Decatur High School agriculture students may have a new place to house their animals, but calling it an ag barn would be selling it short.
The new Decatur FFA agricultural science project center has already become a source of pride among not only the ag teachers at the school but also the students.
“Every time I come up here, people are sweeping up and trying to take care of it,” said ag student Ridge Reynolds. “People are coming up here with their friends who have pigs also because they enjoy it up here. It’s one of the nicest facilities I’ve seen.”
The need for the facility was evident more than a year ago as a growing student population in the ag department naturally led to more animal projects. Many of those animals needed to be housed at the school’s ag barn, but it was full. To make room, many pens held two animals rather than one.
“That’s hard on the exhibitor and on the animal, too,” said ag teacher Meghan Woodall.
Last year, the school board approved building a new, larger facility. Construction began last summer, and pigs moved into the new building Jan. 9.
And not a moment too soon, because the facility hosted a pig camp the next day. Once the show was over, students were hard at work moving even more pigs into the facility. As of Wednesday, 48 pigs were enjoying their new home.
While that might sound like a lot, the building can house even more and still not feel crowded, ag teachers say.
Pigs may be the current occupants, but other kinds of animals could also be housed in the new facility.
In addition to the extra space, the facility features a show arena that is totally enclosed, meaning students can work with their animals in any weather condition.
“What I like the most about being in this facility, the kids want to be up here more, and I’m able to see them in action,” Woodall said. “Before, sometimes they were coming at times when I wasn’t here at school. … They are all out here together, and that’s important for these pigs, too, because in a show environment, they are going to be walking in the arena with several different pigs, so I think it will be good for them to work on their showmanship skills.”
Other improved features include a ventilation system and a watering system that creates far less mess for the students to clean up in their animals’ pens.
The facility also includes a room to store feed, another room where students can bathe and clip their animals, a room that will soon house lockers where students can keep their “barn clothes,” a storage area for stock show material and a classroom that can be used for meetings and could eventually be used by a fourth ag teacher if the program continues to grow as it has in recent years. That portion of the building is still being finished, but Woodall said she hopes the building is totally complete within a couple of weeks.
The pig camp held earlier this month was the first opportunity for the public to see the new facility, and Woodall said the reaction was positive.
“I had a few parents ask me, ‘How do you get something like this?'” she said. “I told them you have to have the community support, and you have to have the administrative support. And when you are working together for the common goal for these kids, that’s when it fits, and it fit for us,” she said.
The public’s next chance to see the new facility as well as the students and animals in the Decatur ag program is at the Decatur FFA Chapter Show Saturday, Feb. 7. The show will include heifers, lambs, goats, steers and pigs and is open to all members of Decatur FFA.
Registration is 9 to 9:30 a.m. (weight cards due by 9:30), and the show starts at 10. Cost is $10 per entry. Showmanship will be followed by the respective species show, as well as a celebrity showmanship contest.
Call Jim Allsup, 940-393-7286; Joey Brooke, 940-393-7297; or Woodall, 940-393-7285, for information.