ag education montana

Riley Slivka, 18, uses a drone – or unmanned aerial vehicle – to create his educational agricultural videos.

Young people across Montana are preparing to step into agricultural leadership roles by participating in organizations like FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) and 4-H. And as a result, many students are putting their knowledge to work outside the classroom, significantly impacting the state’s agriculture industry.

Infarmation Project Educates Central Montana

In Great Falls, the Electric City FFA chapter’s new InFARMation project came to fruition in 2015 after students were inspired by a similar project completed at Washington State University. According to Jodi Koterba, agriculture education teacher at C.M. Russell High School and chapter advisor for the Electric City FFA, the chapter worked with the Central Montana Tourism Region to establish an agritourism route from Great Falls to Fort Benton, then to Stanford and back to Great Falls.

“The kids made contact with all of the landowners, and we put just over 40 signs along the route labeling the crops that were being grown,” Koterba says. “There’s a downloadable app that allows people to follow along on their phones, and their GPS will tell them what should be growing in the fields near them. Plus, there are links to fact pages about the crops.”

Throughout the InFARMation Project, students learned skills such as deciphering landowner maps and interpreting legal land descriptions, and they sharpened their communication skills as they wrote letters to landowners requesting permission to install the signs. Electric City FFA students also participated in the Pink Pumpkin Patch Project, during which the students grew and sold pink pumpkins.

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Half the proceeds were donated to the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation for breast cancer research. In addition, the students grow fruits and vegetables like kale, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, and each week the produce is donated to the school’s food pantry that serves students in need.

“FFA offers so many opportunities from public speaking, leadership activities and contests to scholarships and awards,” Koterba says. “Our chapter feels that if we put the emphasis on the experiences and the education, then winning and awards are just icing on the cake.”

youth FFA montana

FFA members place signs along a route to show passersby what crops farmers are growing.

Video Production Brings Agriculture to Life

Riley Slivka, an 18-year-old senior at Winifred High School, is using video production to promote agriculture in Montana. Slivka first got interested in videography in 2010, when he participated in a 4-H project, and he soon decided to create videos showcasing the harvest season on his family’s farm, Slivka Grain & Ag.

“In 2011, the harvest video was pretty much just a slideshow of photos and some video clips that I put together,” Slivka says. “From there, I basically progressed to where I was editing more to the music, and now I can match clips with music to create an awesome effect.”

To film his videos, which he uploads to his YouTube channel, Imagistudios, Slivka uses a DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter – also known as a drone or an unmanned aerial vehicle – as well as GoPro cameras and a JVC Pro HD camcorder. His most recent video, Harvesting Along the Edge in Central Montana (Slivka Harvest 2015), has received nearly 35,000 views, making it his most popular video to date.

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In addition to creating videos, Slivka helps out on the farm, working full time during the wheat and barley harvest, and he participates in both 4-H and FFA.

He plans to go to college in the fall of 2016 and pursue agriculture communications and film.

“Making agricultural videos is something that I feel is important, especially in today’s age – a lot of people in this world have no idea where their food comes from,” Slivka says. “I think video is the No. 1 way to basically show those people what farms are like and how their food is produced.”

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