When you have a passion, you want to share it with others. A passion for agriculture and education has led more than 300 individuals, businesses and foundations to donate for an agricultural and science addition to Lutheran High Northeast (LHNE) located on the northwest edge of Norfolk, Nebraska.
‘Growing the Future, Rooted in Him’ fundraiser includes a 10,000 square foot agriculture classroom, store, storage area and restrooms, as well as a science classroom and lab of 2,200 square feet.
By examining the current and future needs of students, LHNE found that hands-on vocational classes were the most sought after by its families. The high school therefore took action and launched an agricultural education program and an FFA chapter in 2020.
Space constraints forced the agriculture lessons to be taught in a shared classroom with the chemistry teacher. Agricultural projects such as vermiculture or planting sack potatoes were carried out in the least used room of the school building.
The expansion will provide space for seemingly limitless projects once it is completed for the spring semester beginning in January 2023.
Amanda Hafer, LHNE Farming Instructor and FFA Advisor, has been as busy as the build crew getting ready. A veterinarian by trade, she recently completed training in welding, small engines and other agriculture-related courses to expose LHNE students to a wider variety of skills.
The addition includes a room for veterinary practice and an adjacent room for horticulture and aquaculture. In the spacious open workshop, students can practice building construction in an area with a dust collector, table saw and router. With exterior access via a large overhead door, someone could bring a tractor inside the workshop to work, Hafer said.
Along one wall there will be six welding stations. Each welding bay will have an individual ventilation hood, in addition to a mobile hood with an arm to weld anywhere in the workshop.
“The survey showed that welding was by far the most sought after,” Hafer said. “We can start teaching MIG, TIG, SMAW and oxyacetylene welding this spring.”
Hafer often invites guest speakers into the classroom and takes students on field trips to see real working conditions in agricultural professions. She understands how the passion of farmers can impact her students.
“The people I know who have been the most positively influential in my faith and who just love the state are agricultural people,” Hafer said. “If students can be exposed to more people who are farmers or ranchers or in agriculture, I think they will grow in their faith and learn to love Nebraska more and love their vocations.”
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One such Newman Grove family who loves education and agriculture has been involved with LHNE from the start. James and Kristi Geyer contributed to the fundraising campaign to fulfill a promise made by James’ father, the late Kenneth Geyer.
Kenneth was an avid collector of Chevrolet cars. His passion for Chevy snowballed into a collection of eight classic vehicles, which he and his wife Elaine enjoyed taking to parades and car shows.
“Dad promised to donate a car to Lutheran High Northeast, but it’s hard to donate a car when you’re actively using it,” James Geyer said. He remembers his dad scouring Hemmings Motor News all winter, flipping through the Chevy catalog for cars and parts.
James Geyer inherited a 1961 two-door Chevrolet Impala, which Kenneth had purchased in 1992 in South Dakota.
After James and Kristi pledged to support NHL’s fundraising campaign, the family decided to sell the Impala and make his father’s wish come true.
The car sold at Big Iron Auctions on June 16 for $48,750 and went to Manhattan, Kansas. All proceeds, except selling expenses, were donated to the fundraising campaign.
Geyer said it was “hard to give up” but was the perfect fit since it was an agricultural addition. It is an important offering, in his eyes.
“Not everyone is destined to go to four-year college,” Geyer said. “We need mechanics and builders. The seed of these trades can be started at Lutheran High now.
Geyer speaks from his own experience. The skills he now uses as a farmer were learned on the job growing up on a farm and as a member of the FFA at Newman Grove High School.
It’s the same sentiment shared by Hafer. It aims to better equip its students for the labor market or continuing education.
“Maybe students don’t want to go on and get a four-year degree, but they can get a two-year degree somewhere or pursue a vocation,” Hafer said.
LHNE students come primarily from Norfolk, but the school attracts students from Battle Creek, Columbus, Madison, Pierce, Plainview, Tilden, Wayne, Wisner, and other surrounding areas. Registration is open to young people of all faiths and those who are not affiliated with a church.
Since Hafer started teaching in 2020, this will be his first year in person and without any pandemic-related restrictions. She is ready to share her passion for agriculture with her students.
“Our manager often says that you never know the seed you planted and you may never see the fruit of the seed, but God knows,” Hafer said. “That’s the kind of hope we can give to those students who would never have come to Lutheran High if we didn’t have an agricultural program to teach them about farming and about Jesus.”
Journalist Kristen Sindelar has loved farming all her life, coming from a diverse farm with three generations working side-by-side in northeast Nebraska. Contact her at [email protected]