This story by Boonville High School student Olivia Reynolds chronicles a typical fall semester in the lives of two FFA Advisors, Doug Henke and Deanna Thies, in Boonville.

GateHouse Missouri partnered with Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow Nico Gendron and area schools to create local news stories to help them learn about community journalism. This is the first piece published in the series. Boonville High School student Olivia Reynolds created a photo narrative about a day in the life of a FFA advisor and chapter. Thank you to every student and school staff member who participated in the project. 

One of the most celebrated aspects of many small towns and rural high schools is the local FFA program.

FFA is a high school organization dating back to 1928 when it was founded under the name Future Farmers of America. The co-curricular activity intertwines with agriculture education, working to develop the next generation of leaders within all aspects of the agriculture industry, not just farmers.

FFA advisors, also known as ag teachers or ag advisors, organize and supervise educational programs and events. FFA is an intense time commitment for anyone involved. Advisors and students rise early and stay late for a mix of conferences, supervised agricultural experiences (SAEs), chapter meetings, parties, trapshooting events and contests.

This story chronicles a typical fall semester in the lives of two FFA Advisors, Doug Henke and Deanna Thies, in Boonville.

The Boonville FFA chapter was awarded the distinction of the top chapter in the state in 2017. Many of Thies and Henke’s former students work in the agriculture and ag education fields.

An ag advisor becomes a large part of an involved student’s life, spending hours on buses and practicing for events.

FFA advisors also have the unique opportunity to supervise and teach students through SAEs. Many students choose a project that is part of their family farm structure. Others start their own businesses or ventures with the guidance and advice from the advisors.

Record keeping for SAEs is a regular part of curriculum and gives students a chance to practice accurate record keeping as an entrepreneur or employee. The atypical classroom setting includes more of a hands-on approach rather than a lecture-style environment.

Personal connections cause many FFA advisors and their students to interact almost like family.