SIKESTON -- The Oran High School FFA chapter will benefit big from a few clicks of a mouse.
On Tuesday, an award ceremony was conducted for the America's Farmers Grow Communities program through Monsanto. Farmer Don Schlitt was named the winner and able to select a local nonprofit to receive the $2,500 prize.
"Most of these schools don't have the funding to get equipment," said Schlitt. "This way, they have a little extra revenue."
Schlitt continued: "We need to give back to these kids that are involved in agriculture. FFA is a good club that teaches kids leadership and responsibilities."
FFA adviser and agriculture instructor James McCormack said he plans to use the money for a small rear-tine tiller for the community garden project, as well as purchase new tools and toolboxes to be used in the ag shop.
"And any leftover money will help fund our national and state convention trips," said McCormack.
Schlitt's son Tyler, a junior at Oran High School, will be among the students to benefit from the funds. It's rather fitting, since Tyler was the one who submitted the grant application this year.
"They send a postcard out, instructing you to go online and enter yourself in a drawing," he said. "It was sitting by the computer, so Tyler registered me this year. It asks a few questions, and takes less than five minutes."
Schlitt recalled that he also entered the program last year.
McCormack said it was "a great surprise" when Tyler informed him the chapter would receive the funds.
"It was awesome," he said. "And with tight budgets, this is a huge help."
Entrants must be at least 21 and engaged in farming a minimum of 250 acres of corn, soybean and/or cotton or 40 acres of open field vegetables or at least 10 acres of tomatoes, peppers, and/or cucumbers grown in protected culture.
Under the program, eligible farmers in more than 1,200 communities across 38 states could enter to win the $2,500 donation. "Overall, we expect to invest more than $3 million in local communities," said Jane Ragan, regional operations manager at Monsanto in St. Louis.
Ragan, who attended Tuesday's award presentation, said the purpose of the program is to recognize the vital role that America's farmers play and to help them grow their communities by supporting a local organization that is important to them. While the organization has full control over how the funds are spent, she said most try to focus on making them related to agriculture.
There is a wide range of organizations chosen, said Ragan, who pointed out all winners are chosen randomly.
Ragan said she and fellow employees always enjoy attending events such as Tuesday's presentation.
"Its very enlightening," she said. "Whenever we get a chance to come out to the rural communities and do something like this as an employee of Monsanto, it's such a treat for us."
The America's Farmers Grow Communities program was created in January 2010, as part of a pilot program. It went so well, that funding was available to expand the program on a national basis over the summer. Last year, Oran farmer Eric Priggel was the Scott County winner. He selected the Oran Park fund for the award.
Schlitt said he was honored to make the donation to the local chapter.
"I'm involved in farming and this is a farming community," he said. "Monsanto is a company that makes a lot of its money from farming, so it's nice to see them pass that along."
Other winners this year include Gene Thresher of East Prairie, who has chosen the East Prairie High School FFA to receive funding; Bobby Aycock of New Madrid, who has designated the Risco Rural Volunteer Fire Department; and Doug Scott of Sikeston, whose organization has not yet been named. Presentations for those awards are upcoming.
On Friday, Kenneth Keller of Dexter was on hand for a check presentation at Richland Elementary, which he chose to receive the $2,500. The school plans to use the money to upgrade swings on the playground.
"I have a granddaughter that goes to school there and a grandson that will start kindergarten in the fall and I knew they needed playground equipment," said Keller. He noted that his, his wife and three daughters all attended school there.
Monsanto officials say they plan to continue the program this year, with the application process set to open Aug. 1 and wrap up on Dec. 31. The form, and more information about the program, can be found at growcommunities.com.
Schlitt said he encourages any other farmers who meet the requirements to apply for the program when entry forms are once again available.
"You get to designate where $2,500 goes," he said. "And it's pretty simple."