Six members of the Byron-Bergen Chapter of the FFA joined over 72,000 attendees at the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 2nd and 3rd. However, their adventure began four days prior when they loaded up the tour bus and set out on an agriculture-themed road trip complete with educational experiences, sight-seeing, and celebrity photo-ops. They shared this journey with the Belleville Henderson FFA, Indian River FFA, and Alexandria Bay FFA.
“I really loved meeting people from all over the US,” said 10th grade FFA member Grace Mundell. “The people I met and got to know on our bus were amazing and I felt such a sense of belonging.”
After a quick stop at the Cleveland Zoo, the group headed to Kentucky for a peak into the world of horse racing. Keeneland racetrack, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby museum were all on the itinerary as well as Ashford Farm. Ashford Farm is a family-owned horse farm specializing in boarding and training sport horses. While at Ashford, FFA members had the opportunity to meet 2015 Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah.
“I love how everything and everyone in Kentucky revolves around horses,” said Mundell. “I got to pet American Pharoah, one of two living triple crown winners. I learned that the stud fee for him is $250,000 and I learned about how much work and money goes into horse racing.”
“We learned that a horse sold for 12 million dollars at Keenland racetrack and (at Winstar Farms) I learned that Secretariat’s heart was three-times the size of an average horse’s heart,” said 10th grade FFA member Paige O’Brien. O’Brien’s favorite part of the trip was visiting Haygard Equine Medical Facility. “I was able to see other career options that I may want to fulfill.”
From Kentucky, the group headed to Indiana to visit Tom Farms, the largest landowner in the state. They farm 18,000 acres, 3500 acres in seed corn and the rest is a mix of soybeans and field corn. The group received a behind-the-scenes look at what goes in to producing over 150 million pounds of corn and soybeans every year.
The final stop on their journey was the 96th Annual FFA National Convention. The main sessions were held in Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. FFA members networked with agricultural industry representatives and representatives from many agricultural, natural resource and engineering colleges including Cornell University, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville, Paul Smiths College, and Clarkson University.
“This was a great opportunity for our students to network with FFA members from across the state and nation,” said Parnapy. “There were chapters at the convention representing all 50 states.”
O’Brien stated that “making connections with members from other states” was the most memorable part of the convention. Mundell will always remember reciting the FFA pledge at the convention center in unison with 66,000 other FFA members.
One of the last stops before boarding the bus back to New York State was to the Indiana State Fairgrounds to attend a rodeo.
“I think one of my favorite parts was probably the rodeo, I hadn't ever been to one before and it was really fun and super cool to watch and cheer for the cowboys,” said Mundell. “In all that was the best trip I have ever gone on. I will never forget the people I met or the things I experienced and places we went, it really was amazing.”