November 25, 2020

Pulling for FFA: Hawkeye FFA Alumni Support Local Ag Students

Hawkeye FFA West BendLike many people who grew up in the West Bend-Mallard area, Brian Bormann will never forget Robert Cast. A dedicated ag teacher, Cast helped countless FFA members enhance their skills in soil sampling and livestock judging, while sharing life lessons that have lasted long beyond high school.

“Bob Cast taught us about successful communication, team building, and leadership—skills that I use every day,” said Bormann, a board member with the Hawkeye FFA Alumni group, which supports West Bend-Mallard ag students. “People like Bob contributed a lot when I was in school, and it’s my turn now to support today’s ag students.”

That’s why Bormann is proud to work with 150 other Hawkeye FFA Alumni members to host an annual antique tractor ride, antique tractor pull, and other activities to raise money for the local FFA. Proceeds support college scholarships, sponsorship of the FFA leadership conference in Washington, D.C., and funding so members can attend the state FFA conference. The Hawkeye FFA Alumni, which is a member of FFA Alumni groups at the state and national levels, also pays for half of the cost of each West Bend-Mallard FFA member’s blue jacket.

“I appreciate their passion for agriculture and their dedication to FFA,” said Anita Fisher, a 1989 West Bend High School graduate who serves as the ag instructor and FFA advisor for West Bend-Mallard High School. “They are helping shape the next generation of ag leaders.”

Supporting FFA at 15 miles per hour
The Hawkeye FFA Alumni formed in the mid-1980s but has become more active in the past 10 years, said Wyan Metzger, treasurer. While many of the Alumni’s members are former FFA members, the group is open to anyone who wants to support FFA.

In 2006, the West Bend sesquicentennial prompted Metzger and his fellow Hawkeye FFA Alumni members to support some new fundraisers, including a tractor ride and tractor pull. Both events proved successful and will mark their ninth year in 2014.

About 80 to 100 people pay $25 to participate in the annual tractor ride, which is usually scheduled around the Fourth of July weekend. Riders start in West Bend around 8 a.m. and travel 50 to 60 miles around northern Iowa, stopping at various towns for snacks and lunch before concluding around 4 p.m. Riders have traveled to Emmetsburg, Algona, Humboldt, Gilmore City, Pocahontas, Fenton, Laurens, and other communities in a four-county area.

“We’re celebrating the ag lifestyle, enjoying the Iowa countryside at 15 miles per hour, and reconnecting with friends along the way,” said Bormann, who noted that all kinds of vintage tractors are welcome. “It’s also exciting to have more young people participating.”

Antique iron powers fundraising efforts

To support additional fundraising, Hawkeye FFA Alumni members host an antique tractor pull in West Bend in late June. A variety of classes are offered for pre-1971 tractors. Members collect sponsorship money, usually around $1,500 to $1,800 from area businesses, to hire the tractor pull sled and award prizes.

“We usually get about 30 tractors and around 90 to 100 hooks,” said Metzger, who noted that competitors come from Estherville to Corwith to Carroll. “These guys have tractor pulling in their blood.”

During the fall and winter, Hawkeye FFA Alumni members provide extra labor and donate homemade desserts for the West Bend-Mallard FFA’s annual chili and oyster supper fundraiser. In addition, members donate their time to drive ag students to area FFA competitions.

“These volunteers are awesome,” said Fisher, who served as the Emmet County naturalist for many years before joining the West Bend-Mallard High School faculty. “In these times of school budget cuts, their support becomes even more important to the future of ag education.”

The partnership between the Hawkeye FFA Alumni and local FFA chapter benefits the community as well. When the community received a grant to rebuild the Robert Cast Shelter House on the school grounds in West Bend two years ago, alumni members provided matching funds totaling $7,000 to support the project.

“The Hawkeye FFA Alumni group offers a great way to stay involved with FFA,” Metzger said. “We enjoy working together to help local students and supporting the future of agriculture.”


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