Groton Farmer Challenge celebrates success

Attendees at the Groton Farmer Challenge Agricultural Trivia Night and Silent Auction at Stonehedges Golf Course.
Attendees at the Groton Farmer Challenge Agricultural Trivia Night and Silent Auction at Stonehedges Golf Course.
Photo by Linda Competillo

On Saturday, Feb. 22, more than 140 farmers and friends of Groton’s FFA (Future Farmers of America) gathered at Stonehedges Golf Course on Stevens Road for the first-ever Groton Farmer Challenge Agricultural Trivia Night and Silent Auction, sponsored by the Groton Agricultural Advisory Board (GAAB) to benefit the Groton FFA.

What started as an idea for a fundraiser that would bring the community together while also supporting the FFA turned into an evening packed with fun, great food and good-spirited competition – both for the trivia teams and for those bidding on 41 donated auction baskets and prizes.

As guests arrived for the reception prior to the dinner, there was a hum of excitement in the air, smiling faces and hugs and handshakes all around. When the dinner hour struck, everyone somehow managed to find a seat and filled plates from a bountiful buffet catered by Ollie’s Catering.

When the welcome by Dan Carey, president of the GAAB, and Jason Oliver, Groton High School’s agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, signaled the start of the official program for the evening, Carey gave accolades to Groton Central School’s superintendent, Margo Martin.

“Margo was on board from the very beginning, which made our job so much easier,” Carey said.

Carey, who owns Carey Farm on Lick Street, attended an annual meeting of the Tompkins County Farm Bureau in November 2016, from which he came away with a passion to see ag education in Groton again.

Carey contacted Derek Hill, the NYS FFA director, who also happens to reside in Groton, and Sallee Teneyck of Summer Hill Brewery. Together, the three went about organizing the GAAB, adding other local farmers and agriculture industry folks to their ranks. By May 2018, the board had created a charter and by-laws.

The Groton High School chapter of FFA was an integral part of the school’s culture, dating back to the 1950s, but when its advisor, shop teacher Harold Scheffler, retired in 1972, the FFA in Groton essentially retired along with him.

Thanks to the efforts and partnership of the GAAB and the school district, 47 years later, on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, the Groton FFA chapter was newly chartered and poised to “rise from the ashes” with Oliver as its advisor. Now, seven months later, the Groton FFA is thriving and growing.

Oliver said there are 15 to 20 students regularly participating in FFA activities every week and that “many are middle school students, so the future is bright.” Two upperclassmen participated in the 212/360 FFA leadership conference. Those who are Food Systems students are participating in a schoolyard sugaring maple contest, and five students will be attending forestry training later this month at Camp Oswegatchie.

One of those students, Groton FFA President Robert Houston, very adeptly emceed the remainder of the evening’s festivities as he ran the “Farmer Challenge Agricultural Trivia” contest and the awarding of the silent auction bids, with the help of another FFA member, Jackson Slade.

Teams of four to six contestants pooled their knowledge and gave it their all to answer the agriculture-based questions that were compiled strictly by the students, with just a final approval from Oliver – and some of them were difficult.

Oliver’s primary teaching focus is on one of the GCS STEAM Learning Center’s program clusters, Agriculture Technology. This semester, he is teaching Food Systems in the STEAM Center and has 15 students in the Intro to Ag course.
Oliver said next year’s STEAM courses will be Plant Science and Environmental Science. He has a goal to add additional agricultural science courses, including course opportunities for junior high students.

Oliver also spoke about the many opportunities the students have in addition to their classwork such as field trips and guest lectures with regional agribusinesses.

“So far, we have visited Cornell Veterinary School and Alfred State and Cobleskill for career competitions,” he said. “We’re heading to the farm show this week.”

Right now, the students are finishing up foundational supervised agricultural experiences, which include a career plan and job shadow, Oliver said.

“Two students attended an ag engineering conference at Cornell that landed one student a part-time job caring for dairy calves and getting another student an internship with the farm facilities manager for a large regional dairy,” he said.

Oliver is quite proud of the efforts his students put forth for fundraising for the FFA on their own, as well as the ways they give back to the program and to the community.

“Two students are planning a flower sale out of our high tunnel greenhouse this spring,” Oliver said. “Other students are planning a spring plant sale and will be planting pumpkins again for a fall sale.”

Oliver also said the students are currently sowing the seeds to grow food for the school cafeteria and the Groton Harvest community raised-bed vegetable gardens.

Speaking of fundraising, thanks to the efforts of the GAAB, the local farms and businesses that helped sponsor the “Farmer Challenge” night and all those who donated items for the auction, the Groton FFA will be receiving a total of $5,569 ($3,490 in cash donations and $2,079 raised from auction items).

Carey said he is so grateful to everyone who helped make this such a success and elaborated on a few of the things that will now be made possible for the FFA such as leadership training, attendance at the annual state and national FFA conferences, supplies for the greenhouse and the purchase of the signature FFA blue corduroy jackets for the upcoming FFA members.

Those who might like to get involved with future FFA booster activities may contact the GAAB at

For questions about the Ag Program or to offer agriculture opportunities for students, contact Jason Oliver at

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, or 607-227-4922.

In brief:

Food Pantry has new hours

The Groton Food Pantry in the Joyce Crouch Benevolence Building, 701 S. Main Street, will no longer be open on Saturday mornings. It will begin new hours from 5:30 to 7 p.m. every second and fourth Wednesday of each month starting on Wednesday, Feb. 26.

For any questions you may have, please contact coordinator, Jess Stone, at (607) 592-4825 or visit the GFP website at

Pulled pork lunch

The McLean Community Church Women’s Fellowship, 50 Church St., is hosting its “Leap Year Pulled Pork Lunch” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (or until gone) Saturday, Feb. 29.

The $8 cost per person includes a pulled pork sandwich, cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, and bar cookies for dessert.

Cabin Fever

Groton Recreation is once again sponsoring Cabin Fever, family fun in the Groton High School gym, 400 Peru Rd., Saturday, Feb. 29 from 12 to 4 p.m. Activities will include bounce house, obstacle course, music, vendors, food, performers, face painting and more.

Sky Lab Planetarium shows by the Sciencenter are at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. This is a free activity with a maximum of 25 participants per show. Crossroads the Clown will be in the house from 1 to 3 p.m.

Don’t miss the roller-skating party from 6 to 7 p.m. for those 12 and under and 7 to 8:30 p.m. for all-skate. Admission is $5 per person and includes skate rental.

Chicken and music

The Groton American Legion Post 800 is planning a special event to recruit new members to the Legion, the Legion Auxiliary and the Sons of the American Legion on Saturday, Feb. 29.

The day will kick off with a chicken barbecue, beginning at 11 a.m. Full dinners will be available for $10 or half-chicken only for $8.

Country musician Adam Parker will be entertaining from 1 to 4 p.m., and there will be 50/50 raffles and basket raffles going on throughout the day. All are welcome.


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