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Fricke Named State
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Greenhouses Growing in Ed Programs


While greenhouses have been a part of agriculture for years, more and more school districts are recognizing their importance in agriculture education programs, leading many districts to add greenhouses -- or improve existing ones for their students. Triopia school district's agriculture program is getting its first greenhouse, allowing students in the district the opportunity to see what can take place in the world of plants.

The district has a plot of land that is harvested by a company to help the schools' FFA program raise money, but the greenhouse will provide a new learning experience for those not in FFA and even those at the elementary school level.

Seniors Hannah Cook and Mason Fricke are excited to be some of the first students to work in the greenhouse once it is completed this month. “It’s a lot more hands-on and we’ll get to watch the seeds develop over the next few months,” Fricke said.

Cook, in her second year in the agriculture program, said having the greenhouse already is changing what she is learning in the program. “This is my second year and the first time was mostly just book work,” Cook said. “There is a big difference between learning about it and getting to do something that you are learning.”

Triopia agriculture teacher Brianna Harmon said the students soon will be growing plants in the greenhouse. “There’s a lot more to growing plants than what you learn in a book.” Harmon said, “A lot of these students are doers. They like to get their hands dirty.”

It will even help the younger students, even though they won’t be working directly in the greenhouse and actively growing plants, she said, adding that teachers can tour the greenhouse with younger students as part of lessons on how plant production works and where food comes from...

For Fricke, who plans to pursue a career in agriculture, having access to a greenhouse is providing him with groundwork for future classes, he said. “I’m getting actual experience,” he said. “I get to learn things before I go to college and into a career. I’ll know some of what I’m supposed to see.”...

Desperate to Show


Seventeen-year-old Mason Fricke walks into the goat barn, a converted hog confinement building, built by his grandfather in the 1970s. Fricke is wearing a free t-shirt, Dude brand shoes, and distressed jeans. Some rips are purchased; some are earned. He connects his phone to a 4-foot tall Bluetooth speaker and selects a favorite Spotify playlist. The playlist is already downloaded because there is no Internet service in this part of rural Illinois – a logistic nightmare when his school turned to remote learning this spring. Walking past Trump flags and a Boer goat named Joe Exotic, Fricke puts a halter on Kobe, a whether named for the basketball legend. It’s time for a photoshoot.

This is a historic snapshot of time. This is show season 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic, 4-H, county, and state fairs across the nation have canceled, leaving thousands of American show kids searching for alternatives.

“I was bummed out, but then some shows in other states started opening up, so I was happy about that,” says Fricke. “I got really aggressive about finding new shows. First, I signed up for every virtual event I could find.”

Virtual livestock shows are an innovative solution to quarantine shutdowns and the uncertainty of fairs and jackpot shows. Some events are limited to counties and age groups, while others are open coast to coast, letting exhibitors complete with people they would never have never been in the ring with before.

“I’ve done a couple of virtual shows already. I submitted photos for most events, but one show required videos of my goats from every angle. It’s a new experience. It’s kinda cool,” adds Fricke.

Today, Fricke (a senior-to-be at Triopia High School)  is taking both photos and videos for a virtual FFA show. One by one, goats are led to the prettiest backdrop on this Chapin, IL farm, a green cornfield, and a blue sky. Fricke and his goats get in the show stance, as his aunt takes photographs. She uses the sports mode on her camera, giving him numerous photos to choose from.

But Fricke belongs in the ring. That is where he shines. At last year’s Illinois State Fair last, one judge awarded Fricke a third-place ribbon but admitted that if anyone else had been showing that same goat, he probably would have placed it 7th or 8th. He knows how to highlight his animals’ best features.

Livestock shows are also important to Fricke’s bottom line. Starting at age nine, he has expanded his own goat heard top more than 40 head. Some are meat goats sold at auction or direct  to consumers, but he finds greater profits breeding, leasing, and selling show goats. Winning and being seen at shows leads to farm revenue.

“I’m looking for any show I can, within in decent driving distance,” says Fricke. Pressed for what qualifies as a “decent distance,” he suggests that is may be any event within a five-hour drive… or a six-hour drive… well, definitely anything within seven hours.

This weekend is Fricke’s first in-ring event– a six-hour drive to the Miami County Goat Show Homestead Feed and Supply in Troy, Ohio. It’s sponsored by Sullivan Supply.

Fricke is thankful for the nationwide and local agribusinesses who are sponsoring association and jackpot shows. “I feel like more sponsoring will happen in the future. I hope we’ll see new small and ‘underground’ shows that won’t rely on state funding.”

He isn’t alone in his appreciation for corporate support. “Kids are going out and finding their own sponsors. They call on the companies they know and then work hard to give those companies adverting and new sales.”

Fricke has tapped into something unique about this season ­– farm kids taking new levels of control of their own show season.

“We’re a network. I have friends all over the nation and with every commodity group. We are helping each other find shows. I’ll find a pig show and send it to my buddy, and he’ll find a goat show and send it to me. We’re also sharing ideas for creating new, local shows. We’re not going to let a pandemic stop us. We’re farmers!” 



2130 Fricke Rd.
Chapin, IL 62628

Contact MASON Fricke 


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