HOUSTON — “I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deeds….”
The opening line of the FFA Creed defines the sentiments of Derek McCracken, FFA Advisor for Hardin Houston Schools; he knows the creed well and has an appreciation for its message and comprehends how faith and hard work can pay off having had extensive experience in agricultural-related competitions at the Shelby County and State Fairs in his youth – it is his way of life.
McCracken had a vision, a vision fueled by his desire to help others understand the importance of the past, present and future of agriculture, how it affects our daily lives and the opportunities connected with an ever-expanding and profitable science.
He also has a passion to improve the lives of those in his community and his country, and he knows from experience that education is a key ingredient in making things better.
“I saw a challenge, the need to help my students see and understand the role agriculture plays in our daily lives and how they can profit from it,” McCracken said. “The greenhouse is a great resource that will benefit everyone and offer opportunity to all ages in K-12.”
The FFA creed notes, “the promise of better days through better ways” and therein rests his personal mission. He knew the only way for the students to fully grasp the situation was to see it through personally, planning their work and then working their plan.
Noting how fewer students were growing up on the farm and/or had little or no education or experience about raising plants, McCracken saw an opportunity to fill that gap, but the key ingredient, a green house, was needed to facilitate his plan.
Fortunately financial assistance from local donors made the vision a possibility and Hardin-Houston FFA students and faculty members gathered on Oct. 18 to celebrate the completion of a new state-of-the-art greenhouse located on the south side of the high school.
Joining them were some of those that helped make the project a possibility including Karla Pottkotter representing Cargill Inc. and the “Cargill Cares Fund,” Brian Woodell of Fertilizer Dealer Supply, Greg and Danielle Holthaus with Ag Solutions and Kyle Miller with Monsanto. Additional financial support was also garnered from the Louis Mertz Sr. Memorial Fund. The group toured the greenhouse and listened as McCracken enthusiastically shared plans for future projects in the well equipped and impressive structure.
Sincerity resonated in his voice as McCracken noted his appreciation for the outpouring of local support.
“Our donors were very generous and I can’t thank them enough for their investment in our youth, we now have a quality state-of-the-art greenhouse that will provide years of service and opportunity.”
Future plans include planting, growing, marketing and selling vegetable bedding plants and flowers in the spring.
“Student will have the advantage of a hands-on experience where they will be able to see a project through from start to finish and reap the rewards of their efforts, they will learn about raising plants and then developing the marketing skills to sell their product,” said McCracken.
He also observed plans for the younger students including a chance to plant and raise flowers to be given as gifts on Mother’s Day or other special occasions. Other plans include exploring some of the less familiar areas of agriculture like aquaculture and hydroponics both of which are gaining in popularity as alternative ways to raise crops for food.
School Superintendent Larry Claypool thanked all in attendance for coming and conveyed his gratitude for all the research and hard work that went into the project.
“Words cannot adequately express my appreciation for all those that worked so hard to make this dream become a reality, and though Derek humbly acknowledges the contributions of all involved and gives them the credit, it would never have gotten off the ground or come to fruition without his guidance and leadership along the way, we are fortunate to have a man of his talent and character on our side and I really appreciate all he has done for our school, students and community.”
This writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.