Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Effie Kokrine FFA

Fairbanks, Alaska
Effie Kokrine FFA's Perspective

In Alaska, the arrival of Western convenience has affected Alaskan Native life. Rather than relying on subsistence harvest of traditional foods, more people are suffering from diabetes from eating processed foods. Communities ravaged by alcoholism leave kids without support, leading to academic struggles and ambivalence about postsecondary life. In Fairbanks, a group of kids is working hard to change that.

Effie Kokrine Charter School is a public charter school with a population that is 60 percent Alaska Native, and where more than 70 percent of the students qualify for free lunch. Many students are in foster care or visiting from outlying villages.

The members of the Effie Kokrine FFA have been changing the school to benefit its students, one innovation at a time.

To address issues of nutrition, the FFA program started a school garden. In summer, students earn science credits with class-based activities in the garden. The vegetables produced are sold at market or preserved for the cafeteria. When FFA members heard their classmates bemoaning a lack of healthy options for lunch, they applied for and received a donated “ Let’s Move!” salad bar. The bar is now a popular stop for students as they load up on healthy produce.

“The students are not from affluent backgrounds, many of them haven’t farmed before, and few have thought about where their food comes from,” says Sue McCullough, the school’s FFA Advisor and an Early College Coordinator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “Teaching them to sow seeds and watching their faces when seedlings emerge makes it all worth it.

The Effie FFA students have also been planning for their futures. Each April, students in Alaska gather for State Convention. For months leading up to Convention, students train to compete in Career Development Events (CDEs), competitions that test knowledge in agricultural fields. In 2014, the FFA placed first in over half of the CDEs and qualified to compete nationally in Veterinary Science.

“I love to see students reach their full leadership potential – we’ve had a student from our school serve as a state officer two years in a row now. It’s exciting to see their confidence blossom,” says Sue. “I hope that students are inspired to continue to explore the world around them. Even if they decide not to pursue careers in agriculture, I hope that they can take the skills they’ve learned in FFA to be successful in whatever sector they put their minds to.”

Access to food will continue to be a significant issue for Alaska’s population due to limited local production and its geographical separation from the Continental U.S. that supplies much of its needs.

“If the state is cut off from the Lower 48, we have a mere three days of food on our shelves – it becomes a very real food security issue,” says Sue. “I hope the future of agriculture is made up of students like mine, consistently finding solutions to their community’s problems through creativity, innovation and determination.”

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