Tech FFA clinics impact students

Looking at the t-shirt curtain made out of previous FFA workshops, from left, are Dennis Fennewald, ag professor and Block and Bridle advisor; Hannah Upole, human ecology; and Nikki Gass, human ecology graduate. Upole and Gass worked on the project in 2018 as a way to showcase the many clinics Tech's FFA club has held since 2013.

COOKEVILLE –What began as an agriculture department fundraising event at Tennessee Tech five years ago has since impacted numerous students and brought together people in different areas of agriculture.

Since the fall of 2013, Block and Bridle, a club that associate professor of agriculture Dennis Fennewald advises, hosts clinics for Future Farmers of America students at Hyder-Burks Agriculture Pavilion.

The first one of 2019 is set for Thursday, Feb. 7, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hyder-Burks pavilion.

“We started (the clinic) with horse judging, which was led by Katie (Clark) Martin and Lindsey (Hensley) Russell,” he said. “They had success in 4-H and competed at the national level in horse judging.”

Fennewald had only been at Tech a year at that time and needed to find a way to raise additional money.

The workshops were then expanded into the fall and spring, with several other agriculture professors, such as Janice Branson, Douglas Airhart, OP McCubbins and Bruce Greene, getting involved.

Each club would receive funds in proportion to the size of those clinics.

“We would have kids from area school FFA programs come in to these clinics,” he said. “These workshops touch all agriculture subjects, such as horticulture and landscaping.”

Since the clinics began, more than 3,900 students and advisors have attended. The first one saw 131 FFA and 4-H members attend.

Feb. 7’s clinic will have students from 27 high schools from across the state. As of the registration deadline, 406 students have registered. Nearly 50 of those are from Cumberland County.

The most popular clinics featured the livestock and horse subjects. Nearly 200 students have signed up for Feb. 7’s livestock judging clinic.

Students who participated in the clinics could purchase a t-shirt commemorating the workshop. Fennewald would keep the remaining shirts as mementos.

“I had extra t-shirts taking up room in my office,” Fennewald said. “I needed to do something with them.”

This got Fennewald thinking of a unique project to put those shirts to good use.

He contacted Hannah Upole, assistant professor of merchandising and design, who brought in 2018 fashion and merchandising graduate Nikki Gass with the idea to make a curtain out of the extra t-shirts.

“Dr. Fennewald contacted me (last fall) to create the quilt for Block and Bridle,” Upole said. “Dr. Fennewald was kind enough to collect over 75 t-shirts for us from the various organizations, which Nikki spent hours organizing and sewing into the final product. Thanks to Dr. Fennewald’s great idea and Nikki’s hard work, I believe the quilt is a beautiful final product.”

The t-shirt curtain is on display in the Hyder-Burks Pavilion.

The next FFA workshop is set for the fall.

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