Paris was popular Tuesday night.
The ferret climbed all over Victoria Hamilton at the FFA Culpeper County Agriculture Showcase, as visitors laughed at her antics and enjoyed watching the students handle her in the small animal petting zoo.
“You just have to love them,” Hamilton said, as Paris peeked out from behind her hair.
The ferret was just part of the showcase, which FFA members started putting together in August. Students set up 18 exhibits, ranging from the small animal petting zoo, to a bat house project, to rat Olympics, virtual welding and tractor troubleshooting.
CCHS agriculture teacher Ted DeLano said the teachers helped guide them, but most of the students came up with their own projects. It’s that initiative and leadership that defines FFA, CCHS FFA President Matthew Myers said.
He, along with Eastern View High School FFA President Patrick Miller, greeted visitors at the entrance along with FFA state officers to explain the importance of agriculture and the showcase.
“I think it’s a great way to involve and educate the community on the things that we do,” Myers said. “We try to educate about the future of agriculture, food security and community service.”
Living in a historically agricultural county like Culpeper, Myers said many of the members have grown up with farming, but there’s more to it than just your typical mom and pop farm these days he explained.
“Not only is it a historical part of it, but agriculture is the future,” Myers said. “Looking at the biotechnology and different uses of pesticides and herbicides that are used today that need to generate more food for the future. I think that’s a great part of why so many kids are interested in agriculture today.”
Technology plays a large role in agriculture now, he said, pointing out that GPS equipment can be used on tractors to plant seeds within millimeters of each other.
For Miller, who started in FFA because of his older sister, the fact that there’s so much more than just farming in the FFA is what appealed to him.
“I always thought FFA was you farmed, that’s all you did,” Miller said. “I quickly realized it’s so much more than just farming. We have computer application, there’s so much technology. I just love it.”
The duo were explaining to visitors issues that farmers and the agriculture industry face, and the solutions that the next generation have helped come up with using technology.
“Recently there’s been a decline in how much profit agriculture is making,” Miller said. “They’re developing new ways to make more money. There’s a lot of research going into this.”
Miller said there are close to 100 members in FFA at EVHS and said that many get indoctrinated with the animal sciences class but quickly learn that FFA has much more to offer.
“You just see how much stuff you can do. It’s just gets bigger and bigger,” Miller said. “You can see how it impacts your life on a day to day basis.”
Further down the hall, Emily Resau and Thatcher the service dog explained the importance of service animals and why they shouldn’t be interrupted with petting.
“I’m trying to teach them what service dogs are for, why people have to have them and why people aren’t allowed to touch service dogs,” Resau said. “Many people want to touch them, but they are a tool for the disabled person, so when you’re distracting the dog, you’re distracting their tool and they can’t work efficiently.”
The project is part of Resau’s Gold Award for Girl Scouts, and she’s helping train Thatcher to be placed with a Wounded Warrior. While it started as a Girl Scout project, it dovetailed nicely with her involvement in FFA.
“It ties well into FFA because it’s a dog so it ties in with animals,” Resau said with a laugh. “A lot of people in FFA are already interested in animals, so it’s easier for them to be interested in this topic.”
She’ll train Thatcher for 18 months, and she will go train with his new owner in August. He will officially be a serviced dog when she’s two years old.
Training Thatcher for a Wounded Warrior, for 18 months, will go work with her new owner in August.
Just up the way, another dog was being groomed and loved on by FFA members.
Destine Washington and Jonathan Azenon pampered Brody, a 8-year-old labradoodle that frequently visits the class.
His owner, Kimberley Ellis, said he loves the attention and affection he receives from the FFA members.
Tuesday was the first time he was out in a crowd with the class, however, he seemed to enjoy being the center of attention as he was groomed.
Ellis said she was happy to help with the showcase and thinks it was a great idea.
“I absolutely love it,” she said.