Car show steers future growth of Spring Mills agriculture program
Farming has been Donnie Reid’s life.
He’s made a living out of raising beef cattle on farms in the Marlowe, W.Va., area, but his main focus these days is helping the next generation find their niche in the world of agriculture.
“It gives me a bubble in my heart to help these kids, because agriculture has been such a big part of my life and I want to help the students,” said Reid, who is the president of the Spring Mills Future Farmers of America Alumni Association.
While many would associate a tractor to drive an agricultural initiative, the Spring Mills FFA Alumni annual fundraiser is riding on the white wall tires of classic cars. And possibly a few tractors, too.
The car show, which raises money for the FFA scholarship fund, will take place Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the parking lot at Spring Mills High School near Martinsburg, W.Va.
Entering its fourth year, the car show has raised approximately $5,000 and anticipates raising $3,000 through this year’s edition. Funds from this year will go toward six $500 scholarships that will be awarded to FFA students at Spring Mills High School.
For the 85 members of the Spring Mills High School FFA, fundraising is vital for not only having help to further their education, but also money toward competing in national competitions.
According to Reid, the FFA program at Spring Mills has a different level for each grade, 9-12, and requires students to maintain a B average to stay eligible.
“There are so many things these days that can take students down the wrong road. The FFA program gives them guidance and work experience before graduating high school,” Reid explained.
From raising cattle to sell at local fairs to employment at Tractor Supply, the FFA program prepares students for employment opportunities while they are in high school.
Like Reid, agriculture and FFA holds a special place in Tyler Butts’ heart.
Butts, an agricultural science teacher and FFA adviser at Spring Mills High School, is a product of the FFA system at Musselman High School where he graduated in 2009 and is responsible for starting the program at Spring Mills when the school opened in 2013.
“Agriculture has always been a big part of my life and the best way to give back is to provide our students with the same opportunities I had growing up,” Butts said.
Butts said that even though 90% of the funds raised go toward scholarships, some money is used for kids who earn their way to competitions on the national level. Last year, a team of FFA students from Spring Mills High School earned a silver-medal placing at the National FFA Horse Judging Competition.
Butts hopes that the fundraiser can grow over the next few years so that individual scholarship amounts can eventually be raised from $500 to $750 and $1,000 in the future.
One way that the Spring Mills FFA Alumni group hopes to achieve that goal is by growing the annual car show. According to Reid, some rainy weather at the 2018 event impacted the number of cars that participated in the show.
“We had about 80 cars last year and we feel if we can get some good weather this year, we could get as many as 150 cars,” Reid said.
This year, the Western Maryland Street Rod Association has offered guidance on helping FFA alumni improve their car show. One change is that the car show will be judged by professionals for the first time.
In addition to classic cars, trucks, motorcycles and tractors are also a part of the event. There is a $20 entry fee per vehicle and registration is between 8 and 10 a.m.
Joining food vendors at the event will be music by Stoney Creek, a West Virginia-based bluegrass band.