West Fork FFA Continues to Thrive

Sukup barn photo

This historic 19th century building has served many purposes throughout the years: church, masonry and horse barn. Today it houses the West Fork FFA’s Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAEs), which range from farrowing hogs to laying hens and thriving bee hives.

During National FFA Week 2018, we shared how a new teacher and an old barn were breathing new life into the West Fork FFA of Sheffield, Iowa. Today we’re pleased to provide an update on that chapter’s growth and progress.

Like many rural communities across North Iowa and the Midwest, Sheffield has a population of approximately 1,200. The community is bordered on all sides by productive farmland. The north side of town also is home to Sukup Manufacturing. Less than one mile from Sukup headquarters, there is a quaint little barn that Sukups​ rents out for use by the FFA. This late 1800s barn serves as West Fork’s Animal Learning Center.

Thanks in part to the Animal Learning Center and extra hours logged by a passionate teacher, the West Fork FFA chapter has nearly doubled in just two years. There were 37 members when Kaitlyn (Bonzer)​ ​Porter accepted the role as agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor here; today there are 63.

Half of the West Fork FFA’s chapter members live in town, and many of them are interested in raising livestock. Fortunately, these students can learn from a passionate agricultural education instructor both inside the classroom and outside in their Animal Learning Facility.

“During the 2017-18 school year, we had two gilts farrow their first litters in the Animal Learning Facility. Since then, our students have had a chance to breed their own gilts. This is an excellent opportunity for them to learn a little bit about genetics, how to artificially inseminate, and how the farrowing process works,” says West Fork FFA Advisor Mrs. Porter, 2016 recipient of the Iowa Agricultural Association of Educator’s Outstanding Young Member for the North Central District.

“Livestock births don’t always go according to plan, but we’ve had great support from our community members,” adds Mrs.Porter. “Local livestock producers have been a Godsend when some of these gilts have had trouble farrowing. It’s great to have interaction between community members and students because that provides more learning opportunities.”

In addition to farrowing sows, the Animal Learning Facility provides real-world supervised agricultural experiences (SAE) for other students interested in raising laying hens and bees. Students who house their SAE projects inside the Animal al Learning Facility are asked to sign a contract to ensure they take responsibility in their learning. When school isn’t in session, a student is chosen to take care of the barn and earns hours towards his/her Iowa Degree.

The FFA is as diverse as students’ interests. Take Hope Hartman, for example. “When she was a freshman, Hope was asked to join FFA. As a town dweller she was not sure what she could do in FFA but decided to give it a try,” says Hope’s mom Michelle Hartmen. “In FFA, I  have seen Hope try things and go for projects that she never would have before. I have also seen  her gain so much interest, take leadership roles and work very hard on our ​family Christmas Tree farm​. FFA has so much to offer students, and I highly suggest that everyone give it a try as they  enter high school!”

Hope Hartman

Hope is a great example of students finding their passion in AgEd and FFA. She was recently elected as chapter reporter.

Other leadership and development opportunities are offered to FFA members through ​a variety of contests and learning experiences since Mrs. Porter ​ ​joined the faculty. In her first year, four teams competed in the North Central District Soils contest. Ian Latham, son of John and Shannon Latham, was a member of the team that advanced to the state competition. The Latham’s daughter joined FFA in her senior year. She’s had the opportunity to learn about species and crops we don’t raise, and she’s become intrigued by animal science.

Because a West Fork FFA member was elected to serve as a North Central regional officer, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds​ proudly sponsored the officer team’s polo shirts. Congratulations to Jason Meier​ on being re-elected for the second year as North Central District Secretary.

In May, the West Fork FFA will hold its 4​th​ annual sale of vegetable garden starter plants, hanging baskets, and flower bed plants. Plans also are underway for the 5​th​ Annual West Fork Summer Classic the first weekend in June at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Hampton. The show began to get students more involved in the swine industry, as well as to raise funds for the chapter. The show is an Iowa Swine Jackpot Series (ISJS) sanctioned show, so for those circuit showers, registration will open online for the show. All youth are eligible for this show, however. Registration will take place the day of the show for those who are not an ISJS member.

“I enjoy watching students experience agriculture in so many facets,” says Mrs. Porter. “Some kids have little farm experience prior to taking class with me, so they get really excited about experiencing things that many typical ‘farm kids’ have been doing their entire lives like watching livestock give birth. Other kids that have been involved with agriculture for longer periods of time, and I really enjoy the challenge of teaching them new things. Seeing kids enjoy learning makes my job so rewarding!”

West Fork FFA 2020

Front Row (L to R): Autumn Stonecypher, Mya Mathies, Elle Latham, Kale Petersen, Carson Nuehring (Sentinel), Collin Witte (Vice President), Grant Nuehring (President), Macy Dirksen (Secretary), Hope Hartman (Reporter), Ali Rice, Macey Rust, RaeLynn Nash, Tiyana Rogers, Kalli Trewin

2nd Row (L to R): Caleb Jones, Brett Weaver, Ian Latham, Tyler Nuehring, Emily Caspers, Sidney Schaefer, Mariah Steenhard, Stafonia Bamrick(Treasurer), Brady Barkela, Anna Dirksen, Casyn Guerro, Trevor Guritz, Mycah Weaver, Haley Grady

Back Row (L to R): Nate Hubka, Ki Janssen, Max Heimbuch, Levi Janssen, David Sturges, Carter Koop, Cannon Craighton, Edison Caspers, Jason Meier, Kacee Guritz, Riley Peterson, Reed Stonebraker, Cassidy Wegner, Lindsey Eberling, Nick McKinney, Rose Rother, Brett Witte

Not Pictured: BetiJo Hayes, Nate Akins, Cail Weaver, Elli Weaver, Christian Dixon, Cole McKee, Ava Henricks, MacKenzie Ames, Josh Hagin, Nashuan Bryant, Keelee Sheriff

Many FFA chapters will be hosting spring banquets, and the summer potluck season will soon be upon us. April Hemmes of Hampton, Iowa, says she always took homegrown beef roast to potlucks when her kids were in high school. Beef Roast a classic meal that’s always a treat, whether or not you raise your own beef. In honor of National FFA Week and farmers like our friend April, today we’re sharing a classic recipe with you.

Instant Pot® Classic Pot Roast


  • 2 to 3 lb boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut in 4 pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup Progresso™ beef flavored broth (from 32-oz carton)
  • 8 medium carrots, peeled and cut into fourths
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 baby red potatoes, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water


  1. Rub beef with salt and pepper. Spray 6-quart Instant Pot® insert with cooking spray. Select SAUTE; adjust to normal. Melt butter in insert. Add beef; cook 4 to 6 minutes on first side until browned. Turn and cook 4 to 6 minutes on second side until browned. Transfer to medium bowl using tongs.
  2. Add onions; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown. Stir in broth. Select CANCEL. Stir in carrots, celery, garlic and thyme. Stir in potatoes. Add beef to mixture in insert.
  3. Secure lid; set pressure valve to SEALING. Select MANUAL; cook on high pressure 45 minutes. Select CANCEL. Set pressure valve to VENTING to quick-release pressure.
  4. Remove beef to serving platter. In small bowl, beat cornstarch and water with whisk. Select SAUTE, and adjust to normal; heat liquid to simmering. Gently stir in cornstarch mixture; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Select CANCEL. Serve vegetables with beef.