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Calhoun County ag instructors find a way to give a hoot

Profits from veteran educators’ joke books help beginning ag teachers across Iowa

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Brian Lantz, ag ed teacher and FFA advisor at South Central Calhoun, left, and Doug Gaul, ag ed teacher and FFA advisor at Manson Northwest Webster, have been working together the past five years on a fundraising effort for first-year ag ed teachers through the sales of two joke books.

MANSON — Two Calhoun County ag ed instructors are having a hoot while helping out first-year ag ed teachers.

Brian Lantz, ag ed teacher and FFA advisor at South Central Calhoun, and Doug Gaul, ag ed teacher and FFA advisor at Manson Northwest Webster, have been working together the past five years on a fundraising effort for first-year ag ed teachers through the sales of two joke books.

“When we started with the book idea, that became a way to raise money for beginning ag teachers,” said Gaul. “Three years in a row, we have been able to send money to every first-year ag teacher in the state of Iowa.”

Lantz said he and Gaul came up with the idea after someone caught them “zinging” one another and it was suggested they should put those jokes in a book.

The books aren’t the first fundraising efforts for beginning ag ed teachers for Lantz.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
“The Official Hoot Manual” is geared toward ag ed instructors. There are two volumes, with a third to be published in June.

“One of the passions I have had for a number of years is doing something silly to raise money for new ag teachers,” he said. “We have raced Hot Wheels and done other things to raise money. That is something I decided to do. We have been making a positive difference and it’s been fun. There’s no other product like this.”

Volume one, “Have a Hoot,” was released in 2016 and volume two, “How to Hoot Too,” was released in 2017. Book No. 3 is scheduled for release in June.

Gaul and Lantz call their books “The Official Hoot Manual,” and are geared toward ag ed instructors.

“These books are only good for one year. There’s a joke a day for the school year,” said Lantz. “Except for the first book. It has an extra 20 or so jokes. That was a bonus. They’re full of crucial information people don’t know.”

That “information” covers seven areas of agriculture, including animal systems, agribusiness systems, plant systems, food products, natural resources, power structural systems, education and FFA skills.

For example, on Day 40 in the “How to Hoot Too” book, a student may learn the answer to “What do you get from miniature cattle?”

The answer: “Condensed milk.”

Or, on Day 69: “Why did the manager buy cattle after the bank was robbed?”

Answer: “He was told to beef up security.”

“Some advisors have said the kids insist on hearing the joke of the day before class can start,” said Gaul. “They are even included in some curriculums. I think it helps ag teachers in two ways and it especially helps beginning ag teachers. It is something to use to catch kids’ attention.”

“I think it is important to also find that way to connect with your students.”

But the books aren’t just for ag educators.

Gaul said he has sold them to farmers and other agribusinesses.

“It’s fun for everyone in the ag industry,” he said.

“We had an individual that bought 100 and has been handing them out to his customers,” Lantz added.

The owl

Lantz said the books are written by those who are “here by the owl.”

That term is heard during the opening ceremonies held at the beginning of FFA meetings for roll call of officers.

The script reads, “Advisor — here by the owl, the owl is a time-honored emblem of knowledge and wisdom. Being older than the rest of you, I am asked to advise you from time to time as the need arises. I hope that my advice will always be based on true knowledge and ripened with wisdom.”

Lantz said, “We wanted to have fun. We’re just having a hoot. The books have a lot of fun things and you will get to grinning.”

Lantz and Gaul have included many of their own jokes in the books, but have accepted some from contributing authors as well.

“We tried to recognize and give credit to those people and some of them are our students,” said Lantz.

He added they were able to send proceeds from the books to all of the 24 new ag ed teachers in the state of Iowa this year.

The need for ag ed teachers is on the rise, Gaul and Lantz said.

“We’re in a changing of the guard,” said Lantz.

There are approximately 90 ag teachers in Iowa with less than five years’ experience.

Gaul said all of the open ag ed positions in the state have been filled over the last few years. Other states haven’t been as lucky.

“We are adding programs at an unprecedented rate,” Gaul said. “The number of kids has also increased.”

Curriculum is changing due, in part, to the background of the students participating in FFA and ag education.

“We have less true farm kids,” said Gaul. “We have to continue to bring outside kids into the program. When you are teaching ag, you have to make it the thing to do to get those borderline kids in the door.”

“We’re not teaching cows, plows and sows anymore. It’s a broad view of agriculture and you try to hit it all and get them exposed to as much as possible.”

The Official Hoot Manuals are available at hootmanual.weebly.com, or by emailing dgaul@manson-nw.k12.ia.us or blantz@scc.k12.ia.us. The website is also where jokes can be submitted.