Big things are happening for Wharton Independent School District and its FFA Chapter. It is nearly impossible to miss the district’s newly constructed Agricultural Education Project Center, located at 2403 Abell Street.
Through its bond, WISD contracted Polasek Construction to build an approximately 17,000 sq. ft. building that would provide housing for student livestock projects.
A ribbon cutting was held on April 16 and for the first time, the community had an opportunity to explore the WISD Agriculture Education Project Center.
This is the first district-owned ag center. Previously, the district partnered with the Outlar family to house a limited number of projects on a small property located at FM102 and HWY59.
About The Facility
“This facility is a huge deal, and I couldn’t be happier for our kids. The support of the community and school administration is much appreciated. This is a game changer for sure.”
According to longtime Wharton High School Agriscience Teacher Bubba Schulz, the new project center has all the space the program could ever need.
“We have 60 pens in the building that can house lambs, goats or pigs,” he told The County Gin. “There are also nine cattle pens available and space for rabbit pens.”
In addition to pens, the center contains wash racks and grooming areas, a feed storage room, tack and show supply storage and meeting room.
Another big advantage to the new facility is the location.
“It’s great that it is located right by the high school,” Schulz said. “Students can easily feed and check on their animals before and after school, and the more time they can spend with their projects, the better.”
Unable to contain his excitement, Schulz added, “This facility is a huge deal, and I couldn’t be happier for our kids. The support of the community and school administration is much appreciated. This is a game changer for sure.”
The center’s large show ring is planned to host showmanship clinics, progress shows and provide a place for students to safely exercise livestock.
A fly and insect control system is in place to cut down on pests. The system includes a nozzle in all pens that will operate on a timer.
There is also convenient and secure space for storing the program’s livestock trailers and scales.
A Home For Livestock
The project center is available at no charge to all Wharton FFA members in grades 3 through 12.
Use of the facility does require a contract for students and parents. The contract will outline rules for usage, requirements for animal care and responsibilities of each student regarding cleanliness of the building and pens.
Students could start moving animals to settle in their new home as soon as late August, once school begins.
The first projects to arrive will be cattle. Sheep and goats will be added in the September to October timeframe, and pigs in November.
Next Spring, the project center should have its first rabbits.
Students raising animals can choose to show them at any jackpot or weekend show throughout the year. Major shows in Texas include: the Heart O’ Texas Fair and Rodeo in Waco; Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo; San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo; and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Of course, the big show for most WISD students is the Wharton County Youth Fair (WCYF), held in April each year.
Students raising a pig for WCYF, for example, will feed and care for their project for approximately six months before the show.
“It is a big commitment of time and effort,” Schulz said. “Having a facility like this is wonderful and needed, but in the end, the student has to put in the work to see the reward.”
Growth for Wharton FFA
“Get out there and use this barn, take care of it and take pride in it. It’s a great opportunity. Don’t miss out!”
Students thinking about raising a project for the first time, as well as veterans to the program, can all benefit.
2021 WHS Graduate and Wharton FFA Vice President Katy Salyer said the facility offers such convenience for those wanting to join FFA and show projects.
“I have friends who wanted to raise projects over the years, but they didn’t have a place to keep them,” she told The Gin. “Now, they can use the brand new barn; the convenience will be so nice. I drive to Spanish Camp to take care of my animals every day, twice a day.”
Salyer got started in 3rd grade and said that all students need to take advantage of this great opportunity of being involved with the FFA.
“You will learn so much,” she said. “Things like time management and responsibility are going to help me as I go to college. It also helps you to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.”
Scholarship opportunities are available for students through the National FFA, Texas FFA, Wharton County Youth Fair, breed associations, as well as, all the major shows around the state.
Lana Foyt, outgoing Wharton FFA President and 2021 WHS Graduate, said, “Showing animals over the years is a big part of how I will fund my college costs.”
She continued, “In addition to scholarships, the calf scramble, where you are awarded money to buy your calf and then come back and show it the next year, is just one way I’m able to do that.”
As Salyer and Foyt move on to college, they have some advice for their fellow Wharton ISD students and FFA members.
“Get out there and use this barn, take care of it and take pride in it,” Salyer said. “It’s a great opportunity. Don’t miss out!”
Foyt added, “I’m sad it’s happening when I’m leaving, but so happy for the younger kids. I can’t wait to come home from college and see a barn full of animals!”
There is certainly excitement surrounding the future of the Wharton FFA and the facility that will enable many more students to now participate in a life changing experience.
Schulz invites anyone interested to come by and see the facility.
“The new project center is great. It’s a point of pride for our program, Wharton ISD and the community as a whole. I’m excited to see more kids get the opportunity to experience the fun of raising an animal, and the hard work and dedication that it teaches” he said. “Those are life lessons that go well beyond an FFA project.”
Students and parents who wish to learn more about how to get started can contact Bubba Schulz by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.