If you had the opportunity to chop grass silage in Scotland or load hay in Northern England, would you take it? That’s exactly what former FFA members Brad Temple and Jim Fraley did.
Both men participated in the WEA program, or Work Experience Abroad, which was previously available through FFA as a way to experience global engagement. The program allowed members to travel abroad for three, six or 12 months to work with a host family and participate in their agricultural culture and traditions.
Brad Temple, now one of the directors at the Illinois Farm Bureau, participated in the program in 1982. “I applied, was accepted and spent three months on a Young Farmer/WEA exchange in Scotland,” Temple says. “WEA was an awesome experience that I wish everyone had the opportunity to take part in. It truly changed my life and the way I view agriculture around the world.”
Temple actually stayed with seven different host families during his three month stay – three in Scotland and four in England. Throughout his time there, he herded sheep in the Scottish Highlands, spent a day with a large animal vet, collected grain samples at elevators, went on a fox hunt near the Welsh border and more.
“It’s quite an adventure when you’re 18 years old. I had terrific host families that wanted me to learn all I could about life and farming in the UK,” Temple says. “As a result of those experiences I gained a huge insight to world agriculture and world politics.”
Jim Fraley, who also works at the Illinois Farm Bureau, spent his WEA experience in Austria. “I chose to work on an Austrian farm for three months. It was the best summer of my life!” he says.
While in Austria, Fraley hoed sugar beets on his host family’s farm. They also grew wheat, cucumbers and vineyards. Fraley says the Austrians are very proud of their fine wines and the country’s warm, dry summers are perfect for grape production.
More than making lifelong friends and experiencing a foreign culture, Fraley says the experience helped mold his work ethic and cemented his passion for agriculture.
“When I came home, I had a renewed focus on making my living through agriculture,” he says.
Both Fraley and Temple have kept in touch with their host families over the years, sending them Christmas cards, emails and even some handwritten letters. The men recently took a trip back overseas for a European Market Tour, and had the chance to reconnect with the families that made such significant impacts on their agricultural futures.
“It was quite a treat to return to England this past summer and return to the Davis farm,” says Temple. “I was as anxious as a 5-year-old on Christmas morning to get to see the family again.”
Fraley adds that his host parents have really improved Austria’s ag industry, leading an effort to consolidate farmland in their area to increase efficiency, and his host father has even been elected to the office of President of their Agricultural Association.
“Some things have changed, like many facets of agriculture, but in the two times I have visited my Austrian family, it has brought back so many pleasant memories,” says Fraley. “It was experience I was so fortunate to have!”
– Rachel Bertone