In today’s society, it is crucial to get every experience you can, when you can. In order to give their members every opportunity, the Elsberry FFA Chapter in Missouri started traveling abroad to expand students’ horizons. Educational trips allow students to see the sights, but they are also unique to include an emphasis in agricultural.
The Elsberry FFA Chapter Advisors, Sarah Ray and Jason Vandivort, opened the door to international travel to see if students would be interested. With an overwhelming response, Jason took students on a trip to Costa Rica two years ago. Traveling abroad allows students to get out of their comfort zone and see the world.
With a great response to the first trip, they decided to plan a second trip with an agriculture emphasis. After meeting with Education First Tours (EF Tours), Vandivort worked with the company to select the perfect trip for the students — to Ireland, England, France, and Wales. After a few tweaks and adding more agriculture stops, they were ready to take the trip.
The trip included the two FFA Advisors, Ray and Vandivort, eight members, and their parents. During the nearly two-week trip, they got to see many sights, including Buckingham Palace, Eiffel Tower, the Blarney Stone, and they learned traditional Irish dancing! Ray said they wanted to make sure the students were able to do both: the tourist spots and the agriculture activities.
Ray said they learned farming from their ancestors, so it was only right they go back to learn more about it. For example, in France they visited a farm had a vending machine system that would dispense items at any time — even cold items. The farm also had a store that sold all of their local products. In London, they were able to visit a sustainable agriculture entity, which was a lab that operated as a farm in London. While they were in England, they were able to visit the queen’s herd of cattle.
One of the most unique experiences for the students happened in England. The students were able to attend the world’s oldest fair, the Royal Cheshire Show. Not only did they attend the fair, two of the students were asked to help show dairy goats. Not many people can say they showed livestock in a different country. Memories like these can only be made when you get out of your comfort zone.
The Elsberry FFA Chapter wishes to continue this tradition and plans are already in the making for the next trip. In two years, the advisors are planning a trip to Australia, New Zealand, and FIJI — I graciously offered my chaperoning services for the next trip!
The Elsberry FFA members work hard to go on these trips. For students who wouldn’t normally be able to afford these trips, they work for money with the chapter’s catering business. The students get “paid” per hour, and that money goes straight to their “bill” for traveling. So while no cash transfers hands, the students work hard for what they want to experience in life. The advisors want to make sure everyone gets the same opportunity to explore.
Ray said, “We have such a diverse group, that will try just about anything. We have a full time livestock facility with animals at the barn. Students work for at least 45 minutes a day at the shop, some of whom are not farm kids, but will jump in and work. We have a very diverse group of students who are interested in doing a lot of things and very rarely do we present something to the students and they say no.”