By Angie McDonnell
“I think it’s pretty important in a community like this,” said Lexi (Slack) Smith, the new vocational agriculture instructor the Bennett County School District. Smith, originally from Viborg, SD, has big and exciting plans for kicking off a new start to the ag program.
It all began when Smith brought the idea of implementing the program back into the Bennett County Schools to the school board’s attention. She offered her hard work and determination to become a certified teacher, as she graduated from South Dakota State University with a bachelor in animal science. She also explained the importance having the programs within the community.
“Everyone was on board,” remarked Smith, who became officially hired for the position after approval of the school board in February.
When Smith was younger she herself was very active in 4-H and FFA. Here in Martin, she has many plans for the ag program, including putting the Bennett County FFA program back on the map. She had mentioned attending some conferences and meetings pertaining to agriculture and FFA programs, where no one seemed to know where Martin was.
“My goal is everyone knows where it is, for a good reason,” said Smith.
In her intro to agriculture classes, called AFNR (agriculture, food, and natural resources), she will be reaching seventh through twelfth grade students through four classes. Smith would like her students to learn and understand why things work on ranches and farms the way they do, why certain things get done on ranches and farms at certain times, and the financial aspects that are related to ranching and farming. She would also like to tie in a little bit of diversity, covering similarities and differences in agriculture throughout the United States and world.
Smith will follow the three-component model which will combine classroom instruction, supervised agricultural experience programs, and the FFA program (being an intracurricular activity). Doing so allows for basic instruction, hands on experiences, learning to keep records, and setting and achieving goals.
The FFA program would be beneficial for everyone despite their background. Smith hopes to eventually take her students to compete at state and national levels. For students who would like to join the FFA this fall, but cannot get into Smith’s intro to ag class can still join if they promise to take the class the second semester.
So far, the FFA program has been fortunate enough to receive some funding for various costs. Funds help pay for dues, so students won’t have to pay for their own, the purchase of FFA jackets, a banner, needed materials for a banquet, and travel expenses for conventions. Smith would like to thank Sturdevant and the Martin Auto Parts II for their recent, generous donation as it is a step in the right direction.
Smith would like any Bennett County FFA Alumni to get in contact with her. She could sure use the support of the alumni to help cover certain areas in the agriculture world in order to help prepare her students to be more competitive. Having their input regarding where they would like to see the ag program go is very meaningful.
Reaching out to the youth below seventh grade is also something Smith would like to see happen through the program. She is more than willing to incorporate and work with the 4-H program in order to do so. Community service projects and events are on her agenda as well.
Smith plans to be a facilitator for the program and has no plans to leave the district. She hopes the well-needed program begins on the right note and continues to strive for years to come.