The FFA in Bloom

The “Future” in the Future Farmers of America

Garden behind the 500s building at San Marcos High School

Fatima Hamideh

The greenhouse garden behind the 500s building at San Marcos High School used to grow FFA plants and projects

Tucked away behind the 500s building, lies a full-sized greenhouse and fertile soil eagerly waiting for the 600 San Marcos FFA (Future Farmers of America) students to begin growing their garden. The Future Farmers of America program has been a club at SMHS since 1975, and over the years, the program has evolved with agriculture education classes taught by Krystal Thomas, the advisor of San Marcos High’s FFA. With hundreds of eager students, Thomas highlights the growth of this organization while Junior Officer of the FFA, Rena Damian shares her experience along with excitement for the future. Thomas reflects on her beginnings at San Marcos High, “After I had started [at SMHS], we worked really hard getting this whole space organized,” Thomas said. “Our students planted gardens… anddthe next week, COVID happened. So when we came back, everything was overgrown with weeds. Now we’ve been working really hard to get it cleaned up.” Having to restart all of their hard work after COVID, Thomas applied for grants through the San Marcos Education Foundation in order to fund the FFA program’s endeavors. Thomas gives the students a lot of credit, as getting the FFA where it is today was a group effort stemming from hard work and passion. Damian is one of the many students who pour in hours of their personal lives to contribute to the growth of this organization. 

Krystal Thomas the FFA Advisor (Thomas Briones )

“From spending a lot of time with the animals and maintaining everything, to spending a lot of time preparing for the fair and prepping for the school year, [the FFA] has taken up a lot of my personal time,” Damian says.

Damian is dedicated to the FFA, admitting that when the farm was open, she would go three to four days a week for an hour at a time. Alongside her peers and advisor, Damian explains that their company makes the process more fun and quite fulfilling. Being her third year in this club, what keeps Damian coming back has a lot to do with the bonds she’s formed and the opportunities the FFA provided.

“I really love our advisor, Ms. Thomas, she’s a great leader,” Damian said. “I’ve made so many new friends, I’ve gone to different schools across San Diego, I’ve been able to go to competitions and fairs.”

Beginning her FFA career through agricultural biology in freshman year, Damian did not expect to fall in love with the agricultural world. Through the FFA, students are able to raise animals while learning about the world around them. Thomas expands upon this idea through the new greenhouse- where students would be able to learn valuable skills for their future.

 Thomas aspires for the greenhouse to be a learning facility where students can participate in labs and learn industry standards for taking care of greenhouses. The skills learned in the greenhouse will be vital for students when finding careers in nursery landscaping which is San Diego County’s top agricultural commodity. With the expansion of the FFA, comes more job opportunities and career paths for students who aspire to work in the agriculture industry.

Damian shares her dreams for the future, “I hope I get to go into something with agriculture, maybe agriculture education… becoming a teacher hopefully in the future.”

Through the agricultural industry, Thomas explains students are able to make a positive impact on our environment. “Plants in general and our ecosystem are super important, we need plants. Food comes from plants… It helps the environment,” Thomas said, “There’s studies that show having plants around supports mental health.” 

The FFA is not only improving our campus, but our environment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agriculture can produce biofuels, which can substitute fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse emissions harming the environment.  The agricultural industry does more than it’s given credit for, as it supplies food, resources, and mental support, and participates in reversing climate change.

With all of the new students and facilities, this is the year for FFA. Thomas said “We’re excited, this is a game changer for our program. Our students are putting in the work… It’s [the garden] is going to be a beautiful spot on campus.” 

Being the leader of the construction of the garden on campus, Damian adds to this enthusiasm, “I’m excited to see even more people get involved… we try our best to include everyone and make [the experience] really fun.”

A greenhouse on campus for the FFA program/ agricultural classes (Fatima Hamideh)

The agricultural experience is a different, more hands-on way of learning. Participants are able to acknowledge their growth through raising animals and planting gardens they spent a lot of time on while manifesting a passion to make the world into a beautiful place.

The greenhouse for the FFA was just the foundation for greatness to come. Being a part of the agricultural classes or clubs is a great way to get involved on campus! Through growing gardens and forming bonds, “Our students have an opportunity to be connected to our campus.”