Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Ty Neal’s seventh grade class poses with Northwestern Farm Credit Service affiliates, who presented a $5,400 check to the Little Bighorn FFA Farm.Northwest local adivsor Corie Mydland secures wire in a fence post clamp Tuesday. The fence will enclose the 40-acre Lodge Grass School farm where livestock will be bred and sold to fund scholarship grants.

Planting a future

Lodge Grass school farm receives donation to raise livestock for scholarships
In honor of Northwest Farm Credit Services’ centennial, employees of the agricultural lending organization donated $5,400 to Little Big Horn FFA’s farm for Lodge Grass schools. Company personnel presented Lodge Grass Agriculture teacher Ty Neal the check Tuesday afternoon to assist in the project’s funding prerequisites.
The Farm Credit Services’ board of advisors recently granted all employees $300 to be donated to a cause of their choice. Farm Credit affiliates chose Lodge Grass High School and, with the help of four Lodge Grass High School students, they have initiated the fencing portion of the project.
“This is what we wanted to do; something to physically volunteer for in addition to the funding,” said a Northwest Farm Credit employee. “We wanted to do something that would help youth in a rural area, because they’re the future of farming and ranching.”
Neal will use the donation to build the farm for the Beef Scholarship Program he created in 2015. Neal, who has taught school at Lodge Grass for  seven years, founded the scholarship fund to assist graduates involved in the program.
“We struggled every year to provide one scholarship to a graduating senior,” he said. “We started looking into ways to make more money and I had the idea to create what I call the Beef Scholarship Program.”
Several heads of cattle were purchased last year after taking a loan from the State of Montana. The 40-acre parcel, sold to the school in the 1980s by Neal’s great-uncle, will serve as the Lodge Grass FFA farm where the cattle will be raised.
At the end of October, Neal and his students will round up the cattle, bring them to the farm and start the program. According to Neal, a goal of 50 head of cattle is set, which will raise an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 in annual scholarships for Lodge Grass graduates.
To participate in the Beef Scholarship Program, two students and two of the “most promising” freshmen are selected by Neal each year. In 2015, Lodge Grass students Thomas Firebear and Samona Birdinground were the first freshmen to be selected. The two will also be the first students to participate in the program for a full four years.
For Firebear, the farm will provide a means of education, dedication and fun.
“I’m here helping putting up wire today,” Firebear said. “I’ve been in [FFA] for one year, so far, and I enjoy everything.”
“I live in the country like this, so this [project] will help me here and there,” he continued. “It will give me more experience in what I want to do. It’s good for us, because it will give us more [scholarships] and keep us dedicated.”
With scholarships earned through Lodge Grass’ Beef Scholarship Program, Firebear plans to attend MSU after graduation and purchase cattle of his own.
For Birdinground, the program’s scholarships she receives will go toward college expenses. She plans to study engineering technology in 2019.
“I’ve been in FFA for two years because I love the animals and it’s really fun,” Birdinground said. “Part of my life, I’ve been around animals. We helped plan [the Beef Scholarship Program] and helped put up the fence today.”
Neal hopes the farm will assist students in animal science education and offer hands-on learning while they raise livestock, and ultimately secure a scholarship and a promising future.
“Students learn this stuff in class and this will help apply those things,” he said. “Not only do they learn the animal science, but they get to experience it at the same time. Through his project, we hope to get more Indian producers.”