OCALA | Because Ocala is known as “horse country,” one might not be surprised to see a barn go up at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala. But this barn isn’t for horses. It’s for livestock and part of the school’s expansion of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Agriculture program. The name “Immaculata Barn” is a tribute to Immaculata Farm, which previously stood on the donated land.
“Having a hands-on learning lab is imperative to a successful FFA and agriculture program,” said Sarah LeFils, a family surname long known for its farming enterprise in Central Florida. LeFils is a Trinity Catholic parent and president of the FFA Alumni. “Agriculture is so much more than ‘cows and plows.’ … We know how dependent our community and our country are on the agriculture industry. We also know there are so many kids, and adults, out there who have no idea where their food comes from. They have no idea the hard work, science, intelligence, care, risk, and devotion it takes to feed our ever-growing population.”
LeFils said the barn is one step toward increasing that awareness and teaching students about a significant career path.
“A barn affords the teacher the opportunity to have livestock on campus so kids can care for them easily before, during, and after class time. It would be very difficult for this program to continue to thrive without this opportunity,” she said. “The quote, ‘If you build it, they will come’ rings very true in this case. Those who would otherwise never be interested in taking an agriculture class will now seek it out.”
Students will learn to care for livestock animals ethically and successfully, part of the Catholic call to Care for Creation emphasized by Pope Francis. Christine Damron, who is a staff member and parent, shared another important advantage.
“Students will now be able to house show animals including cattle, pigs, lambs, goats, chicken, rabbits and more. The projects completed through these programs teach students life skills ranging from animal care, budget tracking, time management, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving,” said Damron.
Lexi is a senior at Trinity Catholic and has been a member of FFA since her sophomore year. She said FFA opened doors for her. Lexi said the experience helped her realize there is so much more to working with animals than being a veterinarian. She has told her mother more than once how her experience with FFA and the wonderful agriculture community in Marion County has changed her life. “I am thankful for all the opportunities and knowledge I have gained, and I am now more prepared for college and the future.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, April 27, 2023