New Ag program, FFA chapter at TAHS
By Garrett Ammesmaki,
Construction on the new greenhouse for the TAHS Ag Program is nearly finished. The structure was paid for by a $118,500 workforce education grant from the state of South Dakota. Photos: Garrett Ammesmaki
It’s a year of firsts for the Tea Area High School’s new agricultural course and FFA chapter.
With the year comes their first competition, as well as their first float in the homecoming parade and construction of a new greenhouse. Their teacher, Clayton Sorum, is also a first year instructor.
So far, Sorum said the year is off to a great start.
“You always hear horror stories about what first year teaching can look like,” he said. “But we’ve got good kids that show up every day and want to learn, and it’s been working out well.”
The tractor that the students spent months repairing made it all the way through the homecoming parade without breaking down, construction on the greenhouse should be completed within the next few weeks, and the preliminary rounds for the FFA team’s first competition didn’t go too badly.
The TAHS FFA placed fifth out of seven in the practice rounds at Parker, which Sorum is proud of, considering they went up against schools such as Parker and McCook Central, who have a much longer history and more experience in their FFA programs.
Sorum is optimistic that the kids will be more prepared for the Jack Rabbit Invite, which will be on November 3 in Brookings.
Sorum said the one thing you’re mainly worried about when starting a new program is participation. Which is why he was happy to see 30 kids sign up for their first competition, and so far 17 kids have signed up for FFA officer interviews.
“There’s been a great reception for the FFA program,” said Sorum, and all his agricultural courses are almost full, with only a little room left for more students.
Across the board, there are 104 students under his wing.
Right now, they’re chomping at the bit to get the greenhouse done and start growing various produce which they hope to harvest by spring.
The greenhouse was funded through a workforce education grant of $118,500 through the State of South Dakota.
While the students wait for its completion, they’re growing plants in a hydroponics set up in the classroom.
This is Sorum’s first year teaching, but he has a lifetime of experience in farming.
Sorum took the position after graduating from SDState with a degree in agricultural education, and minors in both ag business and ag marketing. But he also has years of experience as a farmer, having grown up on a farm just south of Newton Hills State Park.
The farm he grew up on has been in their family for 152 years, and his dad still farms till this day.
Though he initially didn’t know which direction to go, Sorum held various leadership roles in college where he was involved with students, which brought him to where he is now — ready to teach and focused on tailoring his classes to emphasize what the students want to learn.
While they’re initially focused on soil, he said the students are “amped up” for small engine repair, so he may start that section a bit sooner than planned.