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SD Department of Education
Feb. 2019  

Doland ag program thriving under Bailey Coats’ leadership

Doland High School students who aren’t part of the district’s ag program are sort of “the exception to the rule.” “In my classroom, I see almost every student in our high school each day,” says agriculture teacher Bailey Coats.

The Doland program is FFA-affiliated, meaning that any student who takes an ag class is automatically an FFA member.

“I tell my students, ‘You’re automatically an FFA member, but it’s up to you whether you choose to take advantage of it,’” Coats says. “I have some students who say they just want the class, and by the time they’re seniors, they’re some of my most active FFA members. They see what their friends are learning and doing, and before they know it, they’re in a blue jacket with everybody else.”

Coats is excited about the number of female students drawn to her classes and the fact that many of them don’t have an ag connection at home: “They may live in the country,” she says. “But they’re not seeing farming or ranching or production on a day-to-day basis, so I’m proud that we’re creating that interest.”

Before working in Doland, Coats taught at Lake Area Technical Institute for a year, an experience she finds valuable in helping prepare students for what to expect at the postsecondary level.

Strong support from alumni and community
During Coats’ first year with the district, a Doland alumnus surprised her with a $500 donation to purchase new FFA jackets for students. Over the past couple years, the district’s FFA alumni program has been growing.

“That’s probably something we’re most proud of as an FFA chapter, is the development of our alumni program,” Coats says. “They’ve been awesome as far as helping me get some different tools and grants to bring new equipment and items into our classroom.”

Among alumni activities is the prime rib dinner and auction, held the Saturday before FFA Week. In its first year, the event raised $30,000.

Other community support is also strong. With a grant from a local feedlot, Doland High School recently purchased a complete artificial insemination kit. Coats invited a guest from the feedlot to her animal science class to teach students how to do AI. The grant also covered the cost of a haybale probe so that students can learn to test the moisture level of feed.

“When it comes to animal science, kids seem to be most interested in nutrition and digestive and reproductive systems,” Coats says.

A Doland student learning about artificial insemination works with a cow uterus brought in by a guest speaker from a local feedlot.

A growing program
More and more opportunities await students who take full advantage of Doland’s ag program, which started up again in 2013, after having closed in the early 2000s.

For instance, Coats has teamed up with Melissa Knox, the high school science teacher, who runs the school’s science fair. Knox already requires students to complete a science fair project, so Coats has built on that and encouraged students to also take their projects to the FFA Agriscience Fair.

This past fall, two Doland students qualified for the National FFA Agriscience Fair in Indianapolis, Ind., with their plant science project, in which they grew soybeans and studied the impact of various natural additives on the plants’ growth.

Coats with Doland students at the National FFA Agriscience Fair in Indianapolis, Ind., fall 2018.

Another of Coats’ students was recently named a state-level finalist for this year’s FFA Star Farmer Award.

Doland offers a wide range of ag-related courses, including intro to ag, animal science, horticulture, wildlife and fisheries, ag structures (woodworking), welding, ag mechanics (plumbing and electrical), ag business and ag communications.

During the 2016-17 school year, Coats’ first year with the district, she taught ag at both the elementary and 7-12 level. It’s something the district hopes to pick up again, so that elementary students would have an ag “special,” just like they have music, P.E. and library. Coats also takes the ag program on the road, teaching classes at Hillside Colony High School.

Coats’ original career goal was to go into communications. Really, she’s done just that: a South Dakota “farm kid” who grew up outside Raymond, she’s communicating her love of agriculture and passing it on to the next generation.

Last spring, ag structures students toured a sawmill outside Sioux Falls and purchased hardwoods to construct cutting boards.

Doland FFA students organize an FFA Market twice a year at which elementary students “shop” for free, taking home fruits, vegetables and dairy products courtesy of the chapter.

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