NEWTON, NJ- Young children swarmed all over the Future Farmers of America building on the Newton High School campus last month for the annual Second Grader Day.

Even before entering the building FFA students were seen teaching fly casting in the parking lot. 

Immediately inside the front door were two calves from Hi Hollow Farms resting in hay.  Student Tyler Pettinger works at the farm owned by Newton High School alumni Casey Schoelier.   The two week old calves did not yet have names so the visiting students were asked to give suggestions.

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Speaking about the value of the visitation day, FFA student Luke Kellenberger said, “It’s not every day you learn about cows.  Especially when it’s not from a book.”

In the classroom next door Mackenzie Kratzck was sharing her 10 rabbits, two chinchilla and two sugar gliders with the youngsters.  Kratzck raises the animals and shows them locally.

Down the hall the second grade students learned about working with cut flowers.  They created their own corsages with carnations and greens.  While the FFA students led the lesson Floral teacher Mike Ridge worked his way around the room assisting the small fingers with the sticky green tape. 

“Is this what they use for weddings?” asked a second grade boy.

They program does create floral arrangements for weddings according to Nicole Franchino, Chair of the event that hosts students from Allamuchy, Andover, Green and Newton.  The junior explained next year, as a senior, she will co-chair the event to teach the next organizer how to run a successful Second Grader event.

Downstairs in the FFA building was a station for learning about animal calls. Brad Howie and Daniel Powers explained duck, turkey and elk calls as well as using antlers to call deer.

In the next room were the tilapia tanks where students learned about aqua-culture and hydroponics.

Outside the large greenhouses were brimming with colors and smells as the visitors were shown a diversity of flowers and vegetables grown by the Newton High School students.  They even got to plant their own marigolds. 

Franchino explained the peppers, basil, tomatoes, geraniums and marigolds grown by the FFA students were also available for purchase through the program.    In the fall they sell Cornucopias and winter centerpieces of evergreens and candles for the holidays.

The green house also has a section for learning about hydroponic growing. 

Franchino said she wanted to join the FFA program because her grandparents live on a farm and “all my life I’ve fished hunted and shot trap.”

As a freshman she competed in the annual Creed recitation competition.  She credits the program with helping to develop good communication and leadership skills and learning responsibility in addition to the farming skills. 

In order to participate in special events such as Second Grader Day or Fifth Grader Day, Franchino explains students must meet a GPA requirement. 

Fifth Grader Day is held in the fall.  The Newton students provide support for the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife program that gives hands on experiences for the fifth grade students in areas such as identifying animals, Telemetry, archery, using GPS and search and rescue using dogs.

FFA student Kevin Rodriguez spoke about the benefits of having the students visit. “It is good to let them know about the ag program and to have them learn about environmental issues.”

Newton High School Future Farmers of America students who participated in the Second Grader Day:

Organizer: Nicole Franchino

Fly Casting:

  • Shawn Corio
  • Logan Kellenberger,
  • Reece Ivaldi,
  • Animal Calls:
  • Brad Howie,
  • Dan Power,


  • Tyler Pittenger,
  • Luke Kellenberger,Newton High School Future Farmers of America Second Grader Day 2016
  • Kevin Rodriquez


  • Mackenzie Kratzck
  • Zach Tomory,
  • Jordan Pavlishin


  • Emily Weltner,
  • Emma Hesse,
  • Katie O’Brien,
  • Caitlyn McAdams,


  • Summer Malone,
  • April Ciccia,
  • Chelsea Sisko


  • Rihannon Demauro,
  • Kayla Coombs,


  • Lexie Alborano,
  • Rebecca Ridilla,
  • Jordan Wood


  • Sarah Hosler,
  • Roman Ivaldi,
  • Justin Hattersley,
  • Johnny Costa,
  • Justin Marenzana,
  • Adrianna Dominguez