This is North Iowa


The Middle of Everywhere

Clear Lake FFA

Clear Lake FFA

Clear Lake students are growing a brighter future with FFA

Established in 1928 in Kansas City, Missouri, the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program is designed to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agriculture education. FFA is more important in today’s world than it has ever been. Evolving over the years, the program now embraces more than the traditional farm life. Just because you’re involved in FFA, doesn’t mean you want to be a farmer. The agriculture field offers a diverse variety of careers and interests.  Today’s FFA members prepare for careers in agribusiness, agrimarketing, science, communications, education, horticulture, production, natural resources, forestry, and so much more!

Their motto of “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve” has been instrumental in garnering popularity for the program by providing quality educational experiences to our young people. The immersive way of teaching by giving students to opportunity to perform in the field, is key to students growth and development throughout the program. According to the national organization, “FFA classroom activities include math and science as well as hands-on work experience and the development of life skills, helping members discover their career path and realize success.”

FFA is shaping our youth of today to be the leaders of tomorrow.

In Clear Lake, the addition of an FFA program in 2019 has been essential in doing just that. The program started out with approximately 60 students, and there are currently 109 ag students and FFA members. Unfortunately, COVID interrupted the first year of the program, but instructor Elisa Russ-Poggemiller says the curriculum is finally in full swing and they’ve enjoyed the ‘normal’ year of non-stop activities in the 2021-2022 school year.

Mrs. Russ-Poggemiller came to Clear Lake after graduating from Iowa State University.  Having grown up in New Hampton, Iowa, she was familiar with the North Iowa area. Still, she was hesitant to come right out of the gate after college and into a brand-new program. “My family encouraged me to just apply,” she stated.  “After going through the interviews, I was really impressed with the outstanding community support. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my career!”

Mrs. Russ-Poggemiller met her husband, Mike, through FFA and they’re both very passionate about the ag industry and agricultural education. Her father has been an ag teacher for 35 years, and her sister has been in the profession for over ten years as well.  To say agriculture is a family affair is putting it lightly!

Here are a few highlights from the Clear Lake program this year:

  • 2021 Iowa FFA Vet Science CDE Champion Team, National Competition Team.
  • Second year of the greenhouse, raising 100+ mums in the fall, hydroponic greens for school lunches, 1200+ plugs for the plant sale and 126 custom hanging baskets for the City of Clear Lake.
  • Planted and harvested the first crop on the almost 30-acre test plot.
  • Five Iowa FFA Degree recipients this year. To earn this degree, members had to be active in multiple FFA activities, community service and a work-based learning project. This is the highest degree the state FFA can award its members.
  • 18 FFA members competed at sub-districts in a variety of public speaking events.
  • 23 members competed at the districts level, and our Conduct of Meetings Team received first place and will be competing at the state level in April.
  • Our first North Central District Officer, Emma Pingel, retired at the start of March and two more Clear Lake FFA members were elected to the new district officer team. Jack Englin is the District Sentinel and Emery Hippen is the District Reporter.
  • 30 FFA members will travel to the Iowa FFA Leadership Conference in April 2021 to compete and represent Clear Lake FFA in a variety of ways.

As is evident in their many accomplishments already, Clear Lake FFA has become a home to many of the high school students.  “We have really strived to build a strong culture where students feel welcomed, comfortable, and supported,” said Mrs. Russ-Poggemiller.  “I think students enjoy the hands-on learning and real-world knowledge they’re gaining through their ag classes.”

Though it will likely always be a challenge to change the mindset that FFA is “just for farm kids”, they’re making progress. Mrs. Russ-Poggemiller anticipates the program will continue to grow, with new course offerings, more student involvement, and strong work-based learning projects. Within the next five years, she’s hoping to see more with agriscience, develop a strong committee structure, send more students into an ag career, and hire another ag teacher to continue expansion.

While it would be ideal to have all her students become ag professionals, her main goal is to create more informed consumers who can advocate for the ag industry, no matter their career. But, with the tools they’re learning through the Clear Lake FFA program, these bright students will be successful in whatever they choose to do after high school. In her final thoughts on the program, Mrs. Russ-Poggemiller stated, “I truly believe we have built an incredibly strong foundation for the program to be successful well into the future.”