Donations from individuals, as well as from companies both large and small, are being sought to help build the FFA Enrichment Center. The Center is a planned state-of-the-art leadership development facility to be constructed on the Ankeny campus of Des Moines Area Community College.
The Center will include greenhouses, meeting rooms, exhibit space, lab space and conference facilities to be used to enhance learning opportunities for the state's 12,000 FFA members and other youth. It will cost $15 million to build.
The need for a skilled workforce in the state is one of the factors prompting Iowa agribusiness firms to donate to the Center. That's why an eastern Iowa company West Liberty Foods recently donated $25,000 to the Center. WLF is a turkey processor and foodservice supplier of sliced meat and poultry products.
"We rely on team-based principles to cope with the ever-changing poultry industry," says Ed Garrett, president of WLF. "Teamwork is also a fundamental principle of the FFA, so we strongly believe in FFA's mission to develop young people's potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success."
Planting seeds of future leaders
WLF's support of the Center is consistent with its longtime support of local FFA chapters. While the company will continue to support FFA chapters at the local level, Garrett says the firm's investment in the Center will help expand and enhance learning opportunities for FFA members and others statewide.
"The Iowa FFA Enrichment Center is designed as a leadership development center that will deliver life-long leadership, personal growth and career exploration experiences," says Ed Wiederstein, a farmer from Audubon who chairs the Center's capital campaign committee. "It will bring together students, advisors and mentors to better prepare our state's future leaders."
Garrett agrees that life-long learning is a key to success. The WLF board of directors was especially pleased that Iowa businesses will also benefit from the Center's ongoing programs. FFA alumni and members of the business community will be able to participate in programming provided on site, as well as through long-distance learning opportunities.
On-site as well as distance learning
Just as The FFA Enrichment Center is beginning a new chapter for life-long learning and ongoing leadership development, WLF started a new chapter for the poultry processing business with its focus on co-manufacturing processed meats. Major companies like Subway, Wal-Mart, Denny's and Costco grocery stores choose to partner with WLF to meet their production needs without making capital investments in plants and without exposing themselves to food-safety risk.
WLF has been credited with raising the bar for food safety and for setting new standards for ready-to-eat slicing plants. The company has been named "Supplier of the Year" by Subway, the second largest fast-food franchise in the world. In April 2003, it opened a new slicing plant in Mount Pleasant and just nine months later announced plans to expand the plant. This summer the company's fourth plant will begin production in Tremonton, Utah.
"Our company is creating new opportunities for Iowa farmers to reinvest the entrepreneurial spirit, which has been the backbone of American agriculture," says Garrett. "And we believe The FFA Enrichment Center will help spark this entrepreneurial spirit within the next generation of Iowa's agricultural leaders."
Ethanol plants urged to donate
Tall Corn Ethanol, an ethanol manufacturing plant at Coon Rapids, has announced it is donating $10,000 to the Center. In addition Tall Corn is pledging to donate another $10,000 in the future, as it challenges others to follow it's lead. "As soon as 60% of the Iowa-based, farmer-owned ethanol production facilities have contributed to The FFA Enrichment Center, then Tall Corn Ethanol will donate another $10,000 to this worthwhile cause," explains Warren Puck, president of Tall Corn Ethanol.
Puck says it's in the best interest of the ethanol industry to invest in The FFA Enrichment Center, which can play a key role in educating the future workforce.
"Ethanol production is rapidly growing, so there is more demand for skilled workers. Since Tall Corn Ethanol opened in 2002, more than 50 new jobs have been created in management, operations and maintenance," he adds.
"But Tall Corn is just one example," he points out. "There are already 26 ethanol production facilities on line statewide with another 21 in the construction or expansion phase. When most people hear these numbers, they immediately think about increased demand for corn, but we also need to consider the potential employment issues."
Former ag teacher donates $20,000
With a continuous desire to help young people build confidence and develop their leadership potential, Jim Hamilton of Council Bluffs is making a $20,000 personal contribution to The FFA Enrichment Center.
"I want to help make the Center a reality. I believe in this project and its leader," says Hamilton, who was reared on a small dairy farm in Lucas County and graduated from Lucas High School in 1934. He earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master's degree in Vocational Education and Economics from ISU.
Hamilton, 91, taught at the high school and community college levels for 45 years before retiring in 1985. He started teaching in 1940 and served as vo-ag instructor for 21 years in Audubon. In 1967, he joined Iowa Western Community College as director of adult and continuing education. He then served as the college's dean of community services from 1972 until his retirement in 1985.
During his teaching career, Hamilton earned a number of awards. He served his profession as president of the Iowa Vo-Ag Teachers Association, Iowa Vocational Association, National Vo-Ag Teachers Association, Iowa Directors of Adult Education and Iowa Coordinating Committee for Continuing Ed. He also authored a farm management textbook, "A Study Guide to Profitable Farm Management", which was used nationally for a number of years.
He gave back to his community
Hamilton also co-authored two other books, "Profitable Farm Management" and "Financing Farm and Ranch Activities", which were published by the Omaha Farm Credit District. Involved with his community, Hamilton has been active in his church and served on its council. He also served as district chairman and state vice president for the Iowa Association for Retarded Children. He founded the Area XIII Rehabilitation Center and was a charter member of the Earlham Lions Club. He also served as president of the Council Bluffs Lions Club.
In addition, he served as chairman of the Iowa Foster Grandparents Advisory Committee. "Mr. Hamilton is one of those people who truly leads by example. By setting the example, he made his students want to accept responsibility and he had a special way of making us want to improve ourselves," says Wiederstein.
"I've said before that the FFA makes extraordinary men and women out of ordinary people. But strong leaders, like Mr. Hamilton who have a passion for teaching the principles of the FFA organization, are really the key," adds Wiederstein. "That's the life-long learning that will be available through The FFA Enrichment Center can make such a positive impact on the future of this state."
The FFA Enrichment Center
The FFA Enrichment Center will provide educational development and leadership programs for over 12,000 Iowa FFA members and 245 ag education instructors. A partnership with Des Moines Area Community College will allow FFA members and agricultural science teachers to learn from DMACC instructors in various areas including agribusiness, veterinary technology, horticulture and viticulture. FFA alumni and business community members also will be able to participate in programming provided onsite, as well as through long-distance learning.
The Center will feature state-of-the-art greenhouses, resource and exhibition facilities, as well as conferencing and meeting facilities including the Monsanto Center for Biotechnology, the Iowa Farm Bureau Biotech Lab, the Pioneer Agriscience Computer Laboratory, vet technology labs and the Cargill Communications Center with fiber optic connectivity.
For more information about The FFA Enrichment Center and its capital campaign, contact: Mary Boote, 309 Court Ave., Suite 214, Des Moines, IA 50309. Phone 515-274-0800 or e-mail [email protected].