Ranch Life Diaries

Shelly Willmore

This 72-cow milking carousel at Pagel Ponderosa Dairy was only one of the many sites FFA students saw en route to the National FFA convention in Indiana.

Photo courtesy of Shelly Willmore

Farm wives often wear many different hats. This time I was wearing a bus driver hat as I accompanied Denton and Geraldine FFA Chapters on their trip to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. 

The convention itself was an experience; to see the nearly 65,000 students wearing the official dress of the FFA organization. Several sessions were held in the Pacers Stadium; members and guests filled the stadium, which holds 18,500. When the sessions were let out there were officers stopping the traffic so the thousands of members could cross the street, as the street lights were not long enough for the group to cross. In addition to the general sessions, many workshops were offered for the members. A sold-out concert by Cole Swendell and Chris Young filled Lucus Oil Stadium, where the Colts play.

Equally valuable were the side stops we made en route to and from the convention. The students toured Genex in Shawano, Wis. They learned about the process of collecting and storing semen. While they were in Wisconsin they also visited a cheese factory, where they were able to observe the large vats of cheese being made.

Our stop at Pagel Ponderosa Dairy was an experience. We drove our bus through the dairy barn. They have a 72-cow milking carousel. The cows walk on and off all under their own free will. This dairy farm uses methane gas generated from the cows to create enough electricity to supply 800 homes and their dairy. Pagel Ponderosa is home to 5,000 head of dairy cattle.

On the return trip, the chapters were able to tour a hog confinement barn in Iowa. The barn housed 2,500 hogs. They bring in 2,500 13-pound piglets on one truck, feed them out in six months and haul them out to the processor in seven trucks. 

The Sutter family also took the chapter to the field where they were in the process of harvesting soybeans. 

While in Pleasantville, Iowa, the students toured the local FFA chapter’s farms and classroom. They were able to visit and have lunch with some of the officers from that chapter.

Some of the students had not been out of the state of Montana. This trip had taken them through seven states. I drove us through Chicago during rush hour, which really wasn’t a rush. It was daylight when we started and dark by the time we got through Chicago. A lady in Wisconsin was quite enthralled with the fact that we were from Montana and most of us were wearing boots. There were so many new experiences for these students.

FFA is a great organization for our youth. There are so many young adults doing so many positive things through this program. Hats off to all those advisors and supporters that make things happen for the members. This trip was a great investment in our young people.


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