When Melissa (Bisbee) Moretz was 5 years old, she went into business with her brother and sister. Their father purchased a few ewes for them to raise. They were in charge of feeding and lambing them. As they grew older, they accepted more responsibility including the finances.
“This is where my farming background began. It was an effort made by my parents to help my siblings and I save money for college, but it developed into much more. As we grew older and became 4-H members, we decided to sell the sheep and get into cattle and swine,” says Melissa, who channels her passion for agriculture and education into her job as ag instructor and FFA advisor in Osage, Iowa. “I showed breeding beef at the county fair along with market swine at the county and state fair. I farrowed swine for my Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) program in FFA. During my four years in FFA at St. Ansgar High School, I participated in many career development events, met many people, served as a chapter officer for two years, and learned what hard work really was.”
With so many life lessons learned, it’s no wonder that Melissa and her husband Nate desire to raise their family on a farm. She says she loves coming home from work and taking their 18-month-old son, Kole, to the barn. Every night, this family of three feeds their calves together.
Nate and Melissa also farm with Nate’s parents, calving about 120 cows/heifers per year. As young farmers easing their way into the operation, Nate and Melissa began purchase market steers and heifers to finish out. Melissa says they care for each animal in the best way possible with two goals in mind: (1) Keep our animals safe and healthy; and (2) produce quality offspring.
“A special bond forms between people who are working together to accomplish a common goal,” says Melissa, who also operates a Latham® Hi-Tech Seeds dealership with her husband. “Both Nate and I were raised on farms and want to teach Kole the life lessons that, in my opinion, are learned best on the farm. Responsibility, hard work, life/death, and teamwork are a few of the valuable lessons I have learned on the farm and want to share with our family.”
Helping youth learn life skills through agriculture is also what makes Melissa passionate about teaching agriculture and serving as an FFA advisor. Her students are actively engaged in advocating for agriculture. One group of students is working on a presentation about the antibiotic use in animals. Students in Mrs. Moretz’s sophomore class are required to research a controversial topic in the ag industry, ranging from GMOs to animal welfare, and lead a 15-minute group discussion on their topic.
Last summer the Osage FFA chapter received a grant from the American Farm Bureau Federation to pilot a new curriculum. The middle school exploratory class had an opportunity to design and build its own aquaponics system. In this system students’ have a goal to grow fish and plants for human consumption.
“The focus of this curriculum is to get students to understand how serious the matter of feeding the world is, and more importantly how we can do it in an efficient way,” explains Melissa. “Horticulture students are also building their own hydroponics systems, which grow plants in water. This spring members of the horticulture class implement their landscape designs on the county fairgrounds. Our chapter has also received a few grants to build a greenhouse to use in collaboration with the science department.
My goal for the members of the Osage FFA chapter are to send these members out into the workforce, trade programs, or four-year universities ready to be successful. I hope to prepare members for various fields in agriculture by developing skills that will last them a lifetime such as communication skills, research ability, along with a general knowledge of agriculture. Some specific ways I plan to achieve these goals are to encourage members to participate in the Career Development Events that the FFA offers, along with teaching students basic interview skills, resume writing, and instilling in them the same love for agriculture that my mentors did in me.
I want to be an example for women who dream of being in agriculture. I’m not here to tell everyone that it is a breeze or a piece of cake. I have had struggles and been asked some interesting questions, but at the end of the day, I remind myself that I am paving a way for others to follow and that to inspire people is best done when leading by example.”
Today we are sharing one of Melissa’s favorite recipes from Betty Crocker. It makes for a quick, easy and delicious supper!