Road Trip Turns Into Agriculture Education


I’m not sure about you, but to me ‘normal’ Agriculture is what I grew up around. In Arkansas we have fishing and chickens. There’s rice fields and soybeans. We have timber harvest and small herds of cattle. That’s just what I’m familiar with. But after finishing high school I took the opportunity to explore other parts of the country and have experienced so many parts of Agriculture. I’m usually worried about my destination and at times only view the drive as a scenic drive. But what if we made the drive a learning experience? That’s what this Kansas mom and her teenage son did as they drove across my home state for a livestock sale.

Following is a repost from Midwest Producer, but I thought Beth Riffel’s story fit in well with my Agriculture Proud series on diversity in Agriculture. What have you learned about a region’s agriculture from previous road trips?

Where we live in central Kansas, it is not unusual for the parking lot of the local cafe or the county roads to be filled with pickup trucks hooked up to gooseneck stock trailers of every size and color – designed to haul cattle, horses and smaller livestock to and from market as well as to transport them to summer pastures where the grass is green, lush and stirrup-high during good years.

But as we traveled south through Oklahoma, east to Arkansas and then south to Louisiana the landscape changed drastically and so did the forms of agriculture that we were able to witness sliding by the windows of the pickup truck. We also didn’t realize that the low-profile trailer that we were pulling would also garner a great deal of attention before the trip would conclude.

Headed to the sale, it was only a few hours before the geography began to change and became more rugged. The presence of trees increased which is drastically different from Kansas. We aren’t just talking any trees either, but rather the tall, stately pine trees, clearly made for harvesting. While we are accustomed to see semi-loads of cattle traveling the highways – the first load of freshly harvested pine logs caused the teenager to take a second look at the big load going down the road. Thanks to technology, a few Google-searches on the iPad gave us a few interesting fun facts about the timber industry as we traveled through the region. And while the cattle trucks might have been missing from the flow of traffic the evidence of blown tires littering the roadway was not. We dodged many shreds of black rubber on the highway, thus we came to the conclusion that the logging industry is tough on tires.

But that wasn’t the only thing that the teenager picked up on. It wasn’t long after he noticed the long, white buildings where broiler production was taking place that we saw our first semi-load of chickens going down the road. I almost laughed out loud when his eyes got wide and he commented that he would not have wanted to help load that trailer! The wire crates filled with the white-feathered birds was certainly not something you see running down Highway 50 on a regular occasion.

And then we saw the rice fields. And although the growing season has yet to begin – we could see the burms that would hold the water and the irrigation set-ups that would flood the fields in order to produce the grain and various pieces of equipment that would be used for harvesting which were variations of the combines and headers we see regularly used for wheat, corn and milo crops of home. Yep, this was definitely different.

And there was something else. There were pickups on the road, but unlike home where they were pulling stock trailers filled with cattle or horses, these were instead hooked to boats of every shape, size and color. It left little doubt in our minds that recreation and fishing was big business in the region. And with water nearly everywhere we looked, and large lakes dotting the region, it made perfect sense. The marshy bayous and the vines climbing the poles and the purple wisteria decorating the roadsides, it made the long drive an enjoyable learning experience.

The real eye-opener came when we pulled up to a stoplight in a small town in Louisiana and the pickup that had been following us for some time quickly pulled alongside and motioned to roll down the window. The occupants, thick with their accents, were curious about the trailer – obviously not a common site in the area – and peppered me with a series of questions. “So, whatchay got in that there tray-lor? You haulin’ dawgs? How many can ya get in there?”

I just laughed, shaking my head no, saying that it is empty, and with any luck at all, maybe a few meat goats would soon be loaded. The visitor nodded his head at this information and waved goodbye as the light turned green and we both pulled away. Kyle and I looked at each other and said in unison, “Dogs?”

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4 Comments

  1. I can definitely identify with this. I grew up in southern WI, where growing at least an acre of tobacco was a given on nearly every farm. When I moved to northern WI for school and became involved in dairy farming up here I was surprised to find that not only was tobacco not grown as the climate didn’t support it, but our northern neighbors had no idea that tobacco was produced in WI! I will always fondly remember the time I spent in southern WI’s tobacco fields planting, topping and harvesting, as well as stripping tobacco in the winter. It’s amazing the way agriculture changes across the continent and even across the span of a single state.

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  2. I do remember that in my drives from Alberta to all parts of the U.S as well. I remember seeing my first cotton field. Quite a change from the canola and barley fields of Alberta. I probably passed a number of soybean fields but had no idea what it was. And the chicken trucks, I remember seeing all the chicken trucks and thinking that same thing, I wouldn’t want to load that.

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