By Doug Graves
VERSAILLES, Ohio – When trying to run any type of business it helps greatly if you have the support of the local community. No one knows this any better than Versailles Agriculture Education and FFA adviser Dena Wuebker.
“We have a very strong, close-knit community here,” she said. “We also have very supportive parents and alumni, and a supportive school system. We also have a lot of kids with drive and initiative who do well and succeed. We also have advisers who push them.”
There are 414 students at Versailles High School. Thirty percent of those reside on a farm, and most of those are involved with this FFA chapter.
Last year, the chapter hosted a Family Farm Safety Night to promote farm safety in the community. The chapter organized a Fall Harvest Market where its members could sell products like pumpkins, soap and honey produced through its supervised agricultural experiences. The Versailles FFA chapter also involved the community by sponsoring fruit sales and spearheading an annual 5K Run/Walk.
Last month, Versailles FFA held its annual four-hour Omelet Breakfast at the high school. The event is always free of charge. A gesture to show appreciation to a community which has the club’s back.
“This is our seventh year with the omelet breakfast,” Wuebker said. “We attract a lot of the community with the farm toy vendors, photo contest, coloring contest, farm display contests and, of course, free omelets. We receive some great donations which enables us to make this activity free.”
The breakfast was held in conjunction with National FFA Week and to recognize the local agriculturalist and promote the agriculture industry. The breakfast also included agriculture displays as well as a farm display contest involving local youth ages 5-18. Sponsored by the Darke County Farm Bureau, cash prizes were awarded to the top three finishers in each of four divisions.
“This community is very involved in this FFA chapter,” said school FFA adviser Taylor Bergman. “The community has a great overall knowledge of this FFA program and that encourages a lot of kids to participate. It also helps that we have a large FFA alumni, so we’re seeing generation after generation. The success that we’ve had helps draw kids into our FFA program as well.”
The Versailles FFA chapter is no stranger to success. In 2018, the chapter was named the No. 1 chapter in Ohio. In 2021, Versailles FFA was named among the Top 10 chapters in Ohio. Last year, the chapter was awarded the Model of Excellence Award winner and named the No. 1 FFA chapter in the nation at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.
Helping Wuebker with this year’s event was Versailles FFA president Zoe Billenstein. A junior at Versailles High, Billenstein’s two older brothers were FFA members, prompting her to join three years ago. And for Billenstein, FFA is all about community.
“To me, my favorite part of FFA is having the interaction with the community,” Billenstein said. “We do a lot of events that are community based, giving us the chance to talk to people in the community, be around them. Our chapter performs a lot of activities in our community, such as monthly visits to the Versailles Senior Citizen Community Center to celebrate the monthly birthday celebrations,” she said. “Every month our chapter celebrates the tenants’ birthdays with cake and ice cream as well as a craft activity at the end.”
The Versailles FFA is among the top achieving chapters in the state. Current members and as many alumni attended this year’s omelet breakfast. All have stories of doors that have been opened thanks to this chapter.
“To me, FFA has been a lot of opportunities for success that you can’t find in a lot of other organizations,” Billenstein said. “With sports, you have opportunities but they’re kind of narrow. With FFA there’s many paths you can take, and it’s not just farming…there’s all types of ag careers available.”