A tractor donation from the Bibb County Farmers Federation to the Bibb County Career Academy (BCCA) could do more than win FFA banners—it could boost students’ interest in farming and plant seeds of prosperity for the local FFA chapter.
Ashton Cottingham, Bibb County Young Farmers Committee chairman and BCCA agriscience teacher, said providing students with resourceful and creative ways to make a living is the nucleus of career technical programs.
“This is the generation that will have to double food production by 2050,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose a generation of agriculture leaders, but this tractor isn’t just for agriculture. I hope the whole career academy benefits from this venture.”
Bibb County Farmers Federation Vice President Jeff James said the county board of directors supports Cottingham’s vision to encourage agriculture through education.
“Current and former board members have been good stewards of the county Federation’s money,” James said. “We’re now in the position to spend money at home. We’re vested, and we can see something come from this.”
Cottingham said the tractor will have multiple uses, including preparation for FFA’s safe tractor driving contest, but all uses will circle back to student education.
“Knowing how to attach implements, work them and take care of them will go a long way,” he said. “If you know how to drive a tractor, driving a forklift in a plant somewhere will be a piece of cake.”
Cottingham said BCCA’s director, Terry Holder, was instrumental in acquiring a bush hog, box blade, disk and other implements for the tractor.
West Blocton High School senior Brandon Isbell attends agriscience classes at BCCA. He said he plans to use classroom experience in the workforce.
“I enjoy being out in nature and working with my hands,” Isbell said. “These classes have taught me a lot, and I plan on using these skills after I graduate.”
Classmate Isaiah Lee, also a senior at West Blocton High School, shared similar thoughts.
“From running equipment, to identifying trees, I’ve learned a lot in this class,” he said. “I’m excited to see exactly how we’re going to use the tractor.”
Not all students may be inspired to buy a herd of cattle or grow soybeans, but Cottingham said learning skills like work ethic, practicality and critical thinking are invaluable.
“Statistics show that about 98 percent of these students will never farm,” he said. “But through this they’ll be exposed to agriculture. Some of them may never use these skills when they leave this program., but hopefully they will be advocates for agriculture and have the knowledge to support it.”