CHATFIELD, Minn. — Chatfield FFA Adviser Stacy Fritz worked into the evening on the opening day of the Minnesota FFA Convention, which for the first time was not being held in person.

Fritz, who's in her 15th year at the helm of the FFA chapter, wrote letters to all her students before the convention and expressed how sad she was to not be creating memories in person at the annual get-together.

"For me and most of my students, this is our favorite thing of the year," she said.

Instead, the 91st annual convention of competitive events, awards and tributes occurred over a three-day virtual experience.

Chatfield FFA members Sloan and Devann Clemens pose with Flat Fritz's after picking up trash on a local highway. Adviser Stacy Fritz handed out the photos of herself on popsicle sticks to get in some much-needed laughs together. (Contributed)
Chatfield FFA members Sloan and Devann Clemens pose with Flat Fritz's after picking up trash on a local highway. Adviser Stacy Fritz handed out the photos of herself on popsicle sticks to get in some much-needed laughs together. (Contributed)
Fritz said the virtual convention was going well for students as far as she knew. All she could do to make the convention more meaningful for students was to prepare them for the opportunities available during it.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

"With it spread out over three days and not having in-person contact, it's kind of hard to know exactly who's watching what, and when," said Fritz.

On day one of the event happening May 19-21, Fritz was using the chapter's social media to showcase the success of Chatfield FFA at the convention. That included a top-three finish in a poultry Supervised Agricultural Experience, and a number of state degree recipients.

The award that Fritz's chapter was most excited about wouldn't be announced until the final day of the convention. For the sixth year in a row, Chatfield FFA was in the state's top-10 finalists for the National Chapter Award.

But no amount of virtual connecting by students at the convention this year will equal the experience of taking part in a regular state convention, said Fritz.

"You just can't replace those in-person events and experiences," she said while going through photos from the year. "This is pretty sad."

Not a year to sneeze at

Before the pandemic, Chatfield FFA was well on its way to having another successful season of projects and outreach. And COVID-19 didn't stop the organization from finishing the season on a high note, said Fritz.

The chapter sent more than 10 kids to the Minnesota State Fair this year to show livestock and other projects, said Fritz, and she took around 30 students to the Region 8 fall leadership day.

There were many other highlights too, like FFA Fun Day, FFA Day at the Capital and the chapter's traditional pancake breakfast held each February. The pancake breakfast raises funds for Chatfield's blue jacket scholarship program, which Fritz said has resulted in 11 years of no students having to buy their own FFA jackets.

The chapter even pulled off an additional blood drive during the pandemic, on top of the one it hosts each year in the fall.

"It was important for us that we keep going, as much as we can," said Fritz. "And keep them excited about the program."

Chatfield FFA Adviser Stacy Fritz poses with a Kwik Trip employee with products that were donated to the local food shelf during the pandemic. The FFA chapter partnered with the local Kwik Trip to showcase an ag product each week, which was then donated to the shelf. (Contributed)
Chatfield FFA Adviser Stacy Fritz poses with a Kwik Trip employee with products that were donated to the local food shelf during the pandemic. The FFA chapter partnered with the local Kwik Trip to showcase an ag product each week, which was then donated to the shelf. (Contributed)
Chatfield FFA also strengthened its relationship to the community food shelf by partnering with the local Kwik Trip to showcase a food product each week,and then donate the products to the food shelf.

"We got 40 packages of string cheese for the community food shelf and 20 pounds of butter in the first week," said Fritz of the partnership. "This last week, we did 12 packages of deli ham and then a bunch of pork filets that are bacon-wrapped."

Coming up is a dairy showcase, and the chapter has about 30 dozens eggs for the shelf.

"We will continue to provided them with eggs until they find another donor," she said.

Community support

Debra Collum runs the Community Food Shelf in Chatfield. It's inside the Chatfield United Methodist Church where she's the pastor. Collum said even before this year the FFA chapter has done everything in its power to be valuable to the community.

"Stacy gets the kids involved as much as she's allowed to," said Collum. "They've been a super supporter of us and so many others."

Collum said they were touched that the FFA chapter would use its own funds to purchase products from Kwik Trip to donate to the food shelf. The chapter also supplies the shelf with tomatoes and other produce.

"They bring in lots of fresh produce for us during the summer that the kids are learning how to raise on plots of land," she said.

Showing virtual love

"We focused on relationships and relationship building as we went into this virtual learning," Fritz said. "Connecting with them every day, and asking them how they're doing, and that we miss them."

She said that's important for students right now as well as teachers.

Fritz has encouraged students in their time off from school and FFA activities to create virtual memories with "Flat Fritz's" she gave to them. The photos of herself on popsicle sticks were used by students to get in some much-needed laughs together. In one photo, students are cleaning up a local highway with Flat Fritz's by their side. In another photo, Flat Fritz is inches away from a chicken.