Orgaard helps students' careers take rootIt’s an acronym that no longer stands for anything. But it’s an organization that stands for a lot. FFA isn’t just for farmers anymore.
By: Jo Colvin, Alexandria Echo Press
It’s an acronym that no longer stands for anything. But it’s an organization that stands for a lot.
FFA isn’t just for farmers anymore. It’s for students who want to explore their talents and start preparing for their future. It’s for students who want to learn something about their potential career. And it’s for students who want to be in an activity that could make a difference in their future.
Its advisor, Cliff Orgaard of Alexandria, is as staunch a supporter of FFA now, as he was when he first got involved as a student.
Orgaard has farming in his blood. He grew up on a farm in central North Dakota. In high school, he took classes in agricultural education and became involved in FFA, which at the time, stood for Future Farmers of America.
Because he has three brothers, Orgaard knew that his chances of taking over the family farm “weren’t all that great.” So instead of being a farmer, he decided to teach others about farming.
At North Dakota State University in Fargo, he continued his education, earning a degree in agricultural education. He taught for 18 years in North Dakota and is currently in his 11th year at Jefferson High School (JHS) in Alexandria.
At JHS, Orgaard is an instructor of career and tech education in agriculture. He is also the FFA advisor. But it’s come a long way since he was a teen.
“In the middle 80s when the farm economy took such a dive, fewer students wanted to be farmers,” he explained of how FFA has evolved.
Now FFA is a youth organization that is a part of agricultural education programs. Today, students are engaged in a wide range of curriculum and activities, including agricultural sales, agricultural mechanics, crops, floriculture, fish and wildlife management, farm management, extemporaneous speaking, parliamentary procedures and soils, to name a few.
“We do competitions in 25 different categories with other schools in career-related activities,” the advisor explained.
In addition, Orgaard’s crew does community service projects and presentations for schools and at Douglas County Farm Safety Days.
Orgaard’s continued dedication to FFA hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has been awarded two honorary FFA degrees, which recognize advisors who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to promote FFA.
In North Dakota he received the degree because one of his students was named the Star Farmer of North Dakota. And in Minnesota, he was nominated by the teachers in Region 3, of which Alexandria is included, for being so dedicated and furthering FFA’s cause.
“It’s an honor,” Orgaard said. “That year there were only five [advisors] in the state who got it.”
More than the awards hanging on his wall, Orgaard is rewarded each day by doing something he enjoys and working with students who are motivated to learn and demonstrate what they learn.
“I do enjoy it. I really like getting to know the students on a more personal level and see them doing something they enjoy and get excited about,” Orgaard said. “You get to see them grow and mature and make positive decisions about what they want to do for a career. It’s a chance to learn something about a career field that you can really apply.
“It has been a pleasure working at this job.”