Agricultural education students produce winning landscape display
The local FFA chapter has once again done Forest Lake proud in a big way.
The ribbon-worthy effort of Forest Lake High School’s chapter is on display at the Minnesota State Fair. While it’s not on a stick, it is in the shade.
Forest Lake FFA won grand champion in last week’s landscape display competition. A half-dozen students and three advisors spent Sunday through Wednesday working in tight quarters and were rewarded on the fair’s opening day with a cherished purple ribbon.
“I am very proud of the hard work and student leadership that this project brings every year,” said Veronica Ward, the Forest Lake agriculture teacher who served as the lead advisor. “The students really enjoy the challenge and competitiveness of the activity.”
The project stemmed from classwork in the school’s agriculture education curriculum, mostly through the plant sciences class. The department’s other teachers, siblings Mike Miron and Ann Miron Tauzell, helped oversee the work.
The brunt of the labor, though, was borne by the youth. A committee of students took command of the project during the school year. Many of them, joined by a couple others, met during the summer to bring the project to life.
The result is showcased, along with the 10 or so other entries, in one wing the Agriculture/Horticulture Building located near Underwood Street and Judson Avenue.
“Unlike a lot of displays, these are there all 12 days,” Miron said.
Besides offering the youth involved lessons ranging from construction to art, Miron said the competition also can provide practical lessons to fairgoers.
“People might say, ‘This is something I could do in my yard or envision at my cabin,’” he said.
A growing tradition
The Forest Lake FFA is no newcomer to the landscape display competition. A longtime participant, the chapter took reserve grand champion honors last year. It last won top prize in 2009.
Being a suburban chapter by FFA standards, Forest Lake’s members tend not to focus on showing animals with the main FFA crowd during the fair’s final weekend. Instead, the program goes all in on the landscape competition.
“This is our way to be visible and compete at the fair,” Miron said. “For a lot of chapters, next weekend is their way. It’s really great the fair is able to provide us with a different opportunity.”
The competition involves building a 10-by-12 scene portraying an outdoor theme. For this year’s theme, “Outdoor Sanctuary,” the local FFA’ers dreamed up an idyllic lake-side setting with a host of fitting plants and shrubs.
“We were trying to think ‘peaceful’ so we came up with a stream running through it; a babbling brook, with a chair where you can sit and look off into the distance and meditate,” said student committee chair Ben Plautz.
In a Forest Lake tradition, they came up with a name for their display: “Meditate with Nature.”
The fountain was a daring element but one that may have floated the entry to the top. Judges evaluate artistic design principles, identification of plant material with growth and care information, and quality of construction.
The local chapter received support in the form of donations from Abrahamson Nursery of Scandia, Central Wood Products of East Bethel, and Northwoods Log Company of Forest Lake. Some of the FFA members work in landscaping and used their expertise on the project. This year’s process went smoothly, said Plautz, an incoming senior who owns his own landscaping company and has become increasingly active with the competition since joining FFA as a ninth-grader.
Really, Miron said, the process is about working together toward a common cause.
“Teamwork’s a big thing around here,” he said. “From the planning to the construction, students have to learn how to contribute their ideas and share and brainstorm and bring to the surface what seems to make sense.”
In the end, a tangible prize can also represent one that grows a little deeper.
“Anytime you get grand champion at the state fair, certainly that’s something you hope to do, but it doesn’t happen every year,” Miron said. “You hope it makes the local people proud of their program when they go see the display.”
The FFA members sure are, Plautz said: “I’m proud of it. I know the Forest Lake FFA is proud of it and I hope and believe the people who contributed are, as well.”