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Independent Voice

FFA Barn Finally Opens

Feb 14, 2024 11:23AM ● By Debra Dingman, photos by Debra Dingman
Marcus Tanaka recently met with Mike Saragoza of MJB Welding Supplies out at the new FFA Barn at Dixon High School. Behind them are the new pens installed by Mr. Tanaka and ag students for livestock. They can hold pigs, goats, lambs, etc. and enable students to work daily at the back of the school where the new barn and storage building are located.

DIXON, CA (MPG) - Finally, Dixon High School Ag students have their barn and long-time Ag teacher and Future Farmers of America Advisor Marcus Tanaka is in a much better mood these days after a “99-day project” was drawn out over years.

On a recent tour of one huge storage building and another large building referred to as the FFA Barn, Mr. Tanaka showed off the new metal pens that he built himself that are “versatile and can hold two sheep or two pigs” or can house other animals including steers, goats, and sheep.

“I’m going to build stuff that will outlast me,” he said.

Marcus Tanaka FFA Advisor

FFA Advisor and Ag teacher Marcus Tanaka teaches career technical courses to students who might become any kind of equipment operator or farmer.

He also showed where the new restrooms are, where a drinking fountain has been installed, and some hose reels that drop down for the animals are now in place along with a huge livestock fan. The storage building holds small tractors and equipment used to train students for “almost any construction job,” he said.

While Tanaka is thrilled to have the facility complete, he says the District has taken the ag teacher’s stipend away for the time to spend in the barn with the students. He reported that in the past, ag teachers received a 10-percent stipend to manage the school barn and for FFA activities but now, none of the ag teachers receive that.

“There are always things happening [in an FFA barn,]” he said. “When a student calls you over a sick pig, we come out. There are 16 sections of Ag and 350 to 400 students enrolled in our program.”

FFA barn loaderexcavator

This Skid Steer Loader/Excavator is used to train students for ag or construction jobs with its versatility to change the front loader to a mower, sweeper, blade, or trencher. The new FFA barn and storage buildings keep machines and equipment protected.

In a community like Dixon surrounded by row crops, dairies, and a huge lamb processing plant, it’s perfectly natural for Dixon High School to have a large Agriculture Department. The two new school buildings and an additional greenhouse were celebrated almost three years ago with a grand opening where long-time instructor John Ramos cut a red ribbon and who, at that time, was relieved after so many years of “begging” anyone with a bit of extra land to let his students raise an animal on their property.

Historically, when students interested in farming wanted to raise lambs or pigs at the old high school site, now John Knight Middle School, they were able to utilize space on Sievers Road—a bit of a drive but still in town.  But that site was sold to help garner enough monies to build a new barn. That was 2007.

In 2019, a Career Technical Education Facilities grant was awarded to the school by the State Department of Education and FFA students and staff looked forward to the new barn, but building was delayed due to supply and labor shortages.

Altec Company tools and supplies

A truck load of tools and supplies were donated from the local Altec Company which will help welding and ag students learn how to repair farm equipment.

Finally, in 2024, all concerns have been addressed or are at least complete enough for students and teachers to be allowed to use the facilities.

The buildings are located at the end of the high school football stadium and parking areas and are not far from the long row of Ag classrooms where students learn welding, soil composition, floriculture, and animal sciences. They have hands-on experiences that help them be job ready.