A Youthful Voice...The Advocate Youth Page Schyler Angell

Associate Editor,
Advocate Youth Page

For many high school students, FFA provides them with a series of opportunities to develop individually and learn about various aspects of the agricultural industry. This has become especially true for 17 FFA members from the Community R-VI FFA Chapter. This June, these students had the opportunity to travel with their FFA chapter to Hawaii.

The Community R-VI School District in Laddonia, Missouri is made up of four small towns that have a total population of less than 1,000 people. Mrs. French has worked as an FFA Advisor for 11 years, eight of them being in the Community R-VI DIstrict. Several years ago, she and another ag teacher began talking about providing their students the opportunity to travel overseas as a chapter. They decided it would be a great opportunity for their students to see what diversity and agriculture look like outside of their small towns. Mrs. French said “I hope by giving our kids experiences like this, they are more comfortable to try new experiences in college or later in life. I hope they learn about different cultures and ways of life, as well as how diverse agriculture is in other areas. But they also have the understanding that it's still a major part of agriculture, even if it isn't cattle, pigs, and crops like we have here in Missouri.”

After lots of planning, Mrs. French has had the opportunity to travel with three groups of students. In 2017, they traveled to Costa Rica. In 2019, they toured Ireland, Wales, England, and France. The chapter’s 2021 plans included a trip to Costa Rica and Panama, but their travel opportunities there were limited due to Covid. So instead, they arranged a trip to Hawaii where the state had begun to reopen and welcome tourism.

While in Hawaii for nine days, the group toured both agricultural facilities and tourist attractions. One of their most memorable tour stops was Pearl Harbor where they were able to be on the USS Missouri and see the Pearl Harbor National Memorial on the USS Arizona. They also went snorkeling and explored Punaluu Black Sands Beach and Volcano National Park. They learned about how cattle and other livestock were raised on the island while touring Parker Ranch. Additionally, they toured Heavenly Hawaii Kona Coffee Plantation, Dole Pineapple Plantation, Joe's Nuts Macadamia Nut Farm, and Abalone Industries Aquaponics.

Erica Windmann, a senior at Community R-VI, is currently serving as the president of the FFA chapter. She said, “I learned that there are many different ways that someone can contribute to the agriculture industry. At home we raise animals and farm row crops, but Hawaii has different parts of the agricultural field that I have never seen or experienced before.”

Erica’s experience is exactly why Mrs. French and many others have encouraged their FFA members to travel and see the diversity within the agricultural industry. Lance Fort, an 11th grader said that his most memorable part of the trip was the people they were able to meet, like tour guides and local residents. He said, “I enjoyed the many stories told by the strangers we met, and learned a lot about the different perspectives of other people around the world.”

Any FFA member at the Community R-VI High School has the opportunity to travel on the trip abroad every other year. Although the school and FFA chapter do not do any fundraising, students have the opportunity to individually fundraise and save their money because the trips are planned about 18-months in advance.

For 2023, the chapter is looking into touring Italy and Greece. Regardless of location, the trip provides an excellent opportunity for members of the Community R-VI FFA Chapter to experience new cultures and learn about the wide array of agricultural industries. As Erica Windmann claims, “it is a trip of a lifetime” and one that she, as well as other FFA members, will forever be grateful to have experienced.