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FFA Sentinel

The FFA and the Fair

By: Andy Chamness

The Alabama National Fair has been visited by people from all over the state that come to enjoy the many things that the fair has to offer. Why do we have state fairs across our country?One of the main reasons that fairs were started was to promote the agricultural industry of the state or region in which the fair was established. For example the fair in Southeast Alabama is called the National Peanut Festival, because of the importance of the peanut to the region. Farmers, 4-H members, FCCLA members and FFA members come from all over the state to participate in competitive events and exhibit their skills at growing and/or exhibiting their animals or crops.

The reasons for attending fairs have changed a little over the years. Today’s fair is filled with rides, concerts and various other attractions. The agricultural focus of the fair, though, still hasn’t been compromised. As society progresses, people get further and further away from their farming roots. People still need some “agricultural” education in their lives. The fear of the agricultural community is that people who don’t have any knowledge of the agricultural industry will not be sympathetic to issues that face farmers. Do America’s young people, especially those in larger cities, know the link between farmers and the food their families buy in the grocery store?Will those young people continue to support the American farmer so that we can continue to produce enough food to feed our country’s citizens along with millions of people in other countries?

Agriculture is extremely important to our state and nation. According to the American Farm Bureau’s website, more than 1 in 6 jobs in the United States are associated with agriculture. Even in so-called nonfarm states, a substantial portion of jobs are in the food and fiber system, according to researchers at the USDA Economic Research Service. To measure the importance of agriculture, researchers estimated economic activity required to produce farm products and moved them to products that are ready for consumers. In nearly two-thirds of the states, the food and fiber system accounts for between 15 and 20% of the total employment. The trend in food and fiber system employment is toward jobs in transportation, wholesale and retail trade and food service, and the manufacturing of products derived from agricultural commodities.

The Alabama FFA will have a presence at this year’s Alabama National Fair. Chapters from across the state participated in the exhibit competition held annually as part of the fair. Also, there are many livestock shows that FFA members participated in by exhibiting their livestock as well as the state Dairy Cattle Judging contest. We have showmanship, a junior show, an open show and a supreme competitor competition for exhibitors to participate in each year. State fairs have a significant role in our society, so go out and support the fairs in your area each year. If nothing else, take your children and grandchildren through the exhibits and barns so they too can have an appreciation for Alabama agriculture. You can learn more about the Alabama National Fair by visiting

4-H Extension Corner

The Art of Persuasion

By Carolyn Drinkard

When some people hear the word “debate,” they may think “stuffy” or even “boring.” However, across the country, debate teams are putting a new spin on this iconic activity.

In Southeast Alabama, the Wiregrass 4-H Debate Club has renewed interest in this age-old art of persuasion. Doug Summerford is the leader of this club that includes students in both Houston and Henry counties. In 2016, Summerford felt his 4-H'ers would benefit from a debate club. Targeting students in grades 6-12, Summerford’s goal was to help his students develop leadership and public-speaking abilities, while acquiring life skills needed for the job market. To spark interest, he found a way to make debating fun and entertaining.

At first, the club attracted only students in grades 8-12; however, as time has passed, more middle-school students are joining.

“Debating is very procedural,” Summerford explained. “It takes time for the kids to learn the rules, but once they learn the techniques and get into it, they really enjoy it.”

A debate is just an argument with rules. The number of participants determines the format. For example, debate formats can be 3-on-3, 2-on-2, 1-on-1 or a single moderator. At a typical debate, students hear the topic and take positions (proposition or opposition). Then the teams discuss their topics and come up with statements, all done in a set amount of time. Each team member has a distinctive speaking role in offering the burden of proof. Students then discuss all arguments and come up with rebuttals. Finally, teams deliver their rebuttals and make their closing statements.

One of the most exciting parts of the debate is when an opposing team member briefly interrupts a speaker to offer a point of information in either a question or a statement. Another counter technique is “heckling,” using a witty one- or two-word remark or slap on the table to take a jab at an opponent. POIs and heckling can morph a regular debate into a great 4-H debate, making it challenging and exciting for not only the debaters but also for the judges and the audience.

Debating demands participants concentrate, know the points they want to make and keep on track.

“Debating trains kids to focus,” Summerford said. “It is trying to draw the opposing team off and knock them out of their game. These kids learn procedures and civility. They have to follow the rules, or they lose points.”

Abbie Taylor, a sophomore at Headland High School and member of the 4-H Debate Club, added, “My favorite part is learning both sides of an argument and the factual elements. I also enjoy sharing my opinion on topics that I am passionate about.”

Parent and volunteer Anne Taylor believes debate club participation teaches students to think for themselves.

“It enables students to become free thinkers who are open to opposing viewpoints and perspectives,’ she said. “Not only does debate encourage and develop research skills but it also allows students to develop self-confidence while improving public-speaking skills. These are lifelong skills, and I am thrilled that my daughter has the opportunity to participate in this wonderful 4-H Debate Club!”

Always on the lookout for leadership opportunities, Summerford encourages his students to get into other public-speaking contests and to participate in community-service projects. Each year, his Wiregrass Club members help in an event at Landmark Park.

“This activity provides a great leadership opportunity,” he stated. “The kids go out there and help with the 4-H exhibits. These students are there to be the face of 4-H to the public. It also satisfies the community-service component of their club membership.”

The Wiregrass Debate Club may be in its embryonic stage now, but Summerford sees a bright future ahead. He hopes to get debating into the schools, so students, who are truly interested, can participate. Currently, the Wiregrass 4-H Debate Club members compete only against each other. Summerford also hopes to initiate competitions on the state level, so that, in the future, students could compete outside their home schools. He has already presented programs across Alabama to introduce the joy of debating.

“These students are learning valuable life skills that they can use in the workforce,” he said. “They take on a challenge and work as a team to listen carefully, take notes, think critically, organize their thoughts, plan strategically, speak coherently and communicate effectively. They gain self-confidence and independence, but, most importantly, they have fun and make lasting friendships. When I see them use their persuasive tactics with their friends at school, I know they have learned something.”


Boaz Intermediate Continues Clean Campus Program

By Jamie Mitchell

Boaz Intermediate School in Marshall County is making great strides with the Clean Campus Program! I had the pleasure of speaking with the students from Boaz Intermediate back in May, and they were already making plans for the 2019-2020 school year. These students are the older ones on campus this school year and wanted to be a great example to the younger class just coming into the school.

Under the direction of teacher Amanda Duckett, the school plans to start a “Green Team” that will spearhead all the Clean Campus activities. They plan to recycle as well as host regular on-campus cleanups. I provided the students with more ideas that would be easy to implement, as well, such as making posters for the hallways to reminding fellow students to stay litter-free!

Alabama PALS is happy to continue our partnership with Boaz Intermediate and the very supportive and active local chapter of Marshall County PALS. Cecilia Pullen and Micky Hunt, local Marshall County PALS representatives, regularly speak to students around the county at schools and other local events, as well as organize additional cleanups in the county.

Does your county have a local PALS chapter? Are you interested in getting involved? For more information on becoming a member of PALS or to get involved in your local chapter, give us a call at 334-263-7737 or check out our website at We would love to help as you journey toward a litter-free county!

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