HARTFORD – Cottonwood High School students can continue to grow their agricultural and wildlife management skills with a new tractor purchased through grants from Wiregrass Electric Cooperative and the Wiregrass Resource Conservation & Development Council.
The new John Deere tractor, purchased for the school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter, will help students manage several farming, gardening and wildlife projects, said Nathan Butler, agriscience teacher and club advisor. The classes and club oversee about 25 acres of farms, wildlife management projects, gardens and livestock pasture at or near school property.
“We grow vegetables and produce, and we give those vegetables and produce to our community,” Butler said. “The kids help plant. They help raise vegetables. We also want to use the tractor to move hay bales and move around some livestock equipment. We’ll also use this equipment to disc land, manage food plots and manage wildlife areas.”
Wiregrass RC&D, with the assistance of state Rep. Paul Lee, provided a $25,000 grant to purchase the tractor. WEC, through its member-driven Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation program, contributed another $8,000 to complete the purchase.
This is the second major Operation Round Up donation to the Cottonwood High FFA in recent years. A previous $6,000 grant helped the school establish a large farming project, paying for fencing and equipment.
“We are ecstatic to assist in the purchase of this new tractor for the Cottonwood High FFA program,” WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro said. “The numerous agriscience-related classes and projects teach the next generation valuable skills that can translate into rewarding careers for both the student and our area. WEC is grateful to its members for volunteering to round their monthly electric bills up to the next dollar to fund our Operation Round Up grants.”
With 85% of the WEC membership participating in Operation Round Up, the foundation raises about $120,000 per year. The money is then disseminated through dozens of scholarships and several grants like this one each year. The state legislature created resource conservation and development districts to oversee the disbursement of grant monies that help improve communities in various ways. Lee said a project like the purchase of a tractor to facilitate educational programs perfectly reflects the purpose of RC&Ds.
“This is exactly what we put the money aside for — so we can bring some of the money to the local level that really fits some needs,” he said. “It’s pretty much the only opportunity legislators have of filling a need that people in Montgomery don’t know about. This is a big economic impact for Houston County and the tristate area.”
Cottonwood High students appreciate the efforts of WEC, Wiregrass RC&D and Lee.
“FFA is not always about agriculture. Agriculture is a big aspect of it because that’s what we use to show people that they can be a leader,” Sarah Juarez, Cottonwood High FFA president, said. “All of these skills that we’re learning teach good communication skills, good leadership skills — learning how to live life. I really think this donation shows the goodness of our community.”
WEC serves approximately 26,000 homes and businesses in Houston, Geneva, Covington, Dale, Henry and Coffee counties.