it up to kids who couldn’t do [the FFA program] on traditional hours.”
But it’s not just the Ag barn that has made the Milford FFA program successful.
“I’m proud of Milford FFA because they worked for what they wanted,” Miller said. “They spent their time with their animals, and it paid off.”
Milford has one of the largest FFA programs in the state, with more than 200 students participating throughout middle school and high school. But it’s also a focus on agriculture within a community that has earned the local program national recognition for the past seven years, Bruns said.
“It’s a very well-rounded program,” she said. “It’s really about the learning process.”
Milford was recognized this year as the top national chapter in Delaware, and currently is being evaluated on a national level with a star rating. On a national scale of one to three stars, Milford has earned three stars in the last seven years, and Bruns said she hopes to keep that streak going.
“It’s not just [about] agriculture, it’s [about] agriculture in the community,” Bruns said. “We work very hard to get our members involved.”
For former president Colby Miller, who will attend the University of Pittsburgh this fall, Milford’s FFA program meant more than just working with farm animals.
“Livestock is a whole other world. It’s a long, hard journey to get to fair,” he said. “Part of the experience is we’re not just learning, our advisors are learning, and we’re pulling information from everywhere.”
And even though the fair and his high school career have come to an end, Miller said FFA will always hold a special place in his heart.
“If I have any advice [for the underclassmen], it’s to really jump into the organization head on and take every opportunity you can,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be today if FFA hadn’t impacted my life.”
MILFORD’S 2014 STATE FAIR AWARDS
Top national FFA chapter in Delaware First place in food and science technology Second place in agronomy Fourth place in landscape display Fourth place in national ag mechanics Fourth place in national livestock Sixth place in national poultry
Ailin Wang – first place in food and science technology Monique Pressley – second place in food and science technology Aide Zamarripa – third place in food and science technology Matthew Mitzel – fourth place in food and science technology Dylan Schleigh – fifth place in national poultry Chris Fox – sixth place in tractor driving Megan Stevenson – seventh place in agronomy Joshua Messick – eighth place in agronomy