The trend in the willows.

Finding ways to use renewable resources is the name of the game these days. Vernon-Verona-Sherrill FFA in Verona, N.Y., became part of this movement with their Willow Biomass Project.

The chapter’s environmental resources committee contacted Larry Smart of Cornell University to ask for his advice about a test plot for the project. FFA members then got to work under the tutelage of both Cornell University and the Syracuse University School of Environmental Science and Forestry.

The test plot was formed to explore the environmental adaptability of willow in soils found in Oneida County. The FFA chapter used the high school’s land laboratory to survey the site and prepare the land. Forty-eight FFA members worked a whopping 216 hours mowing, planting, picking up rocks and laying the test plot. Eight members operated the willow planter with six other students and two teachers.

Seventeen students conducted yield tests and plant population estimates to determine which varieties of willow were best suited for the area. The project eventually showed the adaptability of the willow branches as a renewable resource and concluded that it could eventually have a positive, and potentially profound, impact on the community.

The Vernon-Verona-Sherrill FFA chapter was a finalist in the 2010 National Chapter Models of Innovation award program, in the area of Community Development.


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