SPARTA—When Erica Olson moved to Sparta this summer and set to work on her hobby farm, she never imagined she’d be getting a helping hand from the Bangor FFA.

On Sunday morning, more than a dozen FFA students filed off a bus and set to work removing more than 200 sapling pine trees from the property.

By early afternoon, all 216 pots, donated by Cottage Grove Nurseries in West Salem, had been filled.

“We were done by 1 p.m.,” FFA adviser Rick Bierbaurer said. “We filled every single one ... I’d expected to be out until 4 p.m.”

The trees could make a big difference for Bangor’s small FFA chapter. Bierbrauer said the trees could bring in more than $2,000 in profits that will go to aid projects including the chapter’s annual trip to the FFA National Convention.

The project was also an excellent opportunity for students to rack up some community service time.

“Seeing kids get excited just to help someone for some community service is really great,“ he said.

Olson said the project ended up benefiting everyone.

The saplings were planted by the previous owner shortly before selling the property.

Olson, who moved to Sparta in July, had different plans for the property. She wanted to convert the land to pasture where she’d raise a handful of goats, Icelandic sheep and Guinea hogs.

The single mother of three and Education and Therapy Coordinator at Coulee Region Humane Society said it was an opportunity to live out her dream and start her farmstead.

Knowing Olson’s plans, Castle Realty agents Stephany O’Driscoll and Katie Wood called, Bierbrauer with a proposal.

O’Driscoll and Wood saw the opportunity to help Olson reach her goal a little sooner and benefit the Bangor FFA at the same time.

“It would be a shame to till the trees,” O’Driscoll said. “We knew they (the Bangor FFA) were fundraising.”

Wood said it was nice to find a new home for the trees and to help Olson out.

“I was really glad those realtors called,” Bierbrauer said.“It was a nice opportunity that kind of fell together…. It is kind of a good no risk fundraiser.”

In addition to getting Olson and the Bangor FFA connected, Wood and O’Driscoll provided a moving truck to transport the trees and lunch for the kids.

Eighth-grader Rebecca Schaub said the project was a great way to give back the community.

“It’s a good way to take part in the community and for people to experience something great about the Bangor FFA,” she said.

Thanks to the success of the collaboration, Wood and O’Driscal are now on the lookout for their next opportunity to help the district.

Anyone interest in purchasing a tree is encouraged to contact the agriculture department at 608-468-5241. The trees are available for purchase by appointment or any time after 5 p.m.


Winona Daily News Crime & Government Reporter

Tobias Mann covers crime and local government for the Winona Daily News. He can be reached at or at 507-271-3271.

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