A Growing Classroom

Donors help make ag lab a reality at Republic County

By Lasondra Aurand – Telescope intern

On October 20 at the Republic County home football game, the Republic County FFA Chapter will unveil the newly built greenhouse located to the east of the vocational ag building.

There will be an open house from 5 to 7 p.m., and at halftime of the game against Smith Center, donors to the project will be recognized.

The greenhouse is being used by the FFA Chapter and agricultural education classes at Republic County but is available for use by grades K-12. The FFA includes 82 members. More than 100 high school students are enrolled in ag classes, and 134 6th, 7th and 8th graders also take a section of ag each year.

Currently, the greenhouse holds poinsettias, aloe vera plants, a lemon tree, an orange tree, a pineapple plant, and more.

Started with memorial

Obtaining a greenhouse for the school started with a conversation between Blaine Blazek and FFA advisor Merle Hadachek, who retired last year. Blazek is the son of the late Loren Blazek, and he wanted to donate his father’s memorial to the FFA.

“My father’s life revolved around agriculture,” Blazek says. “We wanted to help the kids in school get hands on education.”

Hadachek and another former Republic County FFA advisor, Dan Stehlik had talked about a greenhouse since the district consolidated in 2006, but at the time didn’t have a strong base for such a project, he said.

“The donations from Loren. Blazek’s memorial presented an excellent beginning for a plan for the greenhouse,” Hadachek says. Hadachek was also approached by the family of Dale Huncovskyabout donating his memorial money to the FFA. Huncovsky was a strong supporter of the FFA, says his daughter, Kelly Melton, and he was proud that the FFA purchased their fruit for the annual fruit sales fundraiser through the Cuba Cash Store.

Over a several year period, the district pursued grant applications through national foundations to fund the greenhouse, which were not approved.

However, donations towards the project from FFA alumni continued to accumulate. Students participated in a Yield Challenge Contest sponsored by the former United Farmers Cooperative, and producers.

Don Krotz, Mark Popelka and Robert Popelka donated a percentage of those crops towards the fund. FFA alumni John and Kandy Eickman made two donations of grain towards the project, and Polansky Seed, Belleville, lent its support. The family of the late Mike Pachta designated memorials towards the greenhouse.


Sheets says he saw the greenhouse project as a way to honor Hadachek, who spent 43 years teaching vocational agriculture, mostly in the Hillcrest and Republic County districts. May 31, 2017

“Not only would the building support the FFA, but it could also potentially be used by science teachers David Kadavy and Joelle Feight,” he said. “When the project was presented to the board, the decision to give it a green light didn’t face many challenges.”

The USD 109 board decided to cover the rest of the funds necessary to finish the project, which totaled $35,870. Overall, the project expenses totaled $53,225.

Constructed over summer

During summer break, the structure was raised and put in working order. When the 2017-2018 school year started, new advisor and Belleville FFA alumni Jed Strnad had his classes help load crushed rock into the building to create flooring, and he also had students build tables to hold the plants.

Once the building was ready to hold plants, the Plant and Soil Science class and the Introduction to Agriculture class helped plant poinsettias to grow in the greenhouse so the FFA can sell them as a fundraiser at Christmastime.

Since the poinsettias, the different species added to the greenhouse have grown.

“It’ll be wonderful having plants thriving in the middle of winter when it’s snowing outside,” says Republic County FFA advisor David Graham says. “I’m very appreciative of the wonderful support from the community and sponsors. The greenhouse wouldn’t be possible without them.”