Greeting Canton FFA advisor Tom Hojnowski, members (second, from left) Charleigh Anderson, Mitchell Wooster, Aubree Route, Oliver Kelley, Camille McRoberts, Lucas Drever, Alexis McRoberts, Tyler Engel, Kathryne Kilbourn, Tyson Bedford, Samantha Morgan, and Noah Gibble on their big day at the Pennsylvania Farm Show were Secretary Russell Redding (left) and Rep. Clint Owlett. Jan. 9 was a milestone day in the FFA career of 19-year old Samantha Morgan (below). She participated in the first FFA presentation of the day, sang the national anthem at the FFA Midwinter Convention, and received her Keystone Award. Samantha is pictured in one of the featured of a landscape display constructed by fellow FFA members.
Story and photos by Rick Hiduk
(Originally published in the Daily Review)
The FFA Team from Canton High School takes the Pennsylvania Farm Show, held in Harrisburg each January, very seriously. On Monday, four students did an impressive presentation on how to build a house for screech owls. Right next to the Lancaster Farming Stage from which they did their demonstration was a landscaping display that took a week to put together. And one of the members had the honor of singing the National Anthem at the annual State FFA Midwinter Convention for a third time. As if that isn’t impressive enough, additional student members took a fifth place ribbon for a window display about Aircraft in Agriculture.
Camille McRoberts kicked off the presentation with welcoming remarks and an introduction of the others on stage and asked those in attendance who had heard of the Eastern Screech Owl. Almost every hand went up. Samantha Morgan explained that the Screech Owl is the smallest owl in Pennsylvania and best known for its distinct sound, of which she played an audio segment. Tyler Engel noted that its population is shrinking because of loss of habitat and the Avian flu.
Alex McRoberts asked, “Why fight for the survival of the Screech Owl?” Because they eat the insects and rodents that we don’t like.
“You will be increasing the number of predatory birds in your environment,” Camille added. The FFA honors the owl as a symbol of wisdom.
Their solution is an owl box or owl house. Camille gave the dimensions of the prepared pieces of white pine, each cut done for a specific reason. After the four donned safety glasses, Tyler explained the process as the girls assembled a box in which the owls can live safely and comfortably, as might a Northern Saw-Wet Owl or an American Kestrel Hawk. Additional elements include affixing metal sheeting a foot in length below the box to discourage squirrels from getting into the birds’ home. Camille also suggested securing it to a live tree anywhere from 10 to 30 feet off the ground.
Tyler pointed to a cluster of dead tree trunk segments lined up at the front of the stage with holes in them likely to have been previous homes for owls or other birds. He suggested that home owners leave them up if they do not pose an immediate threat in order to help retain some of the natural habitat the birds have lost. The group provided blueprints to audience members interested in giving the project a try for themselves. Finally, Samantha encouraged audience members to be patient in that it might take a few years for the owls to find the boxes.
After the presentation, the 12 FFA members in attendance were encouraged to explore the Farm Show in the hours leading up to the State Convention that was held in the Large Arena in the afternoon. Samantha Morgan had sung the national anthem before a live audience in 2020, virtually in 2021 when the Farm Show was forced online during the height of the pandemic, and in front of the National FFA Conventions in 2021 and 2022 backed by the FFA National Chorus. “I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember,” she remarked.
During the Convention, four Canton FFA Members earned their Keystone Award, the highest honor bestowed on FFA members in Pennsylvania. Recipients included Camille Roberts, daughter of Brandy and Eric McRoberts; Noah Gibble, son of Benjamin and Marie Gibble; Samantha Morgan, daughter of Kevin and Theresa Morgan; and Aubree Route, daughter of Jeremy and Heather Route.
Photo by Rick Hiduk
State representative Clint Owlett (left) visited with Canton FFA members (continuing from left) Tyler Engel, Alexis McRoberts, Samantha Morgan, Camille McRoberts, and Canton FFA advisor Hojnowski.