Some of Life’s Best Lessons are Learned from “Home Work”

Growing up in a small foothill community outside the San Joaquin Valley in California, Debbie Barkela raised purebred Simmental Cattle. She showed market lambs and barrows, as well as horses. She also served as an officer for her FFA chapter and for sectionals, plus was a member of the FFA livestock judging team. It was all good training ground to become an agricultural instructor and FFA advisor. She has taught agriculture since August 2010 in the Belmond-Klemme Community School.

“I’ve always wanted to be involved in agriculture,” explains Debbie. “After serving on the American Junior Simmental board of trustees, I really found that I enjoyed being around kids, especially those who had an interest in agriculture.”

Upon graduating from high school, Debbie packed her bags and headed for the Midwest.

“I was able to visit several colleges while participating at AJSA (American Junior Simmental Association) Junior Nationals and met several professors,” she says. “I fell in love with the campus and felt like Iowa State was a perfect fit for me. I also had some nudging from family friends, AJSA members who were from Iowa and were ISU alums.”

DebbieChadBarkelaWhile attending Iowa State University (ISU), Debbie met Chad Barkela. The couple was married May 29, 1999, and have three sons. Brady graduated from West Fork High School in 2020. Briley will be a sophomore at Belmond-Klemme and Blake will be an eighth grader this fall. Their boys raise and show market lambs and hogs. Briley also has a few ewes that he lambs and a few sows that he farrows out with the help of his brothers. The boys also spend time preparing and showing their horses throughout the year.

Barkela boys“Some of the most important parts of showing animals at the fair is the work that is done at home. It helps build confidence and an understanding of what needs to be done,” says Debbie. “We also need to remember that in the end everyone must have fun! No matter how competitive you are, the social part of showing livestock is important. The friends and extended family that you gain will be with you for a lifetime.”

Belmond-Klemme FFA Chapter

Whether they’re trying a new CDE (career development event) or applying for a proficiency award, Mrs. Barkela says she enjoys seeing students set goals and work to achieve them.

“My goal is to make sure every student gets a good understanding of what agriculture is and how important agriculture is to our daily lives,” says Mrs. Barkela, who was named the 2018 Star District Advisor for the North Central District.


Natalee Dippel became the first Belmond-Klemme member in 30 years to receive the American Degree, which is the highest honor in FFA. Natalee is also the first female from B-K to receive this award.

When Mrs. Barkela began teaching at Belmond-Klemme, B-K FFA had not had an Iowa Degree recipient in more than 25 years. Natalee Dippel in 2020 became the first female from B-K FFA to receive the highest honor in FFA, and she is the B-K chapter’s first American Degree recipient in more than 30 years. Eight B-K FFA members also earned their Iowa degrees in 2020.

The B-K FFA Chapter is very active in helping its community. Each year it hosts a district-wide food drive during which approximately 2,500 items are donated to the local food pantry. This year the chapter also collected food items for boxes for families in our communities.  Thanks to Iowa Select Farms, the B-K FFA was able to include pork loins for families in need. Chapter members delivered boxes to families in Belmond, Klemme, Rowan and Goodell.

Belmond-Klemme FFA members also help annually with the community garden.  Due to the school closing so rapidly and unexpectedly during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s garden has required more community cooperation.  Chapter Vice President Emma Carlson put a great plan in place and rallied community members to help start seeds for the garden. Chapter President Kaleb Carlson built a blessing box in which produce will be placed, and families in need can help themselves.

Blessing boxesIn addition to these projects, the B-K FFA has taken on new project with Growing Hope Globally. Almost 20 acres of corn was planted this spring. Money raised from this crop will be used to help educate farmers in a developing country. This project, in particular, is a way for students who don’t live on a farm to participate in a crop-growing SAE project.

“More than half our members don’t live on farms, and I wish more students realized this. One misconception is that to be successful in ag class or FFA you need to be from a farm. This is far from the truth! Our CDE’s and LDE’s (leadership development contests) help all students gain skills that will be useful regardless of what career path they take. FFA members learn everything from how to correctly run a meeting to how to select the perfect steak for supper. We all can use skills like those!”

In celebration of all the fresh vegetables growing in the Belmond Community Garden, today the B-K FFA is sharing with us a recipe for marinated vegetable salad. It’s also a great recipe for home gardeners or consumers who enjoy shopping at the farmers’ market.

Related Posts:

Marinated Veggie Salad


  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Red onion
  • Asparagus
  • Favorite Italian dressing
  • Pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar


Pick, wash and cut your favorite vegetables. Pick your favorite Italian dressing to marinate. I always like to add a dash of pepper and a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar.

COOK’S TIP: If you’re using asparagus, it needs to be blanched before it’s added to the marinade.