The Nutrients for Life Foundation selected the Ponchatoula FFA as the 2014 Helping Communities Grow Louisiana winner. Ponchatoula FFA won $5,000 for first place by preparing and presenting educational exhibits at community events.

FFA members presented fertilizer and planting best practices for strawberries to more than 10,000 visitors during the annual Strawberry Festival. This included a planting and fertilizer use brochure created by the Ponchatoula FFA members.

Members also traveled to Options, a nonprofit organization for people with disabilities, to present the Helping Communities Grow program to their Enrichment Program participants, the program aides, program directors and the development director. The FFA members helped them complete the hands-on activities, compile data from their raised bed gardens, evaluate their fertilizer needs and apply their data to real world crop production practices. The Enrichment Program director asked the members to become volunteers and help create a community garden at Zemurray Park in Hammond. The Helping Communities Grow program will continue to benefit the community as they grow their own gardens and gain the benefits of having fresh, healthy, safe food for their families.

“The FFA chapters that participated in this year’s Helping Communities Grow chapter recognition program left our judges impressed with outstanding quality and creativity,” said Harriet Wegmeyer, Nutrients for Life Foundation executive director. “These students put a tremendous amount of time and effort into educating their communities about the role fertilizers play in our lives. It is an honor to present these checks to such deserving students.”

Students in participating FFA chapters developed and executed community-based education programs based upon the Nutrients for Life Foundation curriculum, Nourishing the Planet in the 21st century. The free curriculum, developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study and reviewed by the Smithsonian Institution, provides field-tested, standards-based classroom activities to help tomorrow’s generation realize that the challenge of feeding people.

The Helping Communities Grow chapter recognition program encourages FFA students to help the public become better informed about plant nutrients and related agricultural issues. During the project, students gained skills in leadership, public speaking, team building and community awareness while increasing knowledge of soil science and agricultural issues.

The Nutrients for Life Foundation program in Louisiana is supported by the program’s founding sponsor, PotashCorp. Louisiana FFA chapters are encouraged to submit letters of intent and pre-project summaries by the November deadline for 2014-15 school projects. Details can be found at www. nutrientsforlife.org.