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Winters FFA ag mechanics program creates custom works for community

When the COVID-19 pandemic made having a normal year impossible, the agricultural mechanics program began creating custom works for its community.

WINTERS, Texas — When the pandemic made having a normal year for the Winters Future Farmers of America (FFA) instructor Justin Sargent's agricultural mechanics class impossible, the team got creative, finding a way to develop their skills and benefit the community.

Sargent said his metal supplier experienced supply shortages directly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the team did not have the supplies to compete in major shows.

In any given year, participants from Winters' ag mechanics program could be seen at shows in San Angelo, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

So Sargent started taking requests.

“To make up for that, we’ve been doing quite a bit of work in the community. You know, people are coming to us for custom orders and several things like that and I think they’re getting just as much satisfaction out of that,” he said.

The students have made signs for multiple local businesses.

"We’ve just installed a sign at the local convenience store and truck stop here. We completed about a 50-foot sign, the store front for a local feed store. We are fixing to begin a project in the surrounding community of Wingate, getting a ‘welcome to Wingate’ sign,” Sargent said.

The team had the ability do installations around the community after creating a mobile ag mechanics shop, made from an old band trailer no longer in use.

“It’s sweet. It’s been a great addition to our program. It’s made us mobile really. We can go out and put up signs and it’s a nice looking rig. We worked really hard for it. We turned an old band trailer that they didn’t want anymore and turned it into something really nice and useful and something we can be proud of and it’s got our name on it and our logo. It’s something that we can pull around and smile because it’s ours,” Winters ISD senior Seth Gerhart said.

Credit: Winters FFA

Some of the team's projects have been much more far reaching. The students also designed the belt buckle award for the 2020 Working Ranch Cowboys Association World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo in the fall.

Winters senior Jayden Galvan had a lot of input in designing the buckle and said it was a tedious process.

"It was kind of complicated, but it was worth it," she said.

Credit: Winters FFA

The program also made the sign for the new Taylor Telecom Arena in Abilene.

"We got to be some of the first few people to be inside the new arena in Abilene. We got our name put out there and it’s kind of…I don’t know if it’s bad to say but, bragging rights, I guess you could say because it has all those good schools around it, you know Cooper and Abilene and little old Winters, Texas got it done and it was something cool to put our name on,” Gerhart said.

Sargent said there is a lot of pride and support from the community surrounding the FFA program in Winters because it is the first chartered program in Texas.

“Only one chapter can say that and we are the lucky ones. We take a lot of pride in that statement and we try to represent as best we can by putting forth 100 percent,” Sargent said.

The students in the program all agree the skills learned in Sargent's classroom and shop will serve them well in the workforce after they graduate.

"It’s really grown me as a person. I’ve learned so much out in the shop and outside of the shop and took me out of my comfort zone…learning how to weld and run the C.N.C table, I’m not really use to that,” sophomore Shelby Santos said. "I want to pursue a career as an ag teacher or a game warden and not only can I use it towards that, but out in the field when I’m helping my family, little things like welding up a combine or helping on the farm.”

Gerhart said he will leave the program in the spring with multiple technical certifications.

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