Madera started off as a small farming town and developed an agriculture program to go with it. Starting in 1919 with one ag teacher, it was one of the first chapters to be recognized by the state of California when FFA was started. At that time membership topped out at 40 members and steadily rose as the town grew and the school hired more teachers. The chapter was successful from the start, producing state championships, regional and state officers from the beginning. Following the flow of agriculture the members were heavily involved in raising crops and livestock. In the 1960’s the chapters two advisors brought the chapter into a new light. During their time at Madera FFA they helped to develop the program at new level. Having years where they won multiple state championships along with outstanding projects and leadership awards. With their successes the program began grow even more, jumping to 7 teachers in the 1970s. In 2000 the chapter moved from the Madera High School campus to the new Madera South Campus where the district built a state of the art department complete with three shops and a 15 acre school farm. With the success of the program both in and out of the classroom the chapter was able to add an eighth teacher last year helping membership jump to over 830 members.
Following the agricultural education three-circle method our program has become an outstanding model of what agriculture education is. Our members have the opportunity to choose between six agriculture pathways: floral, ornamental horticulture, crop production, engines, fabrication & animal science. Our teachers have worked together to develop classes that not only utilize our school farm, but also keep our membership program. As a member of the Madera FFA students have the opportunities to take floral where they work their way into the campus floral shop, creating arrangements for students and community members to purchase. They can enter into the ag mechanics pathways where student can choose to specialize in small & diesel engines or work their way into the fabrication shop and build equipment for local farmers. Our school farm is home to a three acre vineyard, cared for by the crop science pathway and will be used to produce wine in the upcoming year. The animal pathway has developed into one of the best around. The students work closely with local vets and San Joaquin Valley college to perform procedures on animals at both vet offices and on the school farms.
With so many teachers in our program our members have many opportunities to participate in State Contests. This year our chapter members were able to participate in 19 state career development teams with 14 of them competing and placing at our state competitions; including Floral Design, Ag Welding, Meats Judging, Creed, Job Interview, Prepared Public Speaking, Extemporaneous Speaking, Horse Judging, Veterinary Science, Best Informed Greenhand, Nursery/Landscape, Vine Judging, Vine Pruning, Impromptu Speaking, Cotton Judging, Tree pruning, Proficiency, Tree Judging & Cooperative Marketing. This year our chapter won a record four state championships in cdes, placing 1st in Tree Pruning, Nursery Landscape, Floral Design and Best Informed Greenhand. We will also have three members representing our state in the National Proficiency Contest.
Throughout the years our chapter and members have won many awards. This year our chapter members were awarded the most prestigious awards in chapter history. Along with our four state champion cde teams and the proficiency winners our chapter had two members named to the state band, one was a finalist for State Star farmer and our chapter reporter was a finalist for State Star Reporter. For the past two years our chapter was recognized by the Fresno County Farm Bureau for excellence in agriculture.
Our chapter is blessed to have a community that supports our members in a variety of ways and any project our members want to try they can. One of the biggest projects we have at our chapter is found in the fabrication shop. Our fabrication instructor, Mr. Tim Deniz, prepares our members in his class to be certified welders right out of his class and they work with local farmers and community members to build farm equipment, business signs, and even trophies for national events. The school vineyard is another huge project for the members. It is taken care of during the school year by the classes, but becomes an SAE for members during the summer, members harvest irrigate and trim the vines. Our school farm houses multiple livestock projects including market hogs, lambs, goats, turkeys, chickens, beef, dairy, rabbits and horses. Students are able to house their projects at school and sell them at the two fairs our chapter attend during the year. Most of our projects revolve around the harvest seasons as majority of our members work in the fields during the summer and school vacations.
Community Service is important when your community is as connected to a program as our is. Our chapters most significant community service project is the canned food drive. Our chapters canned food drive last for over two months and provides the food banks in Madera with 2000 pounds of food ever year. Students participate in a casino night where they cash in canned food for game tokens as well as collect food throughout the community to donate.
The most significant fundraiser our chapter holds is our dinner dance. Each year our members and ag teachers work to set up a silent and live auction as well as a dinner for alumni and community members. Members design and build projects in their classes to be sold at the auctions. With the help of businesses from around town the auctions have around 150 items for attendees to bid on. The dinner dance has become more than a fundraiser for a chapter, it has a become a networking opportunity for chapter and helped to build and strengthen our community ties.
Our chapter’s strength is getting members involved. Through our curriculum we can provide a wide variety of classes that draw in many different types of kids. We have 20 different classes students can choose from. These include viticulture & enology, retail floral, veterinary science, agriculture economics, ag chemistry, diesel engines, ag sciences and welding fabrication, to name a few. A majority of these classes meet the California A-G CSU & UC college requirements, with all 20 of them meeting at least one graduation requirement. Having this many different classes and the fact that they all meet at least one requirement has helped to grow our department and get more student involved in the chapter activities.