Farm Progress

5 ways farm life prepared our kids for international travel.

March 10, 2017

4 Min Read
MAKING PLANS: Farm kids are prepared to venture out into the world and explore. Encourage your college student to take advantage of a study abroad trip before he or she graduates. It is good to see the world's view of not only the U.S., but also agriculture.

It's that moment when your child goes through airport security, turns around and waves one last time. I believe no matter how many times it happens, every parent can feel it — sadness. But this time there was just a tinge of excitement. My youngest daughter was heading on her very first trip out of the country — she was bound for Ecuador.

A junior plant biotechnology major, Cassidy is currently participating in a two-week study abroad trip with fellow Oklahoma State University students. Her trek encompasses traveling via airplane, bus, boat, foot and horseback. According to Cassidy's travel guidebook, she travels from the humid tropical rainforest of the Ecuadorian Upper Amazon basin; to the snow-capped volcanic highlands of the Andes Sierra; to the tranquil Galapagos Islands, 600 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean.

Still, it is difficult for parents to allow children to venture off the family farm, to another state or even out of the country. There is something about being raised on a farm that prepares our children to pursue a life of adventure.

1. Packing. Cassidy had to fit two weeks' worth of clothing and supplies into one suitcase and a backpack. Good thing she was a farm kid. Ever had to pack a livestock show box? Our farm kids make checklists. They open the show box, assess the contents, add more to it and then recheck. And no one can cram more stuff into a box than a livestock show kid. They are prepared for the show. The same is true when they travel. She made lists, checked them twice and then stuffed her luggage full — typical farm kid.

2. Physical fitness. My daughter's fitness will be put to the test as she hikes in the rainforest, swims in the ocean and rides horseback for a day (something our farm did not prepare her for). However, farm kids have traversed the slippery spring mud feedlot, climbed up and down haylofts, and walked pastures in the snow, wind and cold. I think farm kids are prepared no matter what the weather or ground conditions.

3. Preparation. It has been a crash course in all things Ecuador since returning to college for Cassidy. She learned a little of the language, culture, agriculture and ecosystems. She studied, took notes and built a study abroad binder. Credit FFA for teaching our farm kids to be prepared. Binders still exist at our home for FFA contests like meats judging, sales, dairy cattle judging and farm management. In FFA, they quickly learned that there are many opportunities in agriculture and the world, but first you must prepare. Farm kids tackle new experiences or contest teams with a vengeance. They prepare so that once the experience arrives, they can execute.

4. Professionalism. During this trip, Cassidy will visit many different villages and interact with their cultures and people. In one, she will learn to shoot a blowgun and throw a spear. Kids raised in 4-H or FFA know how to behave in all situations. They listen and learn. They respect and honor. Farm kids know how to be professional and represent their country, university and family.

5. Prayer. Faith is rooted in farm families. Farm kids have attended FFA meetings, rodeos and county fair livestock auctions that start in prayer. They understand the need to be thankful for all of life's opportunities, but they also understand the need for peace during the experience — be it for themselves or their parents. So they pray.

Traveling abroad allows our children to see agriculture in a different light. My daughter will visit farms that are involved in coffee, rose, mushroom and cassava production. It is so far out of the realm of anything our Midwest state produces.

If there is one thing I have learned through my international travels, it is that our children need to know why living in the U.S. is one of the greatest blessings. It just takes one trip to realize all of the benefits and freedoms we have in this country.

So when your child comes to you requesting to go on a study abroad trip, don't panic. Know that growing up on the farm prepared them for the adventure. Then take them to the airport, wave, smile and cry in the car.

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