Deep roots

Kehoe's passion for FFA unwavering at Southeast Valley

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Steve Kehoe, agriculture science teacher at Southeast Valley High School, talks to some of his FFA students on a recent afternoon. Kehoe, who has taught at Southeast Valley and advised FFA for many years, was involved in FFA when he was in high school in the 1970s.

GOWRIE — Student agriculture clubs have changed quite a bit since Steve Kehoe joined the Future Farmers of America club at Prairie High School in Gowrie in the 1970s.

For instance, today, the organization is known simply as FFA. It also has a wider variety of students involved.

Kehoe, the agriculture science teacher and FFA advisor at Southeast Valley High School, grew up on a farm in Webster County and graduated from the high school in Gowrie in 1978.

As a young kid and a teen, he was very active in 4-H and FFA. But the FFA Kehoe knew in high school is almost unrecognizable to the club he leads now.

“When I was in FFA, there may have been two or three girls in the program at all in our high school,” he said. “Whereas I would say half of the membership today are girls.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Steve Kehoe, agriculture science teacher and FFA advisor at Southeast Valley High School, prunes some of the plants in the FFA program's ioponics garden.

Another main difference is that students interested in production agriculture like farming aren’t in the majority anymore.

“They’re in here because of all the other job opportunities out there for agriculture,” Kehoe said. “It’s not just production anymore; it’s the services.”

Growth in technology has created more and more opportunities in the agriculture industry than ever before, he said.

Some of what students do in FFA hasn’t changed much since Kehoe’s high school days — there’s still a lot of focus on record keeping, leadership skills, public speaking, supervised agricultural experience projects, conferences and conventions.

When Kehoe was in FFA, his supervised agricultural experience, or SAE, project was planting five acres of corn on his dad’s land. He planned the crop, planted the seeds, tended the growth and kept records of his work and the results.

Kehoe didn’t always intend to teach agriculture science to the next generations, or advise an FFA club. He went to college at Northwest Missouri State to study ag business.

It was a college advisor who recommended he teach for a few years before he went into ag banking or sales or something else.

“I thought I’d only be teaching for five years,” he said. “This is year 39.”

Right now, Kehoe is preparing his FFA students for upcoming leadership contests and introducing them to the opportunities a career in agriculture can offer them.

“The need for youth to go into these careers is essential because agriculture is essential in producing food,” he said. “There’s a lot of opportunities — more opportunities than when I was there.”


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