Rose Acre Farms hosts dinner for county FFA officers

A $5,000 donation helped jump-start an FFA chapter at Medora High School.

Eggs are provided each year for the Crothersville FFA chapter to put in boxes, which also are donated, that are filled with other food and toys to deliver to families in need at Christmastime. Food also is donated for the FFA breakfast during the Crothersville Red, White and Blue Festival.

Last summer, a $50,000 donation was presented to Seymour’s agriculture department to purchase equipment for the new ag science and research facility on the school farm in Freeman Field.

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Those are just a few examples of how Seymour-based Rose Acre Farms has supported the efforts of local FFA chapters and agriculture programs.

On Tuesday night, FFA advisers and officers from Brownstown Central, Crothersville, Jennings County, Medora, Seymour and Trinity Lutheran were invited to the corporate office.

Chief Operations Officer Tony Wesner talked about the importance of his FFA and farming background and how that led to him working his way up the ranks at Rose Acre Farms. He also shared information about the company and job opportunities it provides.

Then the FFA students were treated to a catered dinner by The Pines Restaurant.

“I’ve always loved the blue jacket,” Wesner said of the corduroy jackets that are presented to FFA members as he held his up from 43 years ago when he was a Brownstown Central FFA member.

“FFA since I was in school has kind of evolved over the years,” he said. “Used to be, it was all of the farm nerds that were in FFA, and it’s not quite that today. It has kind of evolved into that and some leadership things. It’s a pretty special group.”

Wesner said the purpose of the dinner was to have a fun event for FFA members, provide them with a meal and let them learn more about Rose Acre Farms.

He said the company, which started in 1939, is the second-largest egg producer and the largest privately owned egg producer in the United States. It has 25 million chickens laying eggs, and there are another 10 million birds when part ownership in other joint ventures is added.

Rose Acre Farms has chickens — all cage-free — in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona and just placed some in Hawaii. It also is part owner of farms in California, Texas and Colorado and has a lot of eggs at several farms in Iowa.

Nearly 70 percent of the products are eggs in a carton, while the rest are broken or further processed eggs, Wesner said.

Senior Colin Sons, president of Seymour FFA, said he was surprised to learn the chickens are cage-free.

“You figure they are in a cage, someone is there picking (the eggs) up and they’ve got a conveyor belt just collecting eggs,” he said. “It’s cool to see they are cage-free and they are just roaming around with all of those chickens.”

Freshman Karley Gillis, reporter of Crothersville FFA, said learning about the career opportunities was interesting. Wesner said nearly 25 percent of the 2,500 employees have college degrees.

“You can take that and you can put it into Rose Acre and build off of that or you can just come from a farm and be able to have so much experience growing up with that and be able to be a better person from that,” she said.

Both of them liked having an opportunity to visit the corporate office and hear from the company’s leader.

“They are stepping in being leaders saying, ‘We are open. We want to see these kids grow. We are giving them a tour, talking about our opportunities, giving them options other than college,’” Sons said. “There are some kids in FFA that are like, ‘You know what? Maybe I’m not going to go to college.’ Rose Acre is opening those doors for us. It’s a good way just to show how much they care about this community.”

Gillis said Rose Acre Farms is showing leadership in the community.

“They are just showing kids that they can take a stand within their community and even outside their community because as (Wesner) was saying, he grew up with Rose Acre and he grew up being a farmer and loving farming and being able to incorporate that into his daily life and be able to build a huge business out of that and just love every minute of it and meet so many amazing people,” she said.

“I feel that’s a major part of FFA is you grow and you learn and meet new people, and you get experiences from that,” Gillis said.

They also admire Rose Acre Farms for supporting FFA and other groups.

“FFA was a really big part of (Wesner’s) life, and he wants to see all of us have those opportunities,” Sons said. “I think it’s amazing Medora has started this program to get FFA because I know it has changed my life personally, and I know Rose Acre gave Seymour a big chunk of money to help with our new ag building.”

The ag building will offer education in diesel mechanics, which Seymour has never had before, and a variety of other subjects, Sons said.

“So with all of that money and them backing us, that gives kids more opportunities to go and expand in their knowledge because if it was not for education, we would just be sitting in water doing absolutely nothing,” Sons said.

Gillis appreciates how Rose Acre Farms has supported Crothersville, too.

“They donate eggs and boxes, and that really helps a big part in our community because those boxes really help us get tons of food out to the families,” she said. “When you see a big company that’s so common and just in with all of the society, I think it’s really great that they help out schools like us.”

Wesner told the FFA advisers and officers that Rose Acre Farms will try to help as other needs arise.

“We want all of you to succeed, and we want you all to have the same experience as young blue jacket wearers no matter where you’re at,” he said. “Medora or Jennings County or Crothersville, we want you to all have the same experience because it’s really important and it counts.”