2017 Heritage and Cooperative Tour Recap

by Willow Krumwiede, Illinois Farm Bureau Membership and Programs Intern

It hasn’t been intentional, but somehow Washington D.C. has become a popular destination for me. Oddly enough, I’m pretty sure I’ve visited D.C. more than Chicago. Of course, I’m not complaining when I say that – I truly think Washington D.C. is an incredible place! Both my third and seventh visits to D.C. have been thanks to Illinois Farm Bureau and the fantastic opportunity that is the Heritage and Cooperative Tour. The first trip was an excellent kick-off for my year as a State FFA Officer. The more recent 2017 trip was an opportunity that came along with my role as the Membership and Programs Intern this summer.

Although I had been on the trip before, our first destination was a place that I was completely unfamiliar with. Last year, to incorporate more of the cooperative side into the trip, a visit to Hershey Farm in Hershey, Pennsylvania was added to the agenda. At the farm students were able to visit with representatives from GROWMARK FS and take a tour of the test plots that GROWMARK FS leases from the Milton Hershey School. After touring the farm, students had a chance to learn more about the unique opportunities offered by the School (learn more about it here: http://www.mhskids.org/).

After leaving Hershey Farm, we headed for historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Before I decided to teach agriculture, I strongly considered becoming a history teacher. So, needless to say, I am passionate about teaching youth about our nation’s story. Seeing the students walk the Civil War battlefields was incredible. Our tour guide did an excellent job of immersing the students in the information he shared – he posed questions that made them consider what it would have actually been like to live in 1860s.

Before heading into the city, we had one more stop on our agenda – George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Here, the students had the opportunity to tour Washington’s home and farm. We were even able to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Washington’s tomb.

The time in Washington D.C. began at the Holocaust Museum. This stop was a great learning experience for all. At the end of the trip, I asked a group of students what their favorite stop on the tour had been. I was somewhat surprised when many students answered that touring the Holocaust Museum was their favorite part. I am glad that so many of the students seemed to find it incredibly enlightening.

Our first evening in D.C. was spent touring some of the most iconic spots – the White House, the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the WWII Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. Many of the monuments seem to be even more stunning when they’re lit up at night. The Jefferson Memorial was chosen as the final stop because it is the perfect place to have reflections. Reflections are a solemn time to listen to some thoughtful words and then quietly reflect on the day. The group leaders did an excellent job at leading reflections for the students here.

The following day, the FFA members braved the heat and wore their official dress to show professionalism and respect at some of the most important stops on the trip. The day began with a tour of the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress. The afternoon included what is personally my favorite part of the tour – a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. I think many of the students shared my awe as we watched the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

After some fellowship at Smokey Glenn Farm, the students had a chance to rest up before we began our final day of the tour. This day was spent exploring various Smithsonian Museums and a newer addition to D.C., the Newseum. You never know what you might find on this day of the trip. My personal highlights included seeing the First Ladies’ inaugural gowns at the National Museum of American History and listening to the Air Force Band Strolling Strings perform at the Newseum.

Last but certainly not least, our group visited the Air Force Memorial and Iwo Jima. At these stops, along with most others, I did my best to capture the students’ experience in photos. You’ll find some of my favorites here in this post. We had such a great trip! I am very thankful to have had the chance to serve as a chaperone for such motivated and respectful students.